Teach Your Child to Wash Hands – free printable

You’ve tried to teach your child to wash hands.  But hand-washing time still looks like this:

She hastily flips the faucet on. Then she furiously rinses for half a second. Last, she declares she’d done approximately two seconds after she started.

If it’s a good day, she might squirt some soap on one hand. Rinses partially and then WIPES the remaining soap on the sopping hand towel. And bounces off to her next activity.

Or maybe your child is like my toddler son. He will wet one hand and then get distracted by playing with the soap bubbles. Before I know it, his chubby toddler hand is all over the sink basin which can’t be the cleanest surface in my house.

If your children are anything like mine, this hand washing fiasco occurs multiple times a day. The bathroom counter is a swamp, the hand towel is drenched, and their hands still have marker and dirt and sticky mess ALL over them!

And the germs, ick! What you really need is a hand washing poster printable – and I’ve got you covered!

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Hand washing keeps children healthy

Hand washing is so important, as we all know. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is the most effective method for preventing the spread of germs.

We want our children to be healthy enough for school, daycare, or library time so their little minds can grow. We want them healthy enough to get outside and play so their bodies get the exercise they need.

I also want my children healthy enough to get a good night’s sleep. When my children are sick, they are much more likely to be up at night.

The lack of sleep compounds the symptoms of the illness. So, if we can prevent them from getting sick in the first place, we will all sleep better. Mom and dad included.

black child washing hands at metal sink


Hand washing protects others

Hand washing also reduces the risks to vulnerable populations. Whether we are visiting Grandma in her assisted living community, going to visit a new baby, or going to school with a classmate who has other health conditions, washing hands is a way to protect people who are more susceptible to illness.

This is a good way to begin to teach empathy. It is developmentally appropriate for young children to be self-centered but many are able to start thinking about how they can take care of others.

Our children’s failure to take care of themselves can impact other people they love negatively. For example, my children can be motivated to wash their hands to keep Grandma from getting sick.

Hand washing is a foundational hygiene skill

Hand washing is also important for children to master so they can learn the foundations of personal hygiene. It’s a step towards personal responsibility for their bodies and self-care.

Most young kids lack the fine motor skills to do an effective job brushing their teeth or washing their hair, but hand washing is a more achievable skill.

hand washing printable poster of boy completing five hand washing steps

hand washing poster printable

Hand Washing Problems

Here’s the tricky part: our children don’t really appreciate the consequences of poor hand washing. Their little brains can’t connect getting sick to their lack of proper hygiene.

Similarly children do not have sufficient self-direction and impulse control to do a thorough job. When getting back to building with Legos or playing outside is on their minds, staying healthy is not as a high of a priority.

Last, hand washing is a multi-step process. It is hard for children to remember all the steps. We take for granted the steps involved in the process but it is really A LOT of steps.

Think about it:

  • First we turn on the faucet, then we wet our hands.
  • Next we get some soap and rub to develop a good lather.
  • Then, if we follow the CDC’s recommendations, we will scrub for at least 20 seconds.
  • After that, we rinse and dry our hands.

That is a lot for small children to remember.

vertical hand washing chart for children with five steps

Handwashing Solutions

So what’s the solution: use a handwashing visual!

Pictures help so much with teaching hand washing. Pictures are anchors for the words. Simply they last longer in the brain than our words do.

If you have a child with language delays, visuals are even more important. But most people are visual learners so this strategy helps everyone.

How to Teach Your Child to Wash Hands

You just need to gather your supplies, get a printable hand washing chart, and teach your child the steps.

Step 1: Gather your supplies

If you get your bathroom prepared with a few simple tools, your children will be more successful.

Sand timers

We use sand times to teach how long to wash hands.  I like this 30-second set to encourage my children to wash long enough.  If your child turns it over prior to the first step, they will get an adequate amount of scrubbing completed.

Foaming hand soap

It’s easier for children to see foaming hand soap and rub it thoroughly over their hands that liquid hand soap.   I buy a bulk set of bottles to keep under the bathroom sinks.  I’ll reuse all the bottles and refill them all at once.  This reduces the stress of running out.

Sink faucet extender

One of the biggest obstacles to washing thoroughly is the difficulty reaching the water to rinse well.  Sink faucet extenders eliminate that problem.  Just slip it on over your faucet and your children will get a better rinse.

Step stool

In addition to a faucet extender, a bathroom step stool will get your child closer to the sink, faucet, knobs, and soap.  Make sure your stool is slip-proof and easy to clean.

Hand towels

In order to prevent the spread of germs, it’s a good idea to change your hand towels frequently.  We have stack under the bathroom sink so I can quickly replace them.  It doesn’t take much extra room in a load of laundry to wash a bunch of hand towels.  Look for some that dry quickly and choose a color that will easily work with your typical loads of laundry.  I don’t do tons of whites so we have striped in the kids’ bathroom and gray in our downstairs powder room.

teach your child to wash hands with printable laminated with scotch laminator and box in background

Step 2: Get your hand washing poster printable

I created free horizontal printable hand washing charts you can tape on your bathroom mirrors. There are two to a page to save on paper and on lamination as you likely have more than one sink in the house.

We laminated it with my Scotch PRO Thermal Laminator.

If you like a more polished look, you could print the free portrait printable hand washing chart and place it in a frame to leave on your bathroom counter or hang on a wall on a clipboard. Voila! You have bathroom art and an essential hand washing tool all in one.

Step 3: Teach the steps with the chart

First, teach your child the steps involved in hand washing: wet, soap, rub, rinse, and dry. Make sure your child understands that there are five separate steps. You could even count aloud as you complete each step.

For months, I would simply stand with my daughter while hand washing and say these steps aloud for her. I was perplexed when she was not able to internalize them and wash independently.

Then one day, her preschool teacher told me she always chose the sink in the girls’ bathroom with the visual hand washing steps. I felt pretty foolish as a former teacher. Of course, she needed pictures. She is a visual thinker!

Most of us are visual learners.  That’s why visual charts are so helpful!

Practice Hand Washing With Your Child

Now when we wash hands, we look at the visual hand washing chart and I will ask my children, “What is step number 1?” My daughter likely won’t answer, but it prompts her to look at the steps. I repeat with the remaining steps.

Sometimes we also chant “Wet, soap, rub, rinse, dry” as we go through the process.

Lately we have also added in counting to ten for the Rub step. My daughter doesn’t enjoy singing “Happy Birthday” like the CDC recommends. So we simply count to 10 or use the sand timer as mentioned above.

Hand washing success

Now that my children are better with hand washing, our bathroom is a little less of a swamp. I’m also resting a little easier than my children will be healthier and less likely to spread their germs to everyone they meet.

You can teach your child to wash hands, too. The hand washing poster printables will help your children.

You can download the horizontal hand washing poster printable here and the portrait hand washing poster printable here.

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