Did you know that Saturday was Global Handwashing Day? I didn’t, though I was inadvertently observing it, as I was sharing a hotel room with a sister whose annual bout of bronchitis unfortunately coincided with our girls’ getaway. Motivated by the lovely citrus-scented hotel soap and the fear of coughing through a six-hour plane ride home, I lathered up a storm, and am still—knock on wood—sniffle-free.
On the homefront, handwashing is more of a chore. Despite my constant nagging that the boys suds up upon arrival home from school or sports, before eating, and after using the bathroom (every time!), compliance remains spotty, and initiative scant. It probably doesn’t help that our liquid soap is at the dregs level in two out of three bathrooms the children use. As cold and flu season looms, we need to up our game.
Since we covered hand hygiene on this blog a couple years back, research has only grown to show that washing with good old soap and water beats just about any other germ-busting regimen out there, including sting-y sanitizers and pricey supplements. The trick is getting kids to wash without being reminded, and to do more than a quick rinse. Here’s a round-up of best expert advice I found; I’ll keep you posted as to which of these clicked for us.
Get the good soap. No, not that beautiful bottle you covet from Restoration Hardware. I mean the yummy-smelling stuff that’s in a bottle that’s easy to depress and won’t make a mess. Some faves: Method Mickey Mouse lemonade soap (Amazon, 2 for $10); these giant, inviting bottles of Every Soap for Every Kid, in scents like Tropical Coconut Twist (Amazon, 32 oz. for $13); Tru Kid Helping Hand Wash (Amazon, 8 oz. for $9); and, for potty trainers, the Sesame Street Bundle in varieties like Cookie Monster Crunch (Amazon, 3 for $15).
Buy stools to make washing up easier. Kids can’t wash well when they can’t reach the
faucet and soap comfortably. You can go colorful—Tundras makes a cute $9 stool in bright green, cobalt, and cranberry red—or fashionable, but make sure there’s one for every sink in the house. We love these Bee Stands from Ballard Designs, because they match our decor but still have a fun design.
Put some posters up around the bathroom. The Massachusetts state government made this eye-catching printout you can laminate for a few bucks at Staples; Etsy’s crafty artisans, as usual, up the ante with some cute printables (like this, for $5, from the Funky Art Shop) that actually serve as decor.
Check out the supplies in your school bathrooms, too. In a recent survey, kids who didn’t wash their hands at school cited lack of cleaning supplies (19%), not liking to use school bathrooms (21%), and bathrooms being “disgusting” (15%). Only 63 percent of kids say their school always has all the soap, water, paper towels and drying equipment needed to wash their hands. Some schools compensate by scattering sanitizers around, but bathrooms should be clean and fully equipped with hand washing materials as well. Poke around the bathrooms next time you visit the school, and talk to kids; if supplies are wanting, consider proposing a fundraiser to allow for better and more plentiful soap and towels for kids’ use.
Practice what you preach. The broken-record message: Model the behavior you want to see in your kids. According to Stanford’s division of public health, only two-thirds of grown-ups wash their hands after they use the restroom. Make a point of washing up together at the kitchen sink or bathroom before family dinner.