How to ensure your children are hygienic at school

As parents, ensuring our kids practise good hygiene is always a struggle – and it’s even more challenging when you’re not there to remind them to wash their hands while they are at school.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made a difficult job even harder, but because it’s so easy to spread germs in a school environment that means it’s doubly important to ensure your young children are hygienic at school. Here are some tips to help make that job easier.

Why school hygiene is an important lesson for young kids

Just think about how often you physically interacted with classmates and friends during your own school years, especially in primary school. From the playground to drama class, lunchbreaks and Friday-afternoon goodbyes – there are just so many instances where physical contact happens between schoolkids.

The age of COVID-19 and social distancing, however, has deemed those natural interactions to be potentially dangerous. You can help your child get a better understanding of the importance of hygiene by doing your own research and sharing what you’ve learnt. The Victorian Department of Education, for example, has a detailed breakdown of personal hygiene in school, with tips and advice on how to stay hygienic – both inside and outside the classroom.

Here are some helpful tips to start the school hygiene conversation with your kids.

Tip #1: Knowing when to wash your hands

Good habits start at home, so if your child is used to regularly washing their hands in their usual environment, then they will be more likely to practise good hygiene while at school. There are lots of different times when your kid should wash their hands, including:

  • Before and after eating
  • After going to the toilet
  • When they are done playing outside – especially on playgrounds or with other children
  • After blowing their nose
  • After a cough or sneeze
  • Once they have finished playing with an animal
  • Whenever their hands look or feel dirty

But just telling your child to wash their hands isn’t enough. They need to know the right way to do it. Luckily, the National Health and Medical Research Council has an easy-to-follow guide to proper handwashing. We recommend printing it out and sticking it above the sink!

Tip #2: How to cough and sneeze hygienically

There’s no doubt that one of the easiest ways for kids (and adults!) to spread germs is through coughing and sneezing.

Teach your kids the right way to cough and sneeze wherever they are – but especially when they are in close proximity to other kids at school. Instead of coughing or sneezing into their bare hands, they should do it into a tissue and then throw away the tissue immediately. Make sure they wash their hands afterwards too!

If there are no tissues handy – and we know it’s impossible to stop a sneeze! – they should do it into the crook of their elbow instead.

Tip #3: Hygiene and food practices

A healthy kitchen is a hygienic kitchen and germs can live on surfaces, cutlery and crockery and even tea towels. As well as this, if we aren’t getting the correct nutrition, no matter our age, our immune system can suffer. Hygiene isn’t just about coughing and sneezing and blowing your nose. Good hygiene means consuming the right foods and drinking plenty of water so you can be as healthy as possible.

Good food and proper nutrition promote growth and development in children – not to mention it will help your kids concentrate better in the classroom! This is also a good opportunity to teach your child about proper food hygiene.

Get them to help make their own lunches, starting by disinfecting the kitchen surface, washing their hands before and after making their lunch, checking all the food is within its use-by dates, and storing the food in an airtight container so no pesky germs can sneak in!

Tip #4: Sharing isn’t caring

We know how hard it is to stop your kids from sharing – especially when they are in kindy or very early primary school years. After all, as parents we want our children to share. It’s part of healthy emotional development.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic means we simply can’t take the risk of sharing and spreading germs. So instil in your child the need to keep their own food and water bottle to themselves. And as much as they might want a bite of their best friend’s sandwich, it’s just not the right thing to do at the moment.

Easy-to-follow steps for good hygiene at school

Depending on your child’s age, they may not have the attention span to sit through a long lecture about what it means to be hygienic at school. So instead, make a game of it by having ‘daily lessons’ on how to practise good hygiene – both at home and at school:

  • Day 1: Teach them how to wash their hands properly with soap and warm water – and don’t miss any spots!
  • Day 2: Have a fun lesson with ‘fake’ sneezing and coughing. Get them to practise doing it into the crook of their elbow, rather than into their hands, so it becomes a natural response.
  • Day 3: Make lunch prep a fun time in the kitchen with your kid’s acting as your sous chef – with plenty of handwashing and disinfecting of surfaces!
  • Day 4: Give them a ‘pop quiz’ on what they’ve learnt about good hygiene and ask them what they would do in hypothetical situations at school.

Hygiene doesn’t have to be boring, and with the COVID-19 pandemic likely to hang around for some time yet, it’s important that you get your child into good habits for when they return to school.

With so much happening in the world due to the pandemic, it’s also a good time to reflect on things in your own life. Maybe it’s time you took a moment to explore whether a life insurance policy could be worth considering, to protect your family in case something unexpected were to happen to you? It can provide peace of mind that they will be taken care of and be able to continue living the life you’ve built for them.