How can I teach my child to wash their hands?

When you think about what is involved in a hand washing routine, there are loads of steps involved – turning on taps, checking the water temperature, wetting both hands, getting soap, putting soap on hands, rubbing hands sufficiently….and so the list goes on! So it’s not a surprise that the routine can be heard to learn.

The best thing to do in order to teach hand washing is to break the skill down in to all of the smaller steps. The steps can then be followed in exactly the same order each time. For example:

1)    Put the plug in

2)    Turn on the hot tap

3)    Turn on the cold tap

4)    Turn off the hot tap

5)    Turn off the cold tap

6)    Etc

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You can then support your child to complete all of the steps in the specific order each time they wash their hands. Ask everyone who helps your child to use the same order, that way they get lots of practice of all the same steps each time. 

There are different ways to move onto your child completing the steps by themselves but the most important thing is to only target one step at a time. This way you fade your support gradually as your child gains independence without the task being too overwhelming. It is usually most effective to start with your child completing the final step first, so maybe putting tissue in the bin or hanging the towel back on the towel rail. Teach this by gradually fading your help, and each time your child completes the step make sure you give them a favourite toy or play a game they love with them.

Once they can complete the last step on their own, then target the second to last step, and so on until they complete all the steps by themselves. Just remember to keep the fun game or toy at the end of the routine.

I hope that answers some of your questions about how to teach hand washing. If not, as always, please do get in touch