October 2021

· 3 min read

Our Future Is at Hand: Teaching Kids to Scrub Up

Scrubbing up at school: In honor of Global Handwashing Day, our experts offer these tips for handwashing safety.
Students in bathroom at sinks washing hands with soap - Global Handwashing Day: Teaching Kids to Scrub Up | NSF

In Jenna Divyak’s kindergarten classroom in Lake Forest, Illinois, almost 20 5-year-olds gather around the sink. Lathering up, splashing and singing “Happy Birthday” (twice), they praise soap as the hero that can save the day.

“As you can imagine, we talk about handwashing a lot in kindergarten,” says Divyak. “The kids often go to the bathroom and forget to wash their hands, or they do not wash them properly. It is a topic that we review every single day.”

This year, proper handwashing means more than it ever has before, as it plays a critical role in the fight against COVID-19. Divyak and her Lake Forest kindergarteners will join students, teachers and people across the world on October 15 to celebrate Global Handwashing Day. This advocacy day is dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding of the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.

Since bacteria and viruses can spread from person to person after touching your eyes, nose, and mouth or touching a contaminated surface, it’s important to protect yourself through proper and frequent handwashing.

Handwashing is a practice the scientists at NSF have been promoting internationally as one of the most successful — and simplest — methods to stop the spread of disease. It’s a tried-and-true public health measure. NSF experts work in partnership with researchers, policymakers and innovators to ensure resilient hand hygiene systems.

Through the Scrub Club®, teachers like Divyak now have a creative way to talk about this issue and a different way to motivate kids, without giving them an order to “go wash your hands.”

“The resources are very engaging and kid friendly,” says Divyak. “Kids learn best when the learning is fun and can catch their attention. (Especially 5-year-old students!) I like how they turned handwashing into a cartoon and created the ‘Handwashing Heroes.’ Kids love things like that. The videos are short and sweet. If videos are too long, it can sometimes lose their interest. I also like how you can click on each character and learn more about them and get germ facts. The facts are in kid-friendly terms and are easy for the kids to understand.”

Divyak also says the worksheets and storybooks are great for young learners, not just because of their vibrant colors, but also because they feature real-life kids they can relate to and model.

“I also like how there were translated materials,” she says. “The coloring pages and games were great. What kid doesn’t love to color and play games?”

The Scrub Club® was created as an educational tool designed to engage 3-to-8-year-olds about why handwashing is so important and how dirty hands can transmit pathogens, like germs and viruses, and increase the spread of highly resistant bacteria.

The theme of Global Handwashing Day 2021 is “Our Future Is at Hand — Let’s Move Forward Together!” The day focuses on raising awareness of the importance of making soap and water available around the world, especially in public places, schools, and health care facilities.

Good hygiene practices help ensure that children are healthy so they can attend class and learn. Globally, children miss a total of 272 million school days each year due to illness, while handwashing with soap has been found to help reduce these absences by up to 50%.

Handwashing with soap works by removing bacteria and viruses before they can enter the body or spread to other people. Cleaning hands with soap, particularly before eating or preparing food, and after contact with fecal material from using the toilet or cleaning a child’s bottom, is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of disease.

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