Proper hygiene is a foundational skill for good health. Bathing, brushing teeth, and washing hands are important skills that need to be taught. Children, especially those with special needs or sensory processing disorders, often need a lot of careful teaching and encouragement to learn these skills well. When teaching a child how to correctly wash his hands, you should explain the ‘why’ of this skill’s importance—“Washing off germs makes YOU healthier and stops you from spreading germs to everyone else,”—but to really get a kid to buy in, you have to make it fun.
Color Clean Soap is an example of a training tool that introduces an important element of play in teaching proper hand washing. When you use the soap, encourage your kid to “paint your hands all over!” Get it between your fingers, on the backs of your hands, and even rub the tips of your fingernails in it. If your child is more sensory-avoiding, let him choose a small plastic toy to “paint” instead and give him more time to become familiar with the soap before he uses it on his hands.
The playful exploration of using this soap is deepened by its bright color and scent. Stimulation for the tactile, visual, and olfactory senses provides a multisensory experience that facilitates more complete sensory integration, which is healthy for all children and can be especially helpful for those with sensory processing disorders.
For handwashing to be fully effective, it needs to be performed for the proper duration. (This is something that even adults tend to miss!) The delayed color rinse in this soap lets its color stay on the hands just a bit longer and takes around 20 seconds of active rubbing under the faucet to get it all off. This is the correct amount of time to really wash your hands well. Tell your kiddo to “keep scrubbing!” and get all the color off from between her fingers and the backs of her hands.
As the soap requires your kiddo to focus on her hands and wash carefully until all the color is gone, it’s helping her develop her attention to task, which allows for deeper learning of this important routine.
- If you have more than one color of soap available, have your child choose which to use—doing so will give him a greater sense of ownership of the routine. For most kids, feeling in control will increase initiation and participation with these kinds of routines. You might even wash your own hands at the same time, using the color he picked out for both of you. When he’s done, give him praise.
Every child—whether or not they have special needs to accommodate—needs guidance and teaching for learning foundational routines and habits. Whenever you can make learning entertaining for your kid, you’ll both come out ahead. Make it fun, and you’re supporting your child’s development of greater independence and lifelong health.