Every parent knows children become more inquisitive and independent as they grow. And as this development happens, they sometimes need to understand WHY they should do the things we want them to do… like washing their hands.

At Brightling Academy and in all our homes, we have been extra vigilant about handwashing for the last year and a half – and our children certainly know the routine. We wash our hands for at least 20 seconds after we use the bathroom, before we eat, and at various other times throughout the day before and after we touch things others have likely touched.

As we wash our hands at the Centre, we remind them about how we’re washing away germs that can make us sick.

But if your child is getting to a stage where they question the need to wash away things we can’t even see (are they really even there?), here’s a quick home experiment you can do to help them understand.

  1. Invite them to come and do an experiment with you.
  2. Remind them about how germs are tiny living things that can make us sick… but that they’re so small we can’t even see them. Because they’re so small, they can be on our hands without our even knowing it… and they can get into our bodies through our mouths, our noses, and our eyes.
  3. Spread flour or icing sugar on a dinner plate, and with your child, look closely at the flour/sugar. Can they see individual specks of it? Imagine how much smaller germs are!
  4. Have your child gently put their hands down on the plate and then lift them up, shaking off excess.
  5. Shake your child’s hand (“it’s a pleasure to meet you, sir/madam!”), and then show them your hands. Some of it has transferred to you! Good thing it isn’t a germ! Have them watch while you lather up with soap for 20 seconds and then wash the soap and the flour/sugar away. Clean! (Don’t wash your child’s hands just yet.)
  6. Have your child play with some washable toys for a few minutes, and then look at the toys together. Can you see any traces of the flour or sugar on them?7- Have your child wash their hands, and then wash the toys together. NOW we can be sure all traces of the flour/sugar are gone down the drain.
  7. Explain how this is how it works with germs. While they are too small for us to see, they are definitely there. (Scientists can see them with special cameras that allow them to see teeny-tiny things.) So whenever we do something that could pick up germs on our hands, we wash them. And anytime we are going to eat, or touch our eyes or noses (where tiny germs can sneak into our bodies), we wash our hands first. The germs go down the drain, where they belong, and we stay healthy.

Happy handwashing!