Every year I can pretty much pinpoint the exact day and time that one of the kids will come home with a cold. It starts with a sniffle and possibly a cough, but it's perfectly timed within the first three weeks of school. If there's anything I've learned from being a mom, it's that keeping your kids healthy at school isn't easy! (Oh- did I mention that I was a teacher? Three weeks in... let the colds begin.). I wish it stopped there, but it continues all through the year...
We've tried a lot of different things, but here are some of the things we stress with our kids year after year. Keeping kids healthy at school throughout the year isn't easy, but it can be done!
Tips for Keeping Kids Healthy at School
1. Hand-Washing Basics need to be TAUGHT.
Teaching kids not only how to wash their hands, but when to wash them is key. We tell our kids to wash their hands, but do we teach them? We need to show them exactly what to do, how to wash & how long to wash their hands. So many germs can be washed down the drain when kids have good hand-washing habits.
When my kids were little, we taught them to sing the ABC song - twice! - as they washed their hands. Not only did it give them time to work up a good lather, but it pretty much guaranteed that every spot on their hands was touched with soap. It was also great alphabet practice!
Keeping kid-friendly hand soap by the sink is also important. If you notice that your child's classroom doesn't have a stocked soap dispenser, offer to donate a bottle. It's worth the two or three dollars to keep the classroom stocked in soap!
In addition to knowing how to wash their hands, kids need to be taught when they should do it. too: after using the bathroom, after using tissues, after petting the cat or dog, after playing with friends or playing sports, after visiting the playground or gym, and after using anything out in public (shopping carts, computers, etc.). Washing before and after eating is also a must!
The trick to keeping kids healthy at school is to make sure that those hygiene rules are second-nature and they do them without being reminded. If your preschooler has a hard time remembering, don't worry! He will get it with practice and patience.
You might also want to check out some of the free, printable posters about handwashing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They have everything from princess themes to super heroes!
2. Hand Sanitizer
Let's face it, sometimes, kids just can't wash their hands. It's not that they don't want to, it's just that there's no sink and soap available. For those instances, I make sure my kids have plenty of little bottles of hand sanitizer.
If you didn't stock up on them before school started, don't worry, because they're plentiful around the holidays and marketed as stocking stuffers. You can also find the travel-size in the beauty sections of your large box store.
My kids keep one in their lunch bag, one attached to their backpacks, and one inside their gym bags. If it's okay with their teachers, they also keep a small bottle in their desks at school. I encourage them to use the hand sanitizer liberally when they can't get to a sink to wash up. Hand washing with soap and water is always preferred, but keeping kids healthy at school requires a bit of compromise.
3. Coughs and Sneezes
Coughs and sneezes don't belong in hands, they belong in the crook of elbows or on the upper arm (or even better- in a tissue if possible!). My kids have actually made a game of it by calling their cough and sneeze actions their "Cough Dabs." I'm fine with whatever they call it as long as they do it!
4. Sharing Isn't Caring
One of the hardest things about keeping kids healthy in school is going against the common "caring is sharing" philosophy. When it comes to germs and bacteria, caring means not sharing! Water bottles, snacks, pencils, combs, and brushes all need to stay with their owners - especially when it's cold and flu season!
So, this school year, encourage your kids to wash their hands, use hand sanitizer, do the cough and sneeze dab, and keep things to themselves to stay healthy in school!