At the slightest hint of the great spring thaw, it’s easy to forget that germs are still around, lingering in dark corners and door handles. However, in recent weeks we have been experiencing an event that is leaving people both curious and uncertain, but more interested and motivated than ever to understand the importance of handwashing and preventing the spread of disease. Here are a few creative ways to make learning about and understanding germs fun for kids, and not so scary.
Create some germy guys using anything from cotton balls, glitter glue, pipe cleaners, and paint. Googly eyes are a must. Get extra creative by using common household items (toothpicks, paper straws and fabric straps to name a few). Google some germy images and recreate them. It helps both kids and adults understand different types and characteristics of germs, and ways to combat them.
I Love My Soaps
We can talk about hand washing all we want, but when you get down to brass tacks, you have to actually do the washing for the germs to be done. Kids might need a bit more coaxing – but let’s be real, some adults do too. Let your child pick out their very own hand soap and hand towel if you want to be a little extra. Self-expression and cleanliness? Winning. Check out other fun and inventive products like Itzazu Kidz color changing hand soap.
On the road? Purchase a personal hand sanitizer for littles to use in the car coming to and from activities. For little-littles, adult supervision needed.
Make a game of it – Works best with a group of 3+. Find small, soft objects in your house that represent the following:
- Germ – A small stuffed animal. If it plays a song, that’s even better. This can be used as your timer.
- Water – A small blue towel or cloth.
- Soap – A ball is perfect to use as a bubble.
Have a group stand in a circle. This game is similar to hot potato, except you’ll have three items to keep track of (modify as needed). Start by tossing the germ to a friend in the circle, and then they toss the germ to the next person. Now, here is where it gets tricky – next comes the soap, the soap needs to get tossed to the person who just touched the germ. For added fun and chaos, toss in the water. Germ – Soap – Water – Germ – Soap – Water. Get the germ away from you fast! Repeat until the toss-er and the catcher go out of sync or the music stops. Game over. This is where you can add in your own rules and make up a “non-winners have to clean the stairs” or “non-winners have to clean the bathroom floor” rule. And then wash your hands.
Build your own healthy germ (and eat it!) – Let kids play with their food by building their own germ out of healthy snack items. Raisins for eyes, pretzels for arms, you get the idea. Don’t forget to wash your hands first!
Experiment by growing your own petri dish bacteria, complete with googly eyes. This activity is not for the faint of heart – but it is a great learning opportunity on why handwashing is so important in preventing the spread of diseases. (Mixture below enough for 2 petri dishes)
- Grab a clean, microwave–safe container and add the water. Microwave until water is boiling. Stir in the agar and mix well.
- Microwave dish with mixture on high for 3 minutes to completely dissolve agar.
- CAUTION: Adult supervision is required to perform these steps- mixture will be HOT. The mixture should be clear with no particles.
- Remove mixture and let cool for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Take lid off the Petri dish (the lid is larger than the dish) and carefully cover the bottom half of the Petri dish with warm agar mixture.
- Set lid ajar so excess moisture can escape. Allow mixture to cool and harden for at least 1 hour. In a time crunch or needing to fill an Amazon order? Check out these premade agar petri dishes.
- Collect some bacteria! Use the end of a damped cotton swab and gently squiggle over surfaces you want to test. Roll the swab in between your fingers so that you are covering the whole swab – goal: visible ick. Take the icky swab and squiggle a line in the Petri dish, rolling the whole swab throughout. Do not turn the dish upside down. Place the lid and make sure to label the dish so you know what’s what. A few extra goober items to try? A phone or tablet case, or the family remote control. Gasp! Remember, you MUST use clean cotton swabs for each sample.
- Next, wash your hands and clean the remote, test again using the same method above.
- Over the next few days, watch the difference in growth between the dirty and clean swabs.
- When it’s looking a little too germy, dispose of the bags properly by sealing them in a zip-lock bag with a shot of bleach. DO NOT open the bag, ever. Like never-ever, and toss it in the trash.
“Get Down with the Sickness”
iTunes sample songs are about 20-25 seconds long. Let your kiddo pick out a song to sample (yes, even if it’s Baby Shark… again), washing their hands from the moment the sample song starts to when it finishes.
Date Night In Cuz You Can’t Go Out
Parents, we didn’t forget about you. Here is a list of infectious movies to check out after hours. Don’t forget the popcorn… and a blanket to hide under.
- Contagion (2011)
- Quarantine (2008)
- I am Legend (2007)
- The Host (2016)
- 28 Days Later (2002)
- 12 Monkeys (1995)
- Outbreak (1995)
Family Clean Up Day
Blast some tunes, open some windows, and get wiping. Bonus, you can put your kids to work. Little tykes especially love making clean messes, so hand over the dustpan. Make sure heavy chemicals are used in well-ventilated areas and away from children. Clean forgotten items like the family remote, door handles, and frequently used electronics.
Don’t forget! The most important thing you can do is stay home if you’re feeling ill. If you’re concerned about your symptoms, contact a healthcare provider and get prescreened before coming in for testing. And wash your hands.