Pippa Hobson, a leading germ expert on the Zoono Family Panel, an initiative that supports the wellbeing of families, offers her advice on how to educate children about germs and encourage them to keep to social distancing rules when they’re back at school.
Particularly for those with very young children, it’s understandable to have concerns over whether they will be able to follow the rules when you’re not with them to wipe their nose, remind them to wash their hands and stay two metres apart.
The key is to start talking to them now about returning to school. This way, they can learn all about germs and bacteria, and can mentally process how things are going to be quite different when they are back with their friends in the classroom.
- Teach Your Children About Germs
The best weapon against any sort of bacteria or virus is knowledge. By understanding the different types of germs, where they live, and how they spread, we can help children to grasp why we’re asking them to constantly wash their hands and stay away from their friends. When children understand the reasons behind something, they’re much more likely to follow the rules.
We’ve probably all seen the pepper experiment, which is great for teaching children about the effect of hand sanitisers on bacteria and nasties.
Another idea is to create ‘germ characters’. Host an arts and crafts session at the kitchen table where you identify and create personas for different types of bacteria and virus. Create a ‘Covid-19’ character and list out their characteristics; being able to visualise the virus as a cartoon, and knowing how to fight back against it, is a great way to educate children without scaring them in the process.
- Turn Handwashing into a Game
By turning handwashing and sanitising into a game, you’re turning it from something they have to do into something they want to do. For young children, give them an egg timer and show them how to set it to ’20 minutes’. Challenge them to wash their hands every time it goes off. By the time they go to school, they will be used to a routine of regularly washing their hands and their brains will be in a pattern of remembering to do so every 20 minutes.
- Prepare for the ‘New School’ Routine
Rest assured that many schools will be putting measures in place to make sure children stay safe and well when they’re back in the classroom. This might look different in each school, so ask your teacher or headteacher exactly what will be different. This way, you can talk to your child about what’s going change about their school life. By discussing what to expect, you can make sure they’re totally prepared for what lies ahead, so there is no confusion or surprises.
- Learn Fun, Non-Contact Games
Many games and activities from the playground require contact between children, or for them to be close by at least, so one way to solve this is to teach them a selection of fun new games that can be played at a distance.
Hopscotch, skipping, marbles and Simon says are all games that can be played two metres apart. Teaching your child the rules for each one is a wonderful bonding experience for you, and they’ll also then be excited to return to school to show all their friends what they’ve learnt during lockdown.
- Stay Calm
Finally, remember that children feed off our emotions. If we’re worried about them returning to school, even if we don’t say it out load, our children can pick up on this. Try and avoid getting yourself worked up or anxious about the prospect of them returning to school. Stop these negative thoughts creeping into your mind and focus on the positives. For example, children will be able to learn new skills, they will love to be back with their friends, and their mental health will benefit from sharing their lockdown experiences with their friends.
For more information and advice about protecting the wellbeing of your family during and after lockdown, