Hand Washing



Visibility and transmission: complexities around promoting hand hygiene in young children – a qualitative study | BMC Public Health | Full Text (biomedcentral.com) 

Ruby Biezen, Danilla Grando, Danielle Mazza & Bianca Brijnath  

Hand hygiene, including hand washing with soap and water, or the use of hand sanitizers, has been shown to reduce transmission of infectious diseases especially gastrointestinal and respiratory tract infections. Young children < 5 years of age are most at risk, in particular those attending childcare or preschool. 


Babies are vulnerable and fragile beings and good hygiene is very important when handling babies. Babies can contract illnesses from adults and even though it could be mild for adults it can be life threatening for babies. Babies have weak immune systems and if they contract any illness, they will often require hospitalisation. Hands should be washed every time before you pick up a baby preferably with soap and water.  If there is no soap and water around, hand sanitizer can also be used. Sanitizer disinfects your hands and is a safe option. 

It's also important to ask any visitors or grandparents to wash their hands as well before picking up baby. 

Every child needs to learn to wash their hands properly early in life and it is an important part of growing up. For the first two years you will need to wash their hands for them and help them out. Soap can be applied to a dampened washcloth to wash their hands and then wiped with another washcloth dampened with just water. 

Important times when you should wash a babies hands include: 

  • After you change their nappy 
  • After eating or handling food 
  • After playing with toys 
  • Before and after playing with other children 
  • Baby’s hands should be washed with soap and a warm wet fresh towel, rinsed and then dried.


It is important to have a good hand washing routine as early on in life as possible. As your baby progresses into a toddler, it’s important to change your hand washing technique as they grow, keeping it fun whilst giving them lots of praise and encouragement!  

Here’s some ideas how you can start getting your toddler involved in washing their hands and help them to understand that it’s an important part of their daily routine… 

  • Get a step stool so they can reach the sink themselves. 
  • Give them independence – Anyone with a toddler will know how much they LOVE a sense of independence and the feeling of being able to do something for themselves! It’s of course always best to supervise them to make sure they wash their hands properly but let them do the main work themselves. 
  • Always communicate with them to tell them it’s time to wash their hands and why (for example…. it’s dinner time!) 
  • Sing a song with them whilst they wash their hands. Hands should be washed for 20 seconds which is enough time to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice, but you could always sing along to a nursery rhyme or any other song your child loves to make sure they stay at the sink long enough! If you’re stuck for song ideas… check out the collaboration between the World Health Organisation and Peppa Pig here 
  • Teach them the importance of washing their hands using body paint or glitter every so often so that they have a visual aid of how they need to wash their hands for them to be clean
  • And don’t forget to also wash your hands at the same time! Not only will this help keep everyone safe, but seeing you lead by example will be a great learning tool for your little one from any age. 

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Disclaimer: This publication by Miracle Babies Foundation is intended solely for general education and assistance and it is it is not medical advice or a healthcare recommendation. It should not be used for the purpose of medical diagnosis or treatment for any individual condition. This publication has been developed by our Parent Advisory Team (all who are parents of premature and sick babies) and has been reviewed and approved by a Clinical Advisory Team. This publication is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Miracle Babies Foundation recommends that professional medical advice and services be sought out from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your personal circumstances.To the extent permitted by law, Miracle Babies Foundation excludes and disclaims any liability of any kind (directly or indirectly arising) to any reader of this publication who acts or does not act in reliance wholly or partly on the content of this general publication. If you would like to provide any feedback on the information please email [email protected].