Nag-Free Ways to Get Kids into the Hand-Washing Habit

Allison Janse Health Guide
  • As parents, we know that little kids' hands always seem to wind up in their mouths or noses...or someone else's mouth or nose. That's why when cold and flu season is upon us, it's more important than ever to reduce the number of germs on our kids' hands as they're out and about. With that in mind, try some of these stealth-health tactics to make sure you get your kids into the habit of hand-washing.


    * First make sure your sink area is kid-friendly by having a stepstool; if your toddler or preschooler still can't reach the faucet, consider purchasing a faucet extender at


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    * Squid Soap is "hands down" one of the most fun ways to get your kids to wash properly. The company manufactures a dispenser soap that looks like an orange squid. Kids squirt the "ink," or soap, on their hands and the ink doesn't rub off unless they wash for the recommended twenty seconds. 


    * Since pump dispenser soaps are better than hand soaps for cutting down on germ transmission, outfit your bathroom with refillable, kid-friendly dispensers; some even come with animal and rainforest designs.


    * If you prefer hand soaps, buy kid-sized ones which are easy for children to hold. Check out, for little soaps shaped like dinosaurs, hippos, baseballs, whales, ducks, and more.


    * To get kids to soap up for at least twenty seconds, ask them to wash until they can recite their ABCs or count to twenty.


    * To cut down on passing germs between family members, buy different-colored hand towels for each child or get your child a personalized towel with his name or initial.


    * Check out, an educational web site with seven "soaper heroes," who teach the importance of hand-washing through games, a theme song, and activities.


    * Make sure you make hand-washing a habit by washing your hands any time you come in from outside and before preparing or eating any meal, including breakfast. While your kids may not listen to you, they do watch everything you do.


    With a few stealth moves, and a few gentle reminders, hand washing will become second nature, and your kids may soon be nagging you when you forget to do it.


    Antibacterial and Anti-Antibacterial?

    If it seems you can't walk down the soap aisle in the supermarket without seeing the word "antibacterial" on nearly every label, you're right: 75 percent of liquid and 29 percent of bar soaps on the market are antibacterial. Unfortunately, a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that antibacterial soaps were no better than regular soaps when it came to protecting families from colds, flu, fevers, or sore throats.

    What's more, some manufacturers list their product as antibacterial when the active ingredient - usually triclosan - is used only as a preservative, lacking the strength to kill hardy bacteria.

    Even scarier is the theory that these "super soaps," are helping to breed "super bugs" - who hasn't heard about the rash of MRSA infections shutting down schools and killing some people around the country?

  • Still, none of these soap theories have been proven in the real world. But why take a chance? Whenever kids are concerned, gentler is always better.

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Published On: December 31, 2007