As parents, you probably spend plenty of time teaching your young child to share. After all, “Sharing teaches children about compromise. They learn that if we give a little to others, we can get some of what we want as well. Children who share also learn how to take turns and negotiate, and how to cope with disappointment. These are all really important life skills.”
Those are good reasons, indeed, to teach your child to share. So, can you really blame your preschooler if, as he starts to give his sister a sip from his juice box, he’s confused when you stop him? How can you possibly explain the difference between good sharing and the type that spreads colds and other illnesses? Here are tips for teaching preschoolers about germs— and you can even make it fun!
Germs are Invisible
That’s what makes it so hard to explain them to preschoolers. If your child sneezes into his hands, he doesn’t see the germs. If your child takes a drink of water when she has a cold, no germs visibly appear on the cup or straw. To make it even more confusing, you will sometimes be telling your child not to share, even when he isn’t sick, as a preventive measure — especially during the upcoming cold and flu season.
Health experts say, though, that if you explain to your preschooler WHY he should wash hands more, sneeze into the elbow and not share eating utensils, it helps him to become more germ-aware. Care.com quotes experts who offer the following tips:
- Describe germs as tiny bugs that live everywhere.
- Some germs are good, you can explain, but others can make you sick.
- Also explain that, when a bug makes your child sick, he or she will miss out on having fun with friends.
- You can then reassure your child that there are things to do to help prevent sickness, such as washing hands carefully and more frequently.
Ask your child to repeat back what you’ve said, and don’t be surprised if it isn’t yet 100 percent clear. You can then demonstrate by using glitter. Put a little bit of glitter on your child’s hands. Have him or her rinse with water. Lots of glitter left, right? Then have him or her scrub carefully with soap and water to see how much of a difference this makes. You can also put glitter on your hands and then touch your child’s hands, shoulders and so forth. Let him or her see how quickly and easily glitter-germs can spread. You can also find plenty of tips on teaching about the flu and flu prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
More Ways to Teach About Germs
Elizabeth Verdick wrote Germs are Not for Sharing, for children ages 4 to 7. Full-color illustrations help children understand the text, and there is also a section for adults: tips on how to educate children. Here is just one review of the book: “Hits the bull’s-eye with an important message to all children. Wonderfully illustrated. Bravo! Well done!” (Philip M. Tierno Jr., Ph.D., Director of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology, New York University Medical Center and author of The Secret Life of Germs).
TwiggleMagazine.com shares activities to help teach about germs, including songs to sing. Meanwhile, TeachPreschoolScience.com lists several other strategies, including a game of Captain Germcatcher that will appeal to children who enjoy superhero stories and games.
The bottom line is that, sometimes, you will need to thank your preschooler for NOT sharing.
Looking for more ways to enrich your child’s learning and life? Horizon Education Center provides affordable quality care, including educational and enrichment opportunities for children in the following Northeast Ohio locations.