Why Parents Should Teach Their Children to Wash Hands

When parents demonstrate good sanitation practices, children also find it easier to learn and follow them. Here's how you can teach your child the importance of sanitation and hygiene.

By Richa Shukla

Why Parents Should Teach Their Children to Wash Hands

Educating children about sanitation and hygiene, and the important role of water in everyday life is key to good health and development.

1. What are some common practices in a household that cause the spread of germs?

Germs are everywhere and can easily be transferred from hands, feet and skin to our bodies. Some of these germs can cause diarrhoea, food poisoning, respiratory infections and malnutrition, among others.

Although germs are not visible to the naked eye, they are present everywhere, from the surfaces of children’s toys to the handrails of public transports to other objects of everyday use. Growing pollution and population density, together with unhygienic practices like not washing hands before eating, open defecation, drinking unclean water, not washing fruits and vegetables before consuming has caused a rapid increase in the spread of disease-causing germs.

2. What are some easy-to-follow sanitation practices and procedures?

  • Washing hands with soap and water is extremely important to keep disease-causing germs at bay, and is the most vital hygiene practice that you should teach your child. Washing hands is especially necessary after using the bathroom, before handling food items (cooking or feeding) or having food.
  • Train your child early on to wear slippers to the bathroom. Explain to her how by not wearing slippers to the bathroom, germs can get transferred via our feet to our bodies.
  • Ask him to flush the toilet after use and keep the surroundings clean.
  • Educate her about the importance of keeping food items and drinking water covered to protect them from flies that spread germs.

3. How can parents inculcate these practices in children?

When parents demonstrate good sanitation practices, children also find it easier to learn and follow them. It is important to explain to children the importance of sanitation and hygiene, and the consequences of not following healthy habits.

  • Lead by example – Let your child observe your routine. Practice with him activities like brushing your teeth, combing hair, and washing hands using soap. If they see you following healthy habits, they will more likely follow suit.
  • It is important to toilet train your child. Teach her to wash or wipe thoroughly from front to back and wash her hands when done.
  • A great way to engage your child in any task is to pump up the excitement by adding a little incentive. It can be as simple as using his favourite flavour toothpaste or a cool light-up toothbrush. It doesn’t take much to make the mundane magical.
  • Make it a routine – Children thrive on routines. Incorporate basic practices into your morning and evening ritual. For example, make bathing and brushing teeth a precursor to the first activity of the morning. As your child starts to perform these tasks daily, she will begin to accept them as a part of her daily life.

These simple methods of ensuring cleanliness go a long way in preventing children from falling ill and empowers them to take the responsibility of their health into their own hands.

4. How important is the role of water in preventing the spread of diseases?

Water is essential for all living beings. Not only is it crucial for sustaining bodily functions but also for keeping us healthy, active and protected.

Consuming clean water is key to preventing many disease. Parents must ensure that they and their children consume clean drinking water only. In case of unavailability of filtered water, it’s important to boil water before drinking. It’s also important to keep drinking water covered at all times. Pooling of water around the house can play host to a large number of infectious diseases, especially those spread by mosquitoes. Therefore, do not let water collect around the house or surrounding areas.

5. How can parents ensure that their children have access to clean water at all times?

First and foremost, parents need to educate children about the significance of drinking clean water, the sources of clean water and the steps to ensure that water remains clean. Explain to your child that he must drink only clean water and avoid drinking from doubtful sources like a roadside tap/washbasin. Also explain to him the importance of keeping water covered at all times and, if possible, using a ladle to take water out from pots. Tell him that in case filtered water is not available, regular water can be made safe for drinking by boiling it.

The author is Content Expert at Sesame Workshop India.