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As a mom of a cute little toddler, I can’t help but admire his darling dimpled little hands- with his magical pudgy little fingers and tiny fingernails. But while they are irresistibly cute, unfortunately they are also notorious germ carriers. With so many things to discover and touch at his age, the little hands are bound to pick up more than his share of bugs. From door handles to toys to furniture and that shiny thing on the ground - in short almost everything under the sun, the little one loves to touch these days. And while I can’t stop my ever curious tot from exploring the world, I can stop the germs he encounters from spreading and making him sick.
All it takes is regular hand washing. Like adults, little kids should also wash their hands before and after they eat, after they use their potty and whenever they come back home from an outing. And if they’re sick, it’s important they wash even more often, especially if they pick their noses, sneeze or cough into their hands.
Easier said than done? Most mothers are going to agree. We know that most of the children develop the ability to wash their hands independently by about three years of age and before that we need to help them out. But even when they know how to do it, kids don’t always take time out to wash their hands. One of the reasons could be that they don’t always enjoy washing their hands, partly because it means time out from more exciting things like playing. So the best strategy is to find ways to make hand washing part of the fun, rather than a distraction from their favourite activities.
Teaching kids about hand washing is not just important to keep them healthier in childhood but throughout their life. So here are some mom-developed hygiene hacks which worked out really well with my son.
1.Stretch it out- Experts say you need to wash your hands for at least 40 seconds to a minute, if you want your hands to be properly cleaned and my son just used to finish the whole thing in less than three seconds. Phew! So now sometimes both of us sing a fun song like Happy Birthday twice or sometimes we use an hourglass to make it fun and accurate.
2.Set up a Kid-Friendly Wash Station- I have set up a stool, a special towel and an automatic soap dispenser with Dettol Hand wash within the easy reach of my son and now he takes pride in doing it all by himself. And I can get back to whatever I was doing!
3.Make it a Mantra- Hand washing is the mantra at our home. Every time we get home, we remove shoes and socks, and wash our hands before we can do anything else. Also before every snack and meal, we announce that it’s time to wash hands. The same goes for when he uses the washroom or sneezes into his hands. Eventually, he has started linking these moments to the need for a good lathering.
4.Steps to be followed- To teach the correct technique of hand washing I have made a colourful poster at home that shows the proper steps for hand washing. To make it a little more fun, we have made a game out of following each step. My son loves it when I approach it in a quiz style, "What do we do first? And what's Step Two?" Or sometimes I just act silly, "Okay, first we dry our hands- right? No?" He loves it when mamma says it wrong!
5.Model it- Children are great imitators. They learn much more from what we do than what we say. So I wash my hands regularly, too. And while I do it, I tell him about it, before preparing, serving, or eating food and after cleaning up a mess, I don’t forget to show him my clean hands.
6.Wash hands together - I used to tell my son to wash his hands but he never used to listen, so we started washing hands together and he just enjoys the whole process now.
7.Narrating anecdotes and stories about hygiene- Stories are a great way to teach kids any concept .My son loves it when I build up a story about how once I touched something really dirty and then forgot to wash my hands so I fell ill. Talking about the importance of hand washing and how all the soap and water is working together to remove bad bugs from his hands have also helped him in understanding the importance of being clean.
8.Have a backup-I always carry Hand Sanitizer and antibacterial wipes in my bag before leaving the house. Both these products have proven to be a great boon whenever water and soap is not accessible.
These few hygiene hacks have helped me in teaching the importance of effective hand washing to my little one. Maintaining hygiene is very important but giving freedom to children to explore the world is equally important and as a mom I am trying to maintain this sensitive balance.