Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Back to school, back to flu season

Kids are gross. Yes, they are also adorable and funny and wonderful, but there is a whole lot of disgusting mixed in with all of that cute stuff. Last month, we went out for breakfast at a pancake house. At some point during breakfast, I noticed Sunny chewing on a piece of gum.

“Where did you get that?” I asked.
“From under the table” She replied.

Initiate dry-heave. All the hand-sanitizer in the world couldn’t help me with that one. 

My son Boober showing how gross/cute kids can be simultaneously

School is starting soon, along with cold/flu season. I know to expect the onslaught of nasty crud my son brings home from preschool. Just the thought of it frustrates me. Microorganisms are such an abstract concept. Even as an adult it’s easy to forget that they literally coat every surface we come into contact with.  How am I supposed to make my preschooler and toddler aware of their existence and keep that in their memory? Thankfully, a few things seem to be working.

Ideas for teaching kids about germs and hand washing:

Glitter object lesson
I've heard it described as the herpes of crafting. Glitter is insidious. No matter how careful you are, it seems nearly impossible to keep it from coating every surface. Once it’s on you, good luck getting it off.

But, it is the perfect illustration of how easily germs are spread. I had one of my kids dip their palms in glitter and shake the hands of all of the other children in our preschool co-op. It was everywhere- their clothes, their hands, their faces. I may be cleaning up glitter for the next ten years, but if my sparkly object lesson prevents even one nasty virus from infiltrating our home, it will be worth the mess.

The hand washing song
According to the CDC website, we should wash our hands for twenty seconds, or for the amount of time it takes to sing the happy birthday song twice. My kids are always in a hurry. They like to barely wet their hand and then run out of the bathroom if I’m not watching closely. But, the bathroom song helps. They sing it twice since it takes about the same amount of time as “Happy Birthday,” but the added bonus is that it reminds them of how they need to wash their hands.

 (To the Tune of  Frere Jacques” or “Are you sleeping Brother John”)

Over, under, Over, under, Scrub between, Scrub between, Rinse the tops and bottoms, Rinse the tops and bottoms, Hands so clean! Hands so clean!  

Elbow sneezing
Teach your kids to sneeze into the crook of their elbow. Sneezing into your hand isn’t as sanitary. Even if you wash your hands right afterwards, think of all of the things you touch on your way to the bathroom.

Got Nose Pickers?

Maybe threats of severed extremities isn't your style, but it's how I roll. I read this Shel Silverstein poem to my kids every once in a while. I caught Boober trying to stick a carrot up his nose to "feed the snail" once, so make sure you clarify that sharp-toothed snails ONLY eat fingers. 

Another fun resource is Youtube. It is replete with videos about germs and hand washing. Click here for a music video from Sid the Science kid about the Journey of a Germ.

Does anyone else have some tips to share on helping to keep the crud at bay? 


  1. Sniffs and sneezes spread diseases. Thanks for sharing this. I know I'm not a stay at home mom, but when my kid us sick I am. Not only does it suck for kids to be suck, it sucks for everyone else. Stay home, purell it up. I took Danny into bath and body works so he could pick out a hand sanitizer that appeals and he loves to use. We found a lovely plum one called "vampire blood". It's just cool enough to work. :)

  2. the glitter lesson is priceless. :)

  3. Boober is AWESOME! Only he would think of feeding that snail.