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This post is compensated by #CollectiveBias, Inc. and its advertiser.  All opinions are mine alone.

In our house of three little boys, there are six sticky, muddy, grubby hands with 30 wiggly, fidgety, curious fingers.  Wiping, poking, scraping, scrabbling and flicking, smooshing, smashing and smearing everything, everywhere.  Nothing is out of bounds – nothing remains untouched by the hand of an under-six.

And in the words of Disney’s Frozen Trolls, “although we know he washes well, he always ends up kind of smelly…” our boys are pretty much summed up.  They love the water as much as the mud, and there’s nothing they like more than bubbles in the bath and having a good soak and a ‘chat’ as we’ve heard them saying.  They understand that you cannot be walking around in public caked in mud or paint.

The issue we’re tackling now is what you can’t see.  Germs.  The nasty, icky, sicky germs.  Bacteria.

I’ve taught at school since 2006 and although I hated having my classroom so close to the bathroom, I did manage to learn a little thing about boys and toilet habits.  Whereas girls like to gossip in the bathroom and create a million bubbles which overflow the sink, boys fall into two categories in the bathroom.

There are those little ones who take every chance to create havoc in the bathroom – overflowing water and paper towels down the sink, and there are those who want to get out of there are fast as possible either because their naughty teacher has told them that if they hang around, there might be a snapping turtle that lives in the toilet dungeons [sorry children] or because they don’t want to get into trouble with the paper towel stuffers.

Either way, the child that stays more than two minutes after they’ve exited the cubicle in order to actually wash their hands properly is a very rare breed indeed.  And on that subject, never, EVER tie the shoes of a child who has just been in the boys’ bathroom.  That isn’t water soaking the laces…

Added to the rarity of a good hand wash is the issue that when you’re a little boy, learning to go to the toilet is tricky.  I mean, you have equipment to handle.  And whereas I have boys who seem to think it’s appropriate to piddle up a tree in the woods [I like to think of this as a survival skill, and a wildlife warrior gene that they’ve inherited] or proudly pee with their hands on hips, swinging what they have backwards and forwards like a grandfather clock [singing at the same time, “Don’t worry, be happy now…”], their aim is amazing but they don’t quite understand the idea that just because you can’t see a germ, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

We used this concept when we decided a way to get them to hit the hand soap pump after tinkling and sprinkling every time.

This time, after shopping for our Palmolive liquid soap online at our favourite hypermarket, [we always chose Palmolive because Lyoto has issues with some liquid soaps that cause a reaction with his skin that looks like he’s been burned] at our favourite store [our exhaust has fallen off], we also invested in some little Frozen people.

Before anyone asks where we got them from, we bought the whole shelf a crate full of Frozen surprise eggs from ASDA for the boys’ birthday.  The boys are crazy for them at the moment and we had Frozen on loop yesterday three times in the background.  We’re all about the snowman here [although I do love Kristoff and Sven more].

We made sure to buy the Palmolive bottles of liquid soap which were opaque instead of clear, and which are easy to unscrew at the top.  Popping in the little Frozen cast, they slowly disappeared into the soap, with sound effects naturally [“Aaaahhhhh….. I’m drowning….!”].

“Who is this Hans?”

Anna and Olaf stood guard whilst one of the cast disappeared beneath the silky surface…

The idea is that as the boys wash their hands, their friends will appear – and at the end of the bottle, they can wash them out and enjoy their new toys as a reward!  Just like the germs they’re washing away, just because you can’t see the little toys at first, doesn’t mean that they aren’t there.

However, we realised that we run the risk of just a pump, swish and go with them still, and so we employed a little bit of Christmas magic to help them understand.  I might be stuck doing this for the foreseeable future now…

You see, whereas Jensen will absorb any advice you give him, Lyoto is at the age where I’m beginning to think he believes I am slightly crazy because every piece of health and safety advice I pass on hopefully, he returns a patronizing, “Yes, yes…. Okay, ooooookay…” in a tone I have trouble believing that a three year old could deliver – and then he does it anyway.  Take last week…

“Don’t hang over the bannister, you might slip and fall.”

“Yes, yes – don’t worry, me know what me doing.”

Two minutes later, third time sliding down bannister [doing what they term, a “Poppins”, no idea why], he falls over the top and somehow instinct kicks in and he grabs the railing, hanging safely a foot above the table top.

Me, heart racing. Him?

“See? Me told you! Pyerfick.” in a rather self-satisfied manner.  He pronounces Pyerfick [perfect]  rather like Pa Larkin in The Darling Buds of May.

