Children’s handwashing hygiene

Stay safe with these handwashing tips.

IMPORTANT: Updated Information
Information impacting childcare is being updated on a frequent basis. You can track the latest information here- COVID-19 Childcare Updates.

Proper handwashing technique is vital in childcare centres, from teaching children the appropriate technique to ensuring educators also abide by high standards of hygiene. 

In light of the current coronavirus pandemic, having the right handwash procedure is now more important than ever before. Here’s how to encourage the right handwashing technique in children, as well as maintain the hygiene standards of staff. 

Washing your hands with warm water and soap kills viruses that may be living on your hands and could be introduced into the body via your mouth, nose or eyes when you next touch your face.  Here are 5 steps to hand hygiene that should be followed: 

  • Wet your hands using warm running water 
  • Apply liquid soap (bar soap is more likely to harbour germs)
  • Rub hands together for at least 20 seconds, covering the palms, backs of the hands, the space between the fingers and underneath the nails
  • Rinse hands under running water to wash soap off
  • Dry hands with a disposable paper towel. Throw the paper towel away in a lined rubbish bin. 

To help children remember all the different areas of the hand they need to wash, it may be helpful to provide them with imagery of each handwashing technique. For example, ‘pray’ might refer to rubbing the palms together, while ‘petting the dog’ could refer to rubbing the surface of the hand. Other movements include ‘butterfly’, ‘milk the cow’, ‘church steeple’, ‘rock, paper, scissors’ and ‘spiders’. 

It’s also helpful to give children a song to sing as they wash their hands. This ensures they have washed their hands for at least 20 seconds, and also makes the chore somewhat fun to complete. Singing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice is a popular option, as is ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’. You could even make a game out of it, or create your own song together to make it even more fun.

Children should be prompted to wash their hands:

  • Before preparing, cooking or eating food 
  • After using the bathroom 
  • After touching animals
  • After playing outdoors 
  • After cleaning the house 
  • Before and after seeing sick relatives or friends 
  • After coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose

Soap and water are preferable for washing the hands, but sanitiser can also be used in a pinch. By following these proper hand wash steps, you can ensure that the transmission of germs is greatly reduced while keeping the children around you healthy and happy.

Further information

  • Visit the COVID-19: Childcare Resources for latest news updates, understanding your responsibilities are to parents & children during the COVID-19 pandemic, when you should close your service, and how to get financial advice & assistance, and other key childcare-related information. 
  • Please visit the Department of Education, Skills and Employment Frequently Asked Questions for more information for providers and services and Coronavirus (COVID-19) for the latest education and training sector fact sheets.
  • The CCS Helpdesk is available to assist with information for services to help them manage the impacts on their business. Please email the CCS Helpdesk on, send in your query via an online form or call 1300 667 276 between 9.00 am — 5.00 pm (AEDST), Monday to Friday. 

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