By Teachers, For Teachers
Staying healthy and clean isn’t just a basic human need, it’s something even animals do. Ask your students if they have even seen a bird splash around in the water to get clean, or a dog or cat groom themselves. Ask them if they have ever been to the zoo and watched monkeys take turn picking the bugs off of one another in order to get clean.
Like animals, humans are responsible for their own health and well-being. It’s up to us to listen to our bodies and to take care of ourselves. By teaching students about health and hygiene, we are empowering them to remain healthy children and keep from spreading germs. When we practice good hygiene, we are not only keeping healthy, but it also makes us feel good about ourselves. Here are a few activities to help demonstrate how important health and hygiene is in maintaining healthy children.
Regular and proper hand washing is perhaps the most important habit students need to learn when it comes to health and hygiene. Germs are spread through our hands more than any other way. Therefore, it’s essential that students learn the proper way to wash their hands. It will not only keep students healthier, but it will also reduce the chances of a wide-spread infection in your classroom.
To demonstrate effective cleaning methods to your students, you will need a few materials: A sink, soap, crayons, and construction paper. Begin by asking students when the last time they have washed their hands. You will be surprised by some of the responses that you get. You will also notice that the older the students get, the less likely they will wash their hands. A lot of kids view hand washing as a chore and would rather not do it. Explain to students that we pick up bacteria that we cannot see on our hands, and if we don’t wash them then this bacteria (germs) passes into our bodies and to the things that we touch. Next, try this experiment with the students.
After the experiment, ask students to list all of the times that they should wash their hands: After each visit to the restroom, before a meal, after sneezing, when they are dirty, and so on. Then, have students create health and hygiene posters to place around the classroom. Encourage them to come up with fun sayings, like “Be aware, wash with care.”
Students may be surprised that their clothing plays an important role in their hygiene, especially older students who like to wear their favorite T-shirt every day. Discuss with students that dirty clothes can cause health problems, and that clean clothes not only look good, but also make us feel good. Here is a fun activity to really drive the fact that clean clothes are important for our health.
1. To begin this activity you must first explain to students that our bodies are constantly shedding dead skin. In addition to that, our bodies get overheated and sweat. When these things happen, it absorbs into our clothes and it can create an odor as well as harbor bacteria and germs. If we don’t clean our bodies every day and change our clothing then we can get infections.
2. Once students understand the role that clean clothes plays in our hygiene, then you can ask them to create a story from the view of a piece of clothing. For example, students can pretend they are a sock, T-shirt, or pair of pants. They tell a story beginning from the moment they put that article of clothing on, until they take it off at the end of the day. This is a great activity for students to really understand all that their clothing goes through in just one day.
3. Next, ask students to illustrate their story. They can create a comic strip-type illustration where each box depicts what their piece of clothing went through. For example, it ate breakfast and got spilled on, it went on the bus, it went to gym, and then it ate lunch, as so on. Hang their completed illustrations on the bulletin board for all to see.
For some teachers, teaching health and hygiene can be a controversial topic. Many teachers feel that these topics should be taught at home by the parents. But others say, “What if the parents don’t practice good health and hygiene habits, then how are the students going to learn?”
However you may feel about the topic, we can all agree that good habits means good health. By asking students to follow good hygiene habits in your classroom, you can keep your room free of infectious diseases and germs, and who wouldn’t want that?
How do you teach your students the importance of health and hygiene? Do you think it should be taught in school or is it the parent’s job? Please share your insight with us in the comment section below, we would love to hear your thoughts.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the elementary education expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or visit her website at Empoweringk6educators.