And so, to avoid all doubt that germs were in fact real, we used cinnamon.  Or, as we are calling it, germ visibility powder – or magic germ powder.  A sprinkle of the magic stuff [we added glitter to ours] and it reveals all of the germs which are sticking to you [we tell them].

Genuine shock that the germs would not come off without soap. Yuck.

So here’s our experiment:

Step One:  Sprinkle on Magic Powder. Now the germs have nowhere to hide!

Step Two: Now wash them with just water.  See?  Not coming off.

Step Three: Now add hand soap and wash.  Magic!

Germs busted, and we’re a little closer to our reward, whatever might be in the bottle.

Now we have a little more understanding, and a reward for keeping the germs at bay.  I can live with a little cinnamon in my bathroom from time to time – it smells better than anything else in there when you live with three little boys and one big little boy anyway…

Have you got any tricks for encouraging hand washing?

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  1. I love this idea! I've heard of many different ways to teach kids about germs, but this one definitely seems ore simple and effective. I think I may do it with my 6 year old, who still manages to forget to wash her hands every so often. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I think you've got all the tricks covered for hand washing! I like the magic cinnamon glitter trick and dropping the little Frozen characters into the actual soap dispenser. And your boys are too cute! Great hand washing advise.

  3. Great tips! My kids are good with it…I actually taught my son how to make his fingers 'squeak' after he washes them to make sure he's rinsed off all the soap. He thinks it's hilarious!

  4. Boys are fn but very differnt from raising girls. You have some great ideas to get them to wash their hands and if you can find something to get them excited about it then half the battle is won.

  5. Great idea. I can't get over how different my nephews are from little girls I see (i have no nieces). I always have to remind the boys to wash their grubby hands haha

  6. These are wonderful ideas, my kids are pretty clean but this is still helpful. They have some weird things like not liking to wash hands in public.

  7. Washing hands with kids are so much fun! This is very important hygiene that we should teach to our kids how to hand wash properly with this Palmolive hygiene plus.

  8. It's nice to see Palmolive venturing into products ( like the Hygiene Plus ) that's for everyone in the family. I've gotten so used to Palmolive being a beauty soap, lol. I see the importance of washing the hands properly and it's something that should be taught even to young kids. There's no better time than now to teach them how to do it right.

  9. I'm gonna try this with my kids. My son just started Kindergarten and has missed SO MUCH SCHOOL because of illness. I have told them both that they need to start washing their hands if they want to stay well.

  10. When helping to raise my brother and sister, I offered incentives. If they carefully washed their hands, they would get a special dessert after dinner or something like that.

  11. I remember back in my day, my mom would encourage me by buying me these soap bottles with Disney Princess figurines at the bottom. If I wanted the figurine, which I always did, I'd have to use up all the soap. It was a great tactic, because I ended up having quite the collection haha.

  12. I had a problem with handwashing before. My mother’s a wise woman, though! Kept rewarding me every time I wash my hands!

  13. It's a constant reminder for my kids to wash their hands. It's so important. Specially after they return home from school. Tons of germs! So I totally agree with this post. Keep encouraging!

  14. Sometimes it's just a matter of reminding them and pointing out that the soap is there. Most of the time the kiddos are good about it and our youngest has started mimicking hand washing motions.

  15. I have this problem with just one of my three sons {the other two are always washing their hands, lol} so I might have to utilize this post asap! Thanks for sharing!

  16. My son is now 11 and he has been so great when it comes to washing his hands. There was never a time that he didn't wash his hands before having meals. I think it started a few years back when I told him if he doesn't want to get sick, he better wash his hands before eating. 🙂

  17. For me, I find that getting decorative soap containers encourages hand-washing well. My nephew loved this one that glowed in the dark…it was a limited edition for Halloween.

  18. This looks great! I've been so lucky my kids love washing their hands so it hasn't been much of an issue but I love these types of things that get them washing! Great tips!

  19. Hehehehe I wash my daughters hands so much that she's just given up the fight and when she sees me coming with a wipe has her hands ready lol…. It use to be a battle though…. Kids can Be so stubborn

  20. This is such a clever idea. My little nieces are learning to wash their own hands and this would be a great motivation for them to use the soap. I also love the cinnamon idea. I will definitely be trying this with them.

  21. Great tips! Thankfully my daughter is a good hand washer… it was ME that had to remember to always do it before eating! Now that I've gotten in the routine, she is super ready to soap away!

  22. I absolutely love this idea! My son thankfully loves to wash his hands any chance he can get but I'll definitely keep this little reward system in mind in case I need it! Really – awesome idea!

  23. Your posts always make me laugh. I'm glad I had little girls! But seriously, handwashing is very, very important, so it's crucial to start them off with good habits early in life.

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