Bacteria, germs and dirt are all things that can easily be avoided when one washes their hands. However, many children do not take the time to wash their hands before eating, after going to the bathroom, or before touching their eyes or noses. As a result, “nearly 22 million school days are lost annually due to the common cold” (School Network Absentee Prevention, 2013). This project will focus on teaching children the importance of washing their hands. Through increasing awareness of why children need to wash their hands, there will be a reduction in the spread of illness and the amount of time children are absent from school annually.

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The Center For Disease Control & Prevention (2012) references washing ones hands as the best way to prevent the spread of illness. Washing one’s hands is one of the strongest prevention methods available to people as it prevents germs from entering the body. However, children often do not understand the importance of washing their hands. This is further amplified by the fact that most adults often fail to wash their hands frequently. According to Minnesota’s Department of Health (2012) 92% of men and 97% of women say that they wash their hands regularly. However, only 58% of males and 75% of women actually washed their hands often. The number of children that actually wash their hands is even lower. Half of all children say that they wash their hands regularly. However, only 8% of males and 33% of females actually partake in washing their hands.

The need to educate children on the importance of washing their hands has been well documented in research. According to School Network Absentee Prevention (2013) “Infectious disease accounts for millions of lost school days and costs the U.S. $120 billion a year” (para. 5). On average, children miss three days of school per year as the result of acute illnesses (United States Department of Health & Human Services, 2009). In contrast, children that develop serious illnesses often miss an average of 11 days of school per year. Teaching children to wash their hands would help to reduce the number of acute and serious illnesses children develop annually.

The importance of teaching young children to wash their hands has been further established in research. Research has shown that most people develop hygiene habits by the age of ten (Scott & White Healthcare, 2012). As a result, children over the age of ten are less likely to change their attitudes on washing their hands. Therefore, it is crucial to educate children under the age of ten about the importance of hand washing as a way of maintaining health and reducing the spread of illness. For this intervention, a first grade population was chosen. This population was chosen due to the fact that they are more likely than preschoolers or kindergarteners to understand the importance of washing their hands. Furthermore, these children are still young enough to establish strong hand washing habits.

The setting for this intervention will be in a public school. The intervention will occur once per week, on Mondays. The intervention will last approximately 30 minutes each week, for four weeks. During these sessions, the children will explore the importance of washing their hands and develop an understanding of different pathogens that can be transmitted when individuals do not wash their hands. The children will further learn how to wash their hands properly and how often they should be washing their hands.

Other research has demonstrated that children that wash their hands four times a day or more were significantly less likely to get sick. In this study, children who washed their hands used 51% fewer sick days on illnesses such as the stomach flu. The researchers further demonstrated that children that washed their hands experienced 24% less sick days used for common colds (Scott & White Healthcare, 2012). The ability to avoid becoming sick is critical, as research has demonstrated that antibiotics tend to be less potent overtime (Dewards, Monk-Turner & Poorman, 2002). As a result, children who take medication more frequently are less likely to benefit from it.

All children in the sample will be in first grade, between the ages of 6-7. The sample will be composed of a first grade class of approximately 20 children. There will be little differentiation in terms of the gender division amongst participants. The intervention will be tailored to the participant’s understanding of health and hygiene. It is likely that children will exhibit a different understanding of the need to wash their hands. Furthermore, some children are likely to understand the importance of washing their hands regularly and have parents that encourage them to engage in this behavior. However, it is also likely that some children will have little knowledge of the need to wash their hands. From this standpoint, it is likely the sample will be a heterogeneous population in terms of understanding the need to wash one’s hands.

Teaching children to wash their hands is a critical attribute in keeping them healthy. The Center For Disease Control & Prevention (2012) acknowledges that washing one’s hands is the strongest prevention method available in reducing the spread of pathogens. However, few children actually wash their hands. As a result, there is a higher prevalence of illnesses at schools, and an increased number of sick days used by children. The need to teach children the importance of washing their hands is critical in reducing the spread of disease amongst children and adults. This sample will focus on the benefits of teaching a class of first graders the benefits of washing their hands.

  • Edwards D., Monk-Turner E., Poorman S. (2002) Predictors of Hand Washing Behavior. Social Behavior and Personality 30 (8) 751-753.
  • Fleck F. (2004) Hand-washing could save the lives of millions of children. World Health Organization 82 (8) 631-632.
  • Hand Washing and Hygiene (2012) Retrieved from: center/hand-washing
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