10 personal hygiene teaching activities for kids

By Brendan Mitchell

10 Personal Hygiene Teaching Activities for Kids

  1. Teaching routine
  2. Washing germy hands
  3. Using songs
  4. Positive reinforcement
  5. Making visual displays
  6. Exciting science experiments
  7. Classroom games
  8. Assigning homework
  9. Invite a guest speaker
  10. Germ detectives

1. Teaching routine

The past year has made us more aware of the importance of personal hygiene, especially washing our hands. Getting your children into a handwashing/germ-busting routine will help make it become second nature with practice and patience. If possible, ask the kids to bring sanitizer or a labelled handwashing kit from home or supply one.

Next, teach good hygiene routines like:

  • Setting up a handwashing station
  • Meeting in the morning and before and after break and lunch to wash hands
  • Modelling correct handwashing techniques
  • Demonstrating how to cover coughs and sneezes
  • Using hand sanitizer after sneezing or coughing
  • Wiping down surfaces in the classroom together

You should also be aware of advice from Public Health England on preventing the spread of infection in our schools.

2. Washing germy hands

Grasping a tricky concept like invisible germs can be aided by using video, interactive, or visual activities. If you’re not afraid of a little mess (I mean, you work with kids – of course, you’re not), you can teach kids how long they should wash their hands with some glitter.

Steps for washing our germy, glittery hands:

  • Ask your kids to suggest how long they should wash their hands
  • Have them demonstrate how they wash their hands
  • Talk about who they think does it the best
  • Sprinkle glitter into their hands
  • Ask them to rub their hands together to spread the glitter all over
  • Let them try to wash it all off and time how long it takes
  • Show early finishes any glitter they have missed
  • Send them back for more washing
  • Share ideas about what they have learned

The aim is to teach the kids that proper handwashing takes 20 to 30 seconds and requires covering all parts of your hand. Otherwise, germs will still be there. You can follow this by seeing how using soap makes a difference.

3. Using songs

Creating a simple, catchy song to sing while the kids are learning about hygiene is a great way to help them to remember important information (See example “Handwashing song”).  Kids’ songs always use fun, exaggerated gestures that you can make up to model correct hygienic practices. Repeating these gestures will help them to become muscle memory for your young learners. With practice, they will be able to perform the actions independently and effectively and your need to prompt them to be hygienic will be reduced.

Handwashing song (to the tune of “Old MacDonald”)

After (recess/lunch), we wash our hands,

Wash, wash, wash our hands.

After (going to the toilet/riding the bus/playing with toys), we wash our hands,

Wash, wash, wash our hands.

After (sneezing – mime “achoo”/coughing), we wash our hands,

Wash, wash, wash our hands.

After patting my (cat/dog/goldfish), I wash my hands,

Wash, wash, wash my hands.

  • Add whatever verse necessary.
  • Use plenty of hand gestures to engage the kids and to model correct handwashing.
  • Test Kids on when to wash hands: “After Maths?” “After show and tell?” “After playing with your friends?” “Before we eat our lunch?”

4. Positive reinforcement

Never underestimate the power of using stickers and rewards in your classroom. First, your kids can trace and cut out their hands; then write their names on them to make a “Clean Hands” chart that should be displayed prominently in the classroom. At certain times during the day ask, “Who has clean hands?” and have your kids raise their hands for inspection. Allow time for any kids who need to quickly wash their hands and be careful not to discipline them to keep the whole process positively framed – being hygienic is a good thing. Provide plenty of praise and let the kids decorate their pair of hands with stamps and stickers.

5. Making visual displays

Kids love drawing and being creative so instead of buying or making your own hygiene displays, make small groups, hand out poster paper and art supplies, and get your kids to make them. Each group can present their finished posters to the class. While they are explaining their posters, they will be processing important information in their own language.

You can ask questions like:

  • “Why is covering our coughs and sneezes important?”
  • “What type of personal hygiene products do people use?”
  • “What do germs do to our bodies?”
  • “Why do we brush our teeth?”
  • “Who helps us to stay healthy?”
  • “How do our bodies fight germs?”

