Hand Washing Experiments
One super fun and memorable way to teach proper hand hygiene is through hand washing experiments. These fun science explorations are perfect for preschool all the way through elementary grades.
These experiments require minimal materials, and they both help children truly visualize and understand the importance of washing their hands. Keep reading to see how you can use these hand washing experiments in your classroom!
Experiment 1: Soapy Science
This experiment is so simple you’ll wonder why you haven’t done it before! It’s great for the first day of school when you set up expectations for proper hand hygiene.
I suggest creating an experiment anchor chart that you can keep displayed in the classroom. This will enable children to revisit their learning and to remember *why* hand washing is so important.
First, get a bowl full of water. Sprinkle pepper all over the top of the bowl so that much of the water is covered in black pepper. Explain that the pepper represents germs.
Have children stick a dry, unwashed finger in the middle of the bowl. Do they notice that the pepper comes toward their finger? This represents germs sticking to their hands.
Next, have the children coat their finger in dish soap to simulate washing their hands. When they place their finger in the bowl this time, what happens? The dish soap causes the pepper to scatter and move away from their finger.
Of course, young children don’t need to know about surface tension and other deep scientific explanations. They’ll learn about those in the next few years! Instead, this visual reminds them of the importance of washing hands–and using soap–to get rid of germs!
Experiment 2: Lunchtime Debate
For the next hand washing experiment, pose this question: Should we really wash our hands before we eat lunch (or snacks)? Give the children an opportunity to share what they think and why.
Next, present a bag of untouched bread. Be sure to do this when your hands or your students’ hands are particularly germy–after recess, using the restroom, or center time.
Tell them you’re ready to eat but you really don’t feel like washing your hands. Make a big deal of looking at your hands. Exclaim, “I don’t see any dirt. My hands must be clean!”
Then pretend to eat the bread while you touch every square inch of the bread you possibly can! ha! We want this piece of bread nice and germy so the results hit home! Place the germy bread you pretended to eat in a ziploc bag labeled “Dirty Hands.”
Next, clean your hands exceptionally well. Show the children how you wet your hands, soap up, lather, and scrub every finger and section of your hand. Sing the alphabet song or birthday song while you do it to demonstrate how proper hand washing should be for a minimum of 20 seconds.
Explain the importance of using warm water to thoroughly rinse your hands. Then dry them off and pick up the other piece of untouched bread. Again, pretend to “eat” it, then place it in the ziploc bag labeled “Clean Hands.”
Leave it Alone!
This experiment isn’t instant gratification for little learners, but it does show the importance of observation and time. Tape the ziploc bags in a cool, dark area and tell the children that you will observe them each day for the next week or so. You may want to draw your daily observations on a recording page.
Discuss what you see as each day passes. What is happening to the bread you touched with clean hands? What about with dirty hands? At the end of this experiment, children will have a (gross) yet accurate visual of why washing hands is so important before eating!
Hand Washing Posters
Reminding little ones to wash their hands day in and day out can be daunting. So I’ve created some ADORABLE hand washing posters for you to print out and display in you room.
Hang them up in the bathroom, by the sink, in the cafeteria, and anywhere else you want to remind your little learners to wash their hands.
You could even have the hand washing posters enlarged and printed professionally. Then put them in an inexpensive frame and hang them in your bathroom or classroom. They’re so cute, they are truly like works of art!
Before Displaying the Posters
Before hanging the posters up, I would discuss some important tips about washing hands. We don’t want the posters to just be more background noise on the classroom walls. We want children to see them and to *think* when they see them.
- Remind children to use soap. Many of them believe water will simply wash the germs down the drain and soap isn’t needed. Remind them of the hand washing experiments you conducted that proved soap is important!
- Remind them to scrub each part of their hands – between their fingers, their thumb, the backs of their hands, their palms, their wrists, etc. One of the posters shows precisely what order to scrub in. This is a great one to hang right in front of your sink!
- Remind children to rinse ALL the soap off and dry their hands thoroughly.
- Encourage children to sing either the Birthday Song or the ABC’s when they wash their hands so they wash them for at least 20 seconds.
- Lead the children in a discussion of when they should wash their hands (after using the restroom, after playing outside, before and after eating, when they’ve sneezed or coughed, or when they’ve had their fingers in their mouth.) You may want to even create an anchor chart about when you should wash your hands and display it in the classroom as a reminder.
- Check out this hand washing timer if you don’t want to hear the birthday song all day every day!
Hand Washing Experiments and Posters
If you’d like to use these materials in your own classroom, be sure to grab my Hand Washing Experiments and Posters printable packet. It includes several different hand washing posters that would look adorable in any classroom.
It also includes all the materials you need to conduct the two science experiments as well as the materials to create the various anchor charts I’ve described.
This packet is perfect for the first week of school so it sets the stage for a safe and healthy school year. Click on the image below to check it out!
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