Proper personal hygiene is not only important for our own overall well being, it's also important for prevention of spreading germs to others. When teaching children about the importance of germs and hygiene perhaps one of the most effective approaches is to engage them in activities that allow them to see how germs are spread and how to practice proper personal hygiene. When children are fully immersed in hands-on learning, they gain a greater understanding of this important topic.
Discuss germs with children. Create a list of all the things they know about germs. Talk about how germs are responsible for making people sick and can lead to tooth decay and other health problems. Talk about personal hygiene and ways in which children can kill and prevent spreading germs. Hang the list that you've compiled in an area where children can refer to it. Include pictorial representations on the chart when you can.
Show children how easily germs are spread. Have children stand in a line. Cover your hands with finger paint and shake the hand of the first child in line. Instruct that child to shake the hand of the person standing behind him and have all children follow suit, until all children have shaken hands. Ask kids to look at their hands to see how the finger paint spread. Explain to children that the finger paint represents germs and that just as the finger paint was spread from person to person, so too are germs.
Teach children how to properly wash their hands. After using the finger paint exercise to show children how germs are spread, take the opportunity to show them how to wash their hands. Go through the steps of hand washing, modeling as you do so. Instruct children to sing a simple song, such as "Happy Birthday" while they are lathering their hands; when they are finished singing the song, the can rinse the soap off.
Talk about how germs affect teeth and explain that toothbrushing is an important part of personal hygiene and good health. Hard boil eggs with tea bags; the tea will dye the shell of the eggs. Show children the eggs and explain to them that they are like teeth in a mouth that has just eaten a tasty snack. Provide children with toothbrushes and toothpaste and instruct them to brush the surface of the eggs; as they do, the stains will come off of the shells and the eggs will return to white. This activity will provide children with a concrete example of the importance of brushing their teeth.