Germ Education: How to discuss germs at home

diverse nutritional menu

As we continue to monitor the coronavirus outbreaks and adhere to health guidelines and stay at home restrictions, your child may become curious about why they need to stay at home and why they can’t see their friends or hug their grandparents. It’s important as parents and as educators that we don’t scare them and instead, we explain the situation using simple language and activities to help them understand.

What is Child’s Play ELC doing? 

Child’s Play ELC is committed to supporting families and helping reduce the spread of the virus so all children can be included in our programs. Following the restrictions, we have implemented a number of preventative measures to help keep our centres open. 

It is a very complex situation that we are trying our best to navigate. One of the complexities includes who can have access to childcare in metro Melbourne and who is a permitted worker. As our Tarneit centre resides in metropolitan Melbourne, we now require parents to have filled out a permitted worker form prior to bringing their child to childcare, and we ask only to bring your child if you have to. 

At our centres, we are also committed to providing germ education for all children to help them understand the importance of hygiene and social distancing.  Our education includes discussing what germs are, how they are spread and what we can do to prevent germs. We invite you to continue this education at home. 

What are germs? 

Germs are living organisms that can cause diseases and make us feel sick but are often germs are referred to as invaders of our bodies. This invasion is not visible and often we need a microscope to see it. But germs don’t just come in one shape there is bacteria, viruses and fungi and each germ has a differing level of infectiousness. 

  • Bacteria: is a single cell that can cause ear infections and tonsillitis 
  • A Virus: are living cells that require a host to survive
  • Fungi: are plant-like and can be dangerous. 

How can we explain germs?

Kids are often quite curious about the world around them. We can help them understand germs by using stories and picture books as references. There are a number of books you can read with your child to help them understand what germs are and reinforce their germ education. One of the books is Sick Simon by Dan Krall, where Simon learns about the cold and flu season and how to prevent germs. Another good example of talking about germs is Elizabeth Verdik’s book Germs Are Not For Sharing, which continues their germ education by explaining how not to spread germs. 

Ways to show the spread of germs

Through pictures, it can sometimes be difficult for children to understand how germs apply to them. So as parents, we can back their new knowledge up with some fun activities to help them remember how germs are spread. These activities can sometimes get messy but are a great way to show children how germs work. 

The Germ Potato

Emphasises the importance of handwashing

Peel and cut a potato in half with your kids and then pass one half of the potato to every member of the family. Encourage all family members to rub their hands all over the potato half. Then get everyone to wash their hands for 20-30 seconds with soap, and get everyone to touch the other half of the potato and again encourage them to rub their hands all over it. Place the potato halves in separate sealable bags and label them washed and unwashed hands. You can watch the unwashed hands one will change colours very quickly. The final step is to place the bags in a dark area for a week and after a week, inspect the potatoes for a change in colour and growth. 

This activity can be done right before dinner when everyone is available and is an excellent activity for children of all ages. 

Scatter Germ Activity

Emphasises the spread of germs 

This activity shows how germs are spread using pepper, water and dish soap. It’s an effective way to emphasise handwashing and other hygiene techniques while also having fun with your child. 

First, in a shallow bowl, add water and powdered pepper, and pretend the pepper are germs. Then have your child stick their finger in the water and see how much pepper comes off their finger (You can even say “Ooh that’s a lot of germs”. Next, have your child put a dot of soap on their finger and dip it back into the bowl of water with germs and watch how all the germs will scatter away from the soap. After this happens, ask your child what happened to the “germs” and what they learnt, most children will respond with they should wash their hands to not get the germs. 

Again this activity is great to do with all the family members because it teaches young kids something new and is entertaining. 

The Sneezing Spray Bottle

Emphasises how far an uncovered sneeze can travel and the importance of masks

Your child may be curious about masks and why everyone is wearing them. A fun experiment to explain that germs can travel through droplets is the spray bottle experiment, but it is best to do this outside, so you don’t damage the walls. 

With a spray bottle fill it with water and food colouring (you can have different colours in different bottles if you have more than one child). Set up the paper on the clothesline or wall and then spray at it from a short distance uncovered, continue to extend this distance until the spray bottle doesn’t reach the paper or until you have run out of the room. Then set up another piece of paper and place a tissue, cloth or napkin over the spray bottle and test how far the coloured water gets this time. 

This activity shows kids the effectiveness of masks and the importance of covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and can be a valuable asset to their germ education. 

Practising Good Hygiene

Finally, you can assist in your child’s germ education by practising and helping them practice good hygiene. Good hygiene is crucial to prevent infectious diseases from spreading and helps protect yourself and your child from catching infections and other germs.  We recently wrote a blog on the best ways to practice hygiene, but you may also consider using these methods to practice good hygiene: 

  • Having a Handwashing/ Brushing Teeth Chart to help your child track their progress through the week. 
  • Using tissues when we sneeze, cough and have a runny nose.
  • Practice covering our noses and mouths when we sneeze or cough, a cool way to encourage children to do this is mimicking dabbing. 

Final Words: Take Care!

At Child’s Play ELC, we hope everyone is staying healthy, social distancing and practising safe hygiene. If you would like up to date information about our efforts during this pandemic, please check out our coronavirus page and if you have a question about your enrolment, please do not hesitate to contact us to speak to an educator.