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Teaching Preschoolers How to Wash Their Hands

Handwashing is one of those fundamental life skills that all children need to master at an early age. Teaching preschoolers how to wash their hands requires consistency. They need to be taught the best way to wash their hands and when to do it. Then they need to reminded (over and over). The habit of frequently washing our hands throughout the day is a great way to help prevent us and others from getting sick.

Teaching Preschoolers How to Wash Their Hands

hands under water handwashing

You can help them see the importance of handwashing by setting a good example for them. Verbalize what you’re doing throughout the day like, “I just sneezed. I need to wash my hands.” Children will soon be following your lead. Or let the children tell you. For example, ” I just sneezed. Is there something I need to do after I throw my tissue away?” Children love ‘helping grown-ups remember something.’

Below you will find more tips, guidelines, and tools to help make handwashing fun, and a pleasant experience for your little ones.

When to Wash Your Hands

Here’s a list of some commonly recommended times to wash hands.

Before and after:

  • eating or handling food


  • coughing or sneezing
  • using the bathroom
  • coming in from outside
  • taking care of the trash
  • putting fingers in their mouth or nose
  • wipe their nose, mouth, or eyes
  • petting animals
  • helping a sick child
  • cleaning with chemicals
  • working on art projects
  • touching anything dirty

Steps to Washing Hands

Preschoolers will need plenty of practice completing these steps to washing hands.

  1. turn on the water ( this is a skill you will need to practice)
  2. wet hands
  3. add soap
  4. rub tops and bottom, and in between for 20 seconds
  5. rinse
  6. dry with a paper towel
  7. turn off the faucet with the paper towel you dried with.
  8. throw the towel in the trash

Here’s a free Steps to Washing Hands Poster you can printout to help your little one remember the best way to wash their hands:

Hand  washing chart - link to download

20 Second, Songs

Help your little one get excited about washing their hands. You can help turn this routine activity into a game by encouraging them to sing as they wash their hands. It’s recommended that children wash their hands for 20 seconds. That’s about the time it takes to sing:

  • The Happy Birthday song ( 2 times), which most children are familiar with
  • Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

My Personal Favorite is Tops and Bottoms:

  • Tops and Bottoms, sung to the tune of Frère Jacques

Tops and bottoms, tops and bottoms

In between, in between

Rub your hands together, rub your hands together

Now they’re clean, now they’re clean.


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