Learning about germs and how to stay healthy is always important! The concept of germs can be hard for kids to understand, especially since we cannot see or feel them! While working in childcare, I have had several kids not wash their hands or ask me why they have to. I usually reply “Because they’re dirty, you have to wash the germs away!” Usually the child will look at their hands and say, “I don’t see anything dirty!” In this post, I have included some different ideas I have used in the past to help kids learn about germs and encourage them to practice healthy habits!
Glow Germs Kit
The Glo Germs Kit is something that was donated to my preschool/daycare room years ago. Inside is special lotion and a black light. First, I would rub the lotion in on my hands and show how it “glows” with the black light on it so everyone can “see” the germs. Next, I would go wash my hands and show them under the black light again. I would talk about how everyone needs to wash their hands well to get all the germs off, making sure we scrub all parts of our hands, including our nails and in between our fingers. Also included is a powder that glows under the black light. I would put a little around the room and have the kids play normally, then we would look around the room with the black light to see were the “germs” ended up. It is a great visual for kids to hopefully understand that we cannot see germs, but they are all around us. See a similar activity here from the CDC.
This is another great visual to show children about germs, and is very similar to the Glo Germs kit. You can put the glitter around the room and show how germs spread (we all know how glitter gets EVERYWHERE! so good luck if you do this one) You can also put glitter in water and show how it sticks to hands. Then have your kids go rinse their hands with just water and see how much comes off. Then have them go back and use soap and see how the soap really helps to clean it off, and in turn helps clean our hands better than just water alone.
Stamps or Stars on Hand
To help kids understand how long to wash their hands, I have put a stamp on the back of their hand or written a star with a pen or marker. Then, I would tell them they need to use soap and scrub until the stamp or star is gone. I have also told them in the past to sing the song “Happy Birthday” or “The ABCs” through twice to help them understand they need to scrub for awhile before they can be done.
Covering Coughs and Sneezes
This is a great visual to show kids how germs spread when a person coughs or sneezes. To do this activity all you need to do is get a handful of pom poms and pretend to sneeze or cough. When you are pretending, make sure to kinda throw them out from your mouth area, making them go far. Then talk to the kids about how far the pom poms went and how many people they touched. Talk about how germs do the same thing, that is why we need to try to cover our coughs and sneezes so other people don’t catch our germs.
“Vampire it” or “Be like Batman”
When talking to kids about sharing germs, it is important to teach them how to cover their cough or sneeze. A couple phrases I have used at daycare have been, “Vampire it” and “Be like Batman”. I will always then show them what they look like and talk about how they can help block germs from spreading all over the room. It is also important to remind kids they need to wash their hands, especially if they use a tissue or if they do end up coughing or sneezing into their hands.
Experiments about Germs
Clean/Dirty Hands with Bread
This is a science experiment to see the effects of clean and dirty hands on our food. To start this activity, have some kids wash their hands with soap and water and some of them not wash. Next, have the kids with clean hands touch some slices of bread and some with dirty hands touch different slices of bread. Then bag up the bread in ziplocs and label them so you know which ones were touched with clean hands and dirty hands. After, have everyone make a guess of what is going to happen to the bread. Put the bread somewhere where everyone can see it, and make observations. The “clean” bread should not mold very fast and the “dirty” bread should mold and get more yucky faster. When that starts to happen, then talk about how it is important to wash your hands well before you handle food. See a similar activity posted on WebMD here.
Pepper in water
All you need is a bowl with water, pepper, and soap. Fill the bowl with some warm water and sprinkle some pepper in. Have the kids stick a finger in the bowl and see how the pepper sticks to their hand. Then talk to the kids about how the pepper is like germs and we don’t want to have them on us or give them to other people. After they wipe the pepper off, have them put some soap on their finger and dip it into the bowl. The pepper should disperse and also not stick to their finger. Take that time to talk to the kids about the importance of soap and how it helps us to not keep germs on our hands. See where I found this idea here.
Go ahead and try one of these activities with your kids at home or in your classroom! Let me know how it goes below! It can be tough trying to get adults to do all these things, let alone kids! But don’t worry, we are in this together and the more we try, the more these habits will stick! We got this!