As we enter back into the colder months, it’s important we remind both our children and ourselves about the necessary practices to stay safe during the pandemic. As a pre-k teacher who’s around children regularly, my experiences getting children to absorb information is built on trial and error. Learning takes time, and I always find little ones are most receptive when it’s fun! 

With many parts of the country going back into lockdowns, practicing good hygiene is more important than ever! But what are the best ways to ensure your children absorb these practices? Check out the tips I’ve picked up on re-teaching safe practices in fun and meaningful ways.

1. Hand Washing Routines

We need to talk about proper hand washing again because it’s one of the easiest ways to keep children healthy! While this might seem like a chore, there are ways to make it fun. 

For starters, it’s important for children to understand what germs are. One easy way to introduce them to this concept is through books. One of my go-tos in the beginning of the year is Germs Are Not for Sharing by Elizabeth Verdick. You’ll learn about proper hygiene practices like covering your nose when you sneeze, what to do with used tissues, and of course, the importance of washing your hands! I repeat the phrase, “Germs are not for sharing,” so often that it becomes a mantra in my classroom. Once children have a better idea of what germs are, they’ll be more inclined to wash their hands! 

Singing songs is one of my favorite ways to get children to understand how long they should be washing their hands. Some of my students’ go-to songs include “Happy Birthday” (x2), “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and “Wash Your Hands with Baby Shark.” I’m sure you don’t want to hear Baby Shark anymore — but if it means good hygiene, can you make an exception?  

I always encourage my students to make as many bubbles as they can when washing up. This quickly becomes a game, and before I know it there are bubbles everywhere. While this can get messy, it’s worth it for the cleanliness! 

2. Saying Hello from a Distance 

During these times it’s crucial that children understand the importance of maintaining space from others, even family and friends/ But that doesn’t mean you can’t encounter people at all! Let your children pick fun ways to greet people. Some of my favorite options are: air hugs, waving, spirit fingers, curtseys and bowing, and winking. I practice a few of these greetings with my students in the morning — even virtually!

Try to make it an exciting and special practice for them. Allow them to assign a special greeting for different members in their lives (like a secret air-handshake that’s just for the two of them).

3. Show and Tell: Mask Edition

Getting your child interested in wearing their mask is not an easy task. One of the simplest ways to get them excited about it is to let them pick out their mask design and color. 

If you’re not having success with them choosing their mask, another way to encourage your child to wear one is through “show and tell,” The best thing to do is to lead by example!  When a child continuously sees masks being worn, they’re more likely to understand the need for one, as well as copy whatever their parents or guardians are doing.

4. Let’s Play a Game: Mask Edition

Okay, so you got your child to put their mask on, but how do you get them to KEEP it on? Truly an answer that deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. One way I do this in my classroom is by placing a small “mask” on a doll or stuffed animal. Children love to match like this because dolls and stuffed animals give them a sense of security and comfort. Try this in your home, so when you’re visiting family or running errands you can let them bring their new matching buddy!