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How to Teach a Toddler to Wash Their Hands

Now is the time to instill good hygiene habits that will serve your child for life.


  • Step 1: Help your toddler climb up onto the stool in front of the sink. If they're wearing long sleeves, roll or push them up. While you're doing this, explain why washing up after touching something dirty and before meals is important.
  • TIP: Sometimes a tot's arms can reach the water better if they stand to one side of the sink.
  • Step 2: Show them how to turn on the cold water tap. Tell them that's the only one they're allowed to touch. If you want to make the water warmer, add in the hot yourself. If you have a single-tap faucet, turn on the water and set the temperature yourself.
  • Step 3: Have your child hold both hands under the running water. If you're using bar soap, show your toddler how to roll it between both hands to make bubbles. If you have hand soap, some kids have trouble holding one hand under the pump while pressing down with the other, so you might have to help with this part.
  • TIP: Kid-friendly hand soaps in fun colors and scents will often entice little ones to wash up.
  • Step 4: Now demonstrate the fine art of thorough scrubbing. Explain they must wash for 20 seconds to get rid of all the yucky germs. That's about the amount of time it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday Song" twice through, so belt it out with them.
  • TIP: Don't let the water run while your child is lathering up. They'll be tempted to rinse away the soap before they get their hands really clean.
  • Step 5: Turn the faucet back on. Help your child rinse away the suds. Explain that it’s all gone when his hands don’t feel slippery anymore. Cover your fingers with a paper towel as you turn the faucet off to avoid germ transmission. Then, help your child dry their hands on the towel – and give them a hand!
  • FACT: Viruses and bacteria can live two hours or more on objects your kids come into contact with – from the playground swing to grocery carts.

You Will Need

  • A toddler
  • A sink
  • A sturdy step stool
  • Soap
  • Clean paper towels

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