Not long ago, I wrote an article for Parents Canada magazine all about teaching young kids not to spread germs. I interviewed a doctor – more specifically a pediatric infectious disease specialist – who said, “The number one way to reduce bacterial germs in any environment is to vaccinate your kids. Not only are they safe from those particular illnesses, but they also have less risk of developing infections from antibioticresistant superbugs.”
So, assuming that your kids have been vaccinated (you all went to Shoppers Drug Mart for the flu shot this season, right?), here are some other ways to teach kids about germ-fighting. (I am writing this post at the end of a day when 12 of my 29 students were absent…so these are definitely concepts I’m sharing in the classroom as well!)
Whether we like it or not, kids quickly absorb information that comes to them through screens, and this great Germ Smart – Wash Your Hands video really engaged my students – and they were able to answer questions about it after.
Picture books are a fantastic way to reinforce important concepts with little ones. A home daycare provider I know recommends Germs Are Not For Sharing by Elizabeth Verdick, and I also love Sid the Science Kid – The Trouble With Germs.
For older kids interested in more advanced information, Achoo! The Most Interesting Book You’ll Ever Read About Germs by Trudee Romanek really delves into the topic.
You can use songs to make germ-fighting more fun, for example by teaching kids to sing the ABCs once or the Happy Birthday song twice while they wash their hands (20 seconds is the recommended time frame), and if you want to take an extra step, you can buy a special gel that glows under UV light, showing kids what spots they missed after handwashing (usually under the fingernails and between the fingers).
The main points to stress with your children, aside from handwashing:
- Cough and sneeze into the elbow
- Use tissues (kids usually need explicit instruction on how to wipe or blow their noses)
- Keep hands away from the face
I enlisted Iylie, one of my incredible kindergarten artists, to create a piece of artwork to go with the topic of germs and handwashing – can you believe what she came up with? She presented it to the class, noting that it was abstract, with germs in the corner and a triangular sink in the middle. (I know, wow, right?)
I’d like to end with another great quote from the pediatric infectious disease specialist, who shared some words of wisdom for the antibacterial-obsessed parents out there:
“Stressing ourselves out by trying to decontaminate our environment is an exercise in futility.” She suggests being reasonable in terms of cleaning surfaces with soap and water, but not obsessing over it.
I wish you and your children good health throughout this flu season and beyond!
Disclosure: This post was generously sponsored by Shoppers Drug Mart. Opinions are, as always, my own.