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Healthy Habits for Kids: Hand Washing continued...

"Parents should make hand washing a ritual, like brushing their teeth," says Jana. You don't have to do it so obsessively that their hands get chapped. But you should always have your kids wash their hands:

  • When they arrive at day care or preschool
  • Before they eat
  • After changes or after using the potty or toilet
  • After a play date
  • As soon as they come in the house -- whether it's from school or from playing in the yard

The key is consistency. Get them to do it every time. If you do, your kids might start hand washing automatically. They might even start reminding you if you forget.

It's also important to do hand washing well. Always use warm water and soap. The CDC recommends that people wash their hands for the amount of time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice -- about 15 to 20 seconds.

If soap and water aren't available, an alcohol-based gel will work too. Just make sure that your kids really scrub their hands for about 20 seconds. They're done when the gel has completely evaporated.

Of course, some kids will resist hand washing. What can you do? Here are a few tips.

  • Make them do dishes. Lots of toddlers and preschool age kids love playing in the sink. So instead of getting into a struggle about hand washing, just stand them on a chair by the sink, give them the soap and a dish to wash. If they keep at it for a few minutes, they'll probably get their hands pretty clean.
  • Choose the right soap. A bar of white soap can seem pretty dull. But if you can find a soap that catches their attention -- with a fruity smell, or maybe a cartoon character on the bottle -- you might have better luck with hand washing. To add to the mystique, you could make the soap especially for your child's use. Keep it on a high shelf and take it down only when she needs it.

Healthy Habits for Kids: Other Tips

Hand washing is the most important, but there other healthy habits for kids that can reduce the spread of germs.

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