From the moment your child leaves your front step, to the moment they return, their hands touch an innumerable amount of objects. Bus seats, door handles, coat racks, desks, playground equipment, shared school supplies, library books, lunch trays, drinking fountains, musical instruments, computer keyboards -- and don't forget about the restroom. If the possibilities of winning the lottery were as good as contracting germs in a school, let's just say we'd all be filthy rich. So what can you do about it? How can you protect your child (and family) from these nasty predators before they invade your home?
As a teacher, I have learned a few tricks along the way that help keep me and my students healthy. Here's what you can do when they get home.
1. Throw away or clean water bottles each day. This may seem simple and common sense, but eco-friendly people often just refill their bottles and continue to use them. I'm all for saving money and the environment, but some of my students continue to use their bottles for days, weeks, even months. Can you imagine the amount of germs and dust those bottles must have contracted? Even if you are using a reusable plastic or metal water bottle, encourage your child to bring it home each day for washing. Once we made the rule (in my class) that water bottles had to go home each day, we seriously cut back on the amount of contracted illnesses.
2. Regularly wash or change lunch boxes. Thoroughly clean the boxes/bags and the containers in which your child brings their lunch. Lunch boxes often wind up on dirty playgrounds or cafeteria floors. Even something as simple as wiping down the outside of the box and the handle can have a positive effect.
3. Require your kids to wash their hands when they get home. This is especially important before they eat their after school snack. It's at least one time a day you can supervise their hand washing. Encourage them to use soap and wash as long as it takes them to sing Happy Birthday or another favorite song. I also find that using fun soap makes the process more fun, and therefore less of a chore for the kids. Hopefully this good habit will transfer to their hand washing at school, even further limiting the germs that come home.
4. Provide tissues. For whatever reason, children seem to think coat sleeves and mittens also double as facial tissue and snacks. Think about the number of times you have seen your kid wipe their snotty nose on their coat sleeve or suck on a mitten. Now think about how often you wash their coat and mittens. Get rid of those germs by providing pocket-size tissue packs, and washing coats and mittens when you do the rest of your child's laundry.
5. Keep germ-prone items out of the kitchen. Keep backpacks, shoes, coats and anything else that might come home from school in an entry way or mud room. Not only does this help decrease the clutter in your home, but it also keeps all germ-filled items in one area instead of strewn about your house. You could also consider wiping down any item that does leave the designated area such as a library book or shared supply before use.
There are other things that you can encourage your child to do throughout the day that can limit the amount of germs they come in contact with. For example, teach your child how to blow their nose and use a tissue in a way that keeps their hands clean. You could also send a small bottle of hand sanitizer in their backpack or discourage them from sharing beverage containers with friends.
Clearly we can't keep our kids in a plastic, germ-free bubble (and who would want to?). Some amount of exposure to germs makes our immune systems stronger, but not everything that is shared at school needs to come home.
Content by Amanda Zieba.