The Importance of Handwashing for Kids

Mom helping daughter wash hands

Children come into contact with germs every day. Proper handwashing can help stop the spread of many illnesses – from the common cold to more serious illnesses like hepatitis A. Handwashing is easy, inexpensive, effective, and can help prevent sick days and trips to the doctor!

Here are some techniques for proper handwashing:

  • Wash your hands in warm water
  • Use soap and lather for about 20 seconds, which is about the length of time for children to sing “Happy Birthday” twice
  • Make sure to wash in between fingers, under nails, and wrists
  • Rinse and dry with a clean towel

Parents can help their children stay healthy by doing the following:

Teach children good handwashing techniques

When you are first teaching young children how to wash their hands, remember the following:

  • Demonstrate how to wash your hands; young children learn best through watching and doing – not just hearing!
  • Explain the proper handwashing techniques one at a time as your child practices
  • Follow up handwashing lessons with story books about germs and handwashing, look at pictures of germs, and point out when role models wash their hands. Other interactive activities will reinforce handwashing

Remind children to wash their hands in these situations:

  • Before eating and cooking
  • After using the bathroom
  • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing one’s nose
  • After cleaning around the house
  • After touching animals or pets
  • After coming home from school
  • After playing outside
  • Before and after visiting or taking care of sick friends or relatives

Wash your own hands with your children and model proper handwashing

  • Children do not always see what you do, so talk about it! Announce when and why you are going to wash your hands or talk about something you touched and how you washed your hands after you touched it
  • Carry hand sanitizer for times when there is no sink or soap available

Even when children know how to wash their hands, they may still need reminders! To stop the spread of germs, make hand washing rules and routines, such as washing before meals and after using the bathroom.


ABC News. (2011). How long should you wash your hands? Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Handwashing: A family activity. Retrieved from

Earth’s Kids. (n.d.). Teaching hand washing: Information and resources for parents & caregivers. Retrieved from

Kidshealth. (2015). Why is handwashing so important? Retrieved from

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