Ask your students to lead class demonstrations and role-plays on different hygiene practices to follow. This will help your kids to become more independent and take ownership of their personal hygiene. They will also love looking around the classroom at their artwork.

6. Exciting science experiments

There are some fabulous examples online of simple experiments that you can set up to demonstrate how germs spread and why we need to wash our hands.

For example, you could demonstrate how soap repels germs:

  • Supply kids with a shallow dish filled with water
  • Let them grind some pepper (or empty a pepper sachet) into the water
  • Explain that the pepper represents germs
  • Let the pepper spread all around the dish
  • Ask the kids to dip their fingers into the dish
  • See how the “germs” can stick to them
  • Have each student dip their finger into some dish soap
  • Explain that this represents washing their hands
  • Let them dip their finger back into the dish

The “germs” should race to the sides of the dish leaving the water around their fingers clear. It is a fun, easy, and tactile way to teach kids the lesson that germs don’t like soap.

The moldy bread experiment is another easy experiment that allows kids to see how clean hands can stop the spread of germs and prevent them from getting into our bodies.

7. Classroom games

Making learning about personal hygiene fun will help your kids to remember your lessons and make it a positive and active experience for them.

There are some great handwashing parody songs available from the NHS and some clever individuals on YouTube. Inspire your class to create their own parody of a popular song to teach the school handwashing in an entertaining fashion…”if you wanna wash your hands, you gotta use lots of soap…?”

You might make lots of props available and let your kids come up with crazy ways to brush their teeth or wash their hands and make everyone laugh. Then, have them demonstrate the correct equipment and technique to use, or have their classmates explain what they really should be doing.

Alternatively, you could have your students sit in a circle and pass around things like a toothbrush, hairbrush, and a face washer along with picture cards of the corresponding body parts they are used on. When the music stops, the students with items will need to find a partner with the correct picture card, and together mime how to use their item correctly.

8. Assigning homework

The responsibility of teaching personal hygiene habits is absolutely not yours alone. It’s also important that efforts to develop good practices at school are reinforced (rather than lost) at home.

Involving parents and caregivers in the responsibility of teaching and modelling good hygiene in their homes may include:

  • Asking your senior leadership to host an information night about teaching children good hygiene
  • Sending information home in the school newsletter
  • Developing a simple “yes/no” hygiene practice survey for families to complete at home (e.g., “Do we brush our teeth?”/ “Do we wash our hands?”)
  • Drawing pictures to illustrate how mum or dad practices good hygiene
  • Making a video with someone at home demonstrating a good hygienic practice
  • Completing a weekly healthy home hygiene checklist

Through thoughtful homework assignments, parents and caregivers can be brought into the conversation of hygiene with their children. Hopefully, their awareness about hygiene at home and willingness to play their part in teaching it will increase.

9. Invite a guest speaker

Kids understand that adults do different jobs for many reasons so invite hygiene specialists in different capacities to speak to them and reinforce how important personal hygiene is. It’s also great when someone other than a teacher is the expert (sometimes).

Maybe a student’s parent is a doctor or a nurse. Kids will love seeing the uniform health specialists wear and the equipment that they use. Kids also love to role play and can help the speaker do their job with volunteer patients from the room.

In your school, the kitchen and catering staff can show the kids how they keep the dining hall clean or have the kids help them to clean it and make sure the food everyone eats is germ-free. Another person could be a school cleaning staff member who works to keep everybody safe from germs.

10. Germ detectives

This activity can be done with some washable, luminescent paints and blacklight torches (for a big budget), or simply with different coloured post-it notes (for smaller budgets).

The idea is to demonstrate how easily germs can be spread:

  • Have several students be germ spreaders by painting their hands or giving them a post-it booklet each
  • Have the rest of the class – germ detectives – shut their eyes and put their heads on the desk (no peeking)
  • Ask the germ spreaders to walk around the room touching different areas that will be marked by the paint or a post-it note
  • When you think they have had enough time, have the germ spreaders stand up the front
  • Instruct the germ detectives to trace the spread of germs around the classroom made by each spreader

Hopefully, each student can have a turn spreading the germs. Afterward, ask the kids to explain why washing their hands is so important and where germs can be found, even if they can’t be seen.

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