Teaching Your Kids Mindful Handwashing

If you’re like me, your hands are cleaner than they’ve ever been. I’m usually a big fan of hand washing, but along with many others around the world, I’ve stepped up my game in light of the looming flu and virus concerns.

Besides the benefit of cleanliness, washing our hands can also offer a moment of mindfulness we might not otherwise take in the day. Here’s how you can transform handwashing into a mindful moment and teach your kids to so as well.

1. As you walk to the sink, set an intention. This is a great opportunity to teach children the importance of acting with intention— something many adults could also practice more. Examples are, “I’m going to enjoy this moment of peace” or “I’m going to clean my hands as well as possible.”

2. When you reach the sink, slowly take notice of the steps you must take to prepare for hand washing. Do you need to roll up your sleeves? Does your child need to pull up a stool?

3. Next turn on the water slowly and listen to the sound of the water flow and bubble. Let the sound of the water wash away the thoughts in your mind and bring you to the present moment. (PSA: As a good steward of our planet’s resources, try not let the water run for more than a few seconds without using it).

4. Next, grab the soap and build up a lather. As you rub your palms together, allow yourself to really feel the bubbles build up, one by one. Does mindful handwashing feel different than a quick, mindless hand wash at this point?

5. Take three slow, deep breaths as you wash each of the following—your palms, the top of your hands, your fingertips, under your nails, in between your fingers, and your wrists. This should take at least 20 seconds if you really use three deep belly breaths for each of those areas.

6. Talk with your child about how each section of your hand feels different as you wash it. Is it smooth? Rough? Easy to wash? Difficult? Allow your child to share how it feels in her own words.

7. Next, rinse your hands slowly with clean water. Again think about how the running water sounds. Does it sound different to you now that you’ve had 20-30 seconds of relaxation since the last time you heard it?

8. Finally, dry your hands on a clean towel. Take at least 5-10 seconds to really dry each part of your hands mindfully. How does the texture of the towel feel? How do your hands feel as they are being dried?

9. Now smile and give a fist bump to your child to celebrate mindful handwashing! You can even use this moment to let your child reflect on the brief mindfulness experience and tell you how she feels now, in this very moment.

The author, Angela Wolf, teaches kids mindfulness and meditation through an Academy in Denver called Meditot; more information available at www.meditot.com. If you’d like to learn the official CDC-approved process for handwashing, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html.

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