Health & Science

Coronavirus Update: Healthy Habits That Can Make a Difference, Even for Little Kids

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When it comes to washing hands, we’ve all heard about 20 seconds and two rounds of the Happy Birthday song. But what about when you’ve got a little one? How can you REALLY stop the spread of germs at home?

First, you can help your child visualize what a huge difference hand washing makes by sharing this teacher’s experiment, which underscores how many germs are on surfaces, unwashed hands, and even on hands after using just hand sanitizer.

We did a science project in class this last month as flu season was starting. We took fresh bread and touched it. We did…

Posted by Jaralee Annice Metcalf on Thursday, December 5, 2019

Next, if your child forgets to cover their mouth with their elbow when they cough or sneeze, show them how to turn it into a dab, like the popular dance move. Most kids think it’s fun to dab and end up doing it more as a result. 

And finally, germs are also easily transmitted when you touch your face, which adults have been shown to do anywhere from 16 to 23 times an hour—and kids probably do it even more. Some suggestions for breaking the habit:

  • Use scented soap or hand sanitizer to help alert you when your hands wander near your nose or mouth.
  • Keep your kids’ hands busy with things like art projects or help sorting laundry to cut down on the opportunities for them to touch their faces.
  • Wear gloves—the unusual physical sensation when you do touch your face serves as a reminder that can help you stop.

Ok, but what about younger kids, like toddlers or preschoolers?

You know these little ones love to touch their faces—and yours, and their neighbor’s, and the face of the cute dog on the sidewalk….you get the idea. Their bottomless energy is a thing to be envied at times, but this is not one of them. 

Help them keep their hands to themselves by praising them when they do. Simply saying something like, “You’re doing an awesome job keeping your hands to yourself,” can really make a difference with kids this age because they love nothing more than basking in any praise you show them. 

Since adults need to be reminded not to touch their faces, too, try turning it into a fun game. Ask your toddler to remind you anytime they see you touching your face and see who was called out the least at the end of the day. Perhaps the winner gets to choose a dessert or a bedtime story that night.  

If you have an extra fidgety little one, give them one toy they can hold in their hand all day, and make sure you clean it regularly. From puzzle balls to handheld spinners, Amazon and other retailers have a slew of fidget toys that are perfect for moments like these, though some young kids already have a favorite toy or lovey they like to carry at all times. It’s better to keep their hands glued to one thing you can keep clean than have them touching too many things that you can’t.

As the coronavirus situation evolves, be sure to keep up with the recommendations from the AAP and the World Health Organization. Every little thing we do to protect ourselves and our families is a step in the right direction—for everyone.


Dealing with school closures, childcare issues, or other challenges related to coronavirus? Find support, advice, activities to keep kids entertained, learning opportunities and more in our Coronavirus Parents: Parenting in a Pandemic Facebook Group.

For ongoing updates on coronavirus-related issues and questions that impact children and families, please find additional resources here.




The former Content Director at Parenting, parenting.com and several other brands, Ana Connery is a writer and content strategist whose work appears in USA Today, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, Cafe Mom/The Stir, Momtastic, and others.