COVID-19 has changed the world. It has changed the way we interact (or, more often, don’t interact.) It has changed the way we do business, shop for groceries, visit relatives, have birthday parties, graduate, and go to the park. For the greater good of our communities and countries, we have had to learn about coronaviruses, 20-second handwashing, and making sourdough bread. We’ve also had to learn to move on with this new way of living.
Now, the need to teach our children about germs and the importance of washing hands is paramount. Nearly as important, though, is doing so in a fashion that doesn’t scare them. As with schoolwork or any lesson, if we can make the learning fun and positive, learners are generally much more likely to retain and use the information. The trick, of course, is just how we go about doing this. How does one teach kids about how germs spread?
Germs Spread via Touching: Flour Power
The extent to which germs are spread has become so much more glaring in 2020. Suddenly, a trip to the supermarket can feel absolutely daunting because of how easily we could theoretically spread the virus by touching carts, items, bags, handles, shelves, credit card machines, etc. This experiment, usually done with glitter, illustrates to children the ease in which germs are transmitted from people to objects. (Flour is a much more environmentally friendly medium than glitter.)
- Put some white flour on a plate. You can add cinnamon and/or turmeric (this will stain) for additional germs, or powdered pigment/chalk will work, too. Have the kids put their hands in the flour mixture, coating them well, and then allow them to play with some select toys or ask them to do some sort of chore while their hands are coated. Then, follow the flour trail to see where all the germs have been left behind.
Source: Science for Kids: Make Germs Scatter by Shaunna Evans
Use Soap When Washing Hands, Part 1: Black Pepper in a Bowl
Let’s be honest, kids or not, many of us have long been perfectly content to wash our hands with a bit of water, but COVID-19 and Dr. Fauci have taught us that soap is non-negotiable when it comes to preventing germs from spreading. This experiment is a great demonstration of the power of soap, and truthfully, it has that feeling of magic that can even amaze the adults leading it.
- Put some water in a bowl and add some black pepper (germs) to it. Then, ask the children to stick a finger in the water. The pepper will stick to it. After the finger is wiped clean, dip the same finger into some soap. Have the children stick the soapy finger in the water. The pepper will scatter out to the edges of the bowl, and none will stick to the finger.
Use Soap When Washing Hands, Part 2: Squishy Soap
Let’s be honest again: Soap is pretty boring. But, it doesn’t have to be. If washing our hands were a little more of an adventure, would we be more likely to do it? Making squishy soap at home can be an exciting alternative to the standard bar or liquid hand soap found beside the sink. If we get to wash our hands with something more like play dough, twenty seconds just breezes by. We might even want to wash a little more.
- Start with a cup of non-GMO corn starch (because why support GMOs!) then add a quarter cup of liquid castile soap (eg Bronner’s), a quarter cup of water, and a few drops of food coloring (or washable liquid paint). Mix this up. Then, add a couple of tablespoons of cooking oil and need the blobby mass until it all sticks together. That’s squishy soap! Store it in a jar with a lid and pinch of a little bit each time it’s needed.
Germs Spread via Sneezing/Coughing: Colorful Tease Sneeze
Social distancing has become the term of the year, and we’ve defined that as keeping six feet apart. This distance is based on the amount that spittle and other nasties travel when we talk and breath and so on. Coughing and sneezing, however, can send germs much further than that. To illustrate the need to cover our mouth and nose when sneezing, the tease sneeze can be a lot of fun, cause a huge mess and make a lasting impression.
- Go outside where no one else is around, such as in the carport, on the driveway, or an uncrowded concrete sidewalk. Get a colorful liquid, such as grape juice or pomegranate juice. Have the kids get a good mouthful of it but don’t swallow. Now, they need to do their best fake sneeze with a big achoo. Now, measure how far the liquid traveled. For an added laugh, do the same thing while covering the mouth in different ways.
Even though COVID-19 and preventing pandemics is a serious business, that doesn’t mean that kids can’t have some fun while doing their part. These activities are wonderfully silly, but will get the lesson across and might just keep our children (and their grandparents) safer.
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Lead image source: Little girl washing hands in bathroom by Gorilla Images