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In this set of activities adaptable for grades K-3, parents and educators will find ideas for teaching about how to wash hands properly. These activities are designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. Washing Hands topic page, which includes a movie, quizzes, online games, printable activities, and more.

Classroom Activities for Teaching About Washing Hands

Transmission
Put a little glitter or flour on some students’ hands. Have those students shake hands with other students, who should then shake hands with other students, and so on. After everyone has shaken hands with at least two people, ask your students if they have glitter or flour on them. Discuss how shaking hands can spread germs and brainstorm ways to avoid germs and the spread of germs.

Repeat the activity, only this time have the students whose hands have flour or glitter wash their hands before they shake hands with other students. Does your class notice a difference?

Traveling Germs

Demonstrate for your students how germs can spread in the air. Take a little bit of baby powder and pretend to sneeze by blowing on it. Students can see where the baby powder spreads and understand the importance of covering their mouths when they sneeze. Then ask your students what should happen after they sneeze. Show them the “germs” of the baby powder in your hand. Together with your class, brainstorm a list of times when people should wash their hands. Have students copy this list into their notebooks and create a tally chart. Students can review their charts and log in whenever they wash their hands. This will help them to practice healthy hand washing habits.

As an extension, write a class song together that lasts about twenty seconds. Practice singing the song and timing it so that students know how to sing the tune while they wash their hands.

Ah-choo!

Have your students design a tissue box or paper towel display that reminds people to wash their hands. Why should people wash their hands? When should people wash their hands? How should people wash their hands? These are questions that can be addressed in their designs. Students can share their projects and then display them in the school bathrooms.

Potato Germs

Slice a potato, and blanch it to kill any germs that may be on the potato already. After lunch or recess, before students have washed their hands, have them each handle a small slice of potato. Then, have students wash their hands using proper technique and handle another potato slice. Put each slice in a separate, labeled plastic bag. After about five days, have students draw both slices in their science notebooks. What is different between the potato slices? Why do they think the slices are different?

Family and Homeschool Activities for Teaching About Washing Hands

A Rotten Apple

Infecting an apple is a fun way to learn about how disease can spread. Drop an apple or find one that’s already starting to rot. Insert a toothpick into the rotten part of the apple and then insert the same end into a clean apple. Put the apples aside for a few days. What do you notice?

Do the same, only this time wash the toothpick well with soap. Did you notice a difference? Encourage your child to notice that washing the toothpick lessened the transmission of disease.

Hand Wash Song

Help your child make up his or her own words to a popular song that lasts about twenty seconds. You could try the tune of “ABC,” “Yankee Doodle,” “Happy Birthday” (sung twice), or “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Teach your child how to properly wash his or her hands and explain that washing is finished when they have finished singing the song.

Hand Lens

Have your child look at his or her hand through a magnifying glass. Encourage your child to draw a “map” their hands. Can they see all the nooks and crannies where germs might hide? You can extend the activity by having your child make handprints on a piece of paper and having them observe their prints. Then your child can practice washing their hands by using warm water and soap. The ink will show them all the spots they need to reach when they wash their hands.

Hand Washing Chart

Create a chart with your child that has spaces for each day. Then have your child record when they washed their hands. Your child should recognize if she or he is washing their hands enough and change their behavior based on what they have learned. Discuss when a person should wash their hands and set up a plan to remind everyone in your family about hand washing so that all family members can practice healthy habits.

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