5 Simple Ways to Encourage Handwashing at School
by Patrick Burke, on July 31,2020
Handwashing is important, especially in schools. Between the fact that kids touch nearly everything (that is how they learn best), they are using shared items, and are in closed, often crowded, spaces like school busses, hallways, and the classroom. It is a potential breeding ground for contamination and spreading germs. However, we can take big steps in slowing the spread with a common sense approach and some simple steps outlined below.
1. Set the example. First, teachers and staff must lead by example. If your teachers and staff are not washing their hands at critical handwashing times each and every time, how are the students going to learn? Reinforce good behavior by holding teachers and staff to high expectations and the students will follow.
2. Educate. Believe it or not, many grown adults, let alone our youngest population, don’t understand the true importance of washing your hands. Did you know that the CDC estimates that up to 80% of today’s diseases could be prevented with a proper hand wash? Handwashing is critical and crucial to the prevention of the spread of disease, no matter if it’s Covid, the flu, common cold, or anything else. Teach how, why, and when to wash hands.
3. Make handwashing convenient. Handwashing isn’t really all that painful, but it’s not going to get done unless it is convenient. A 2017 study proved that moving recycling bins within 1.5 meters of a doorway increased recycling by 141%. The same could be said for handwashing. The further the distance the person has to travel to wash their hands, the less likely it is going to happen.
4. Make it fun and interactive. There are so many different ways you can make handwashing fun and interactive, from hosting a hygiene awareness day or week to having your class keep count of the number of hand washes they do in a month and celebrating the success. How about having handwashing buddies where pairs or teams of students hold each other accountable. Or, even a simple idea such as hanging a mirror in front of your handwashing station can nearly double the length of the hand wash.
5. Keep at it. I come from a background of teaching health and fitness, so I know changing behavior isn’t easy. They say it takes 21 days to change a behavior, but even then you’re always susceptible to reverting back to bad habits. Continue to remind yourself and others of washing your hands. If you have a bad day, it’s ok, don't get discouraged, just keep at it!
There you have it, 5 simple ways to encourage handwashing at school. By no means is this list exhaustive. I recommend starting one thing today. Don’t let perfect get in the way of progress.