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How to Teach Kids About Germ Spreading

How to Teach Kids About Germ Spreading

wash your hands to avoid germ spreadingI think it’s safe to say that kids, in general, know they need to wash their hands when they’re dirty.⁠ When my kids were young, they learned a few techniques for washing their hands. They would sing Happy Birthday twice or the ABC Song. It’s pretty simple to explain to our kids why they need to wash their hands if they’re dirty. Just like we wash our dirty laundry and dirty dishes – we also need to wash our hands when they’re dirty. 

But what about when their hands aren’t visibly dirty? Like, after coughing into their hands or touching a surface that may have germs.⁠ How do we explain the need to still wash our hands regularly to avoid germ spreading to young children? 

If they can’t visibly see that their hands are dirty, it can be hard for them to understand the need for thorough hand washing.

Here are two simple tricks to teach your kids how germs are transmitted:

Do an experiment or show your kids a video that demonstrates how easily germs can travel. ⁠

Here are some great resources to help with this:

How Far a Sneeze Can Travel Video by Science Insider

Germ Experiment – How Do Germs Spread by Home Science Tools

Why Washing Your Hands Stops the Spread of Germs Video by Kelly Rose Sarno

Help your kids to identify high risk germ sources in their daily environment.

Here are some great resources to help with this:

The Germiest Places at School by NSF International

9 Places Germs Hide in Your Home by Readers Digest

While knowing how and why germ spreading happens, hand washing is – hands down – the most valuable action we can take to prevent the spread of germs. 

wash your hands to avoid germ spreading

Here are some fun activities to do with your kids that will teach them just how important washing their hands is in preventing germ spreading. ⁠⠀

The Spray Trick:

Grab a water spray bottle and fill it with water. Get some paper and line it on a table or counter top. Pretend to sneeze or cough and at the same time, spray some water to mimic what actually comes out of your mouth/nose if you don’t cover your mouth.⁠⠀⁠⠀

Now, do the same thing but this time, cough and spray the water directly into your hand or elbow crease as if you had covered your mouth/nose while coughing/sneezing.⁠ 

Compare how much of the water was caught in the hand or elbow fold and how much landed on the paper. Have your children note how many less germs were spread by covering when coughing/sneezing. 

Also, have them look at the “germs” caught in their hand and encourage them to thoroughly wash their hands post cough/sneeze. ⠀

By having them see this in action, they are more likely to be aware of it the next time they cough or sneeze.⁠⠀⁠⠀

Touch and Tag:

Ask your children how many objects or places around the house they touch every single day. Remind them of how easy it is to leave germs on these surfaces each day as they touch them.⁠ 

Go around your house and tag or mark each of these areas with a label or sticky note to remind your child that they’ve just touched a high risk germ source. Encourage them to wash their hands after coming in contact with high germ sources in your house and at their school. ⠀

a baby touches a dirty light switch and helps with germ spreading

Role Play:

When we role play germ spreading, I pretend to be one of my kids and do exactly what I have witnessed them doing (or not doing).⁠ I have the kids role play as the adults and instruct me of what I should be doing to reduce the spread of germs.⠀⁠⠀


  • First, I role play what my kids do or don’t do after blowing their noses.
  • Next, I role play touching loads of surfaces around the house and then NOT washing my hands.
  • Then, I role play washing my hands too quickly, not thoroughly enough, or without soap.
  • Finally, I role play coughing and sneezing without covering my nose or mouth⠀

I then ask my kids what was wrong with my actions and how they, as adults, would correct my behaviors. My kids love getting to be the adult and telling me what I’ve done wrong!⠀⁠⠀

I hope this helps a bit as a way to teach your kids how important it is to prevent the spread of germs.⁠ I’d love to hear the creative ways you teach your kids about germs spreading. Leave me a comment with your best tips and tricks.


To learn more about germs spreading and other common kid emergencies like fevers, heat exhaustion, fractures, and constipation, download our free eBook, Mom’s Little Handbook to Common Kid Emergencies