Friday, April 3, 2015

An Ode to Soap

Hi there!  This is Terri Izatt from Kinder Kapers and as you may recall I LOVE being outside and getting my students outside.

Being outside is so healthy for them, even the dirt outside is healthy.  And our little ones do get dirty (more about that later).  Today I want to talk with you a little bit about getting them clean.

If you will permit me to step up on my soapbox for a minute...I don't like hand sanitizer, in fact I almost hate it.  Let me explain....

I hate it because my students all think it is the only way to clean hands.  They come to my classroom with little bottles hanging from the outside of their backpacks and bigger bottles in their pockets and one mom has even sent her son with a large pump bottle he keeps in his backpack.  They share it at recess like it is a toy.  They drip it in big gobs on the floor where it strips away our floor's finish and leaves white marks.  They think it cures everything...when really it does nothing to dirty hands.  Yes, that is correct.  If your hands are visibly dirty, it doesn't work.
The sanitizer wets the hand, brings up embedded dirt, smears it around, and leaves the dirt on the hand.

Hand sanitizer works by stripping off the outer layer of oil from the skin.  This prevents bacteria present in the body from coming to the surface, but these generally are not the kinds of bacteria that make us sick.  Hand sanitizer was only meant to be used when washing with soap and water was not a possibility or as an adjunct to washing.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers (particularly those with 60 percent alcohol or more) can reduce the number of some germs, this is true, but a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that hand sanitizer doesn’t reduce the spread of some viruses such as the norovirus.  You can find more research here.  The Food and Drug Administration, in regards to regulations concerning proper procedures for food services, recommends that hand sanitizers not be used in place of hand soap and water, only after proper hand washing.

So where does that leave of as teachers of small children who like to get dirty?  We need to let them get dirty, and then teach them the right way to wash their hands.  When we send them to the bathroom with a bottle of sanitizer, are we telling them that it is okay to go to the bathroom and then just give yourself a squirt of this and you will be okay?  Or do we make them wash with soap and water before using the hand sanitizer?  We hope they come to school knowing how to wash their hands, but do they?  Take time to teach them the steps.  You can find this wonderful maze to help you explain the 4 steps to clean hands on the Home Food Safety web page.
There are also YouTube videos and songs, like this one, to help you.

When convincing your students of the importance of washing their hands a lesson about germs can be very helpful.  The first time my students had this lesson it was given by a university program that came with preset lessons and all the supplies to present the lesson.  It was an all science all day program.  I loved it!

But I digress....We read this book:
and then used glow germs and black lights to show how germs spread and how you need soap and water to get rid of them.
You can get those glow germs many places, but I have found Amazon to be the least expensive and have the biggest selection.

Heidi Butkus of Heidi Songs and Little Miss Kindergarten have another way to present this lesson.  You can read about it here and here.  Or you can just mix cosmetic glitter into some hand sanitizer, put it on your own hand and high five or shake hands with everyone in class.  Go ahead and play some music and shake hands for two minutes.  You should also touch random things around the room to see how far the glitter travels.  You can look for the glitter with magnifying glasses.  This is a great visual for the kids.  It also shows them how important it is to thoroughly was their hands.  It is not easy to get the glow germs or the glitter off your hands.  As you teach your students the proper procedure for hand washing, you might want to share this song.

Little Miss Kindergarten had another good visual for how germs and travel.  She took yellow and pink paint and put a dot on the hand of every student, except for two students who got blue dots. Once again students were to shake hands while the music was playing.  When the music stops students make a handprint.  When Little Miss Kindergarten did this all but one had blue on their handprint.  Another good visual.

If you have an outdoor play space you could make a simple hand washing station if you need to, with a bar of soap and an old pair of panty hose.
Don't be afraid to let those kinders get dirty...there are health benefits.  You can read more about it on the National Wildlife Federation website here.  Just remember to get out the soap and have them clean up after.

My final piece of advice....Encourage your students to wash their hands properly and often.'s more than a four letter word!

Come visit me at Kinder Kapers and see what kinds of messes we are making!  You can follow me on Facebook too.


  1. I love this post, Terri! I think it's so important to really teach the children HOW to wash their hands- and why it's important! :)

    1. Thanks so much Carolyn. Your words mean a lot to me.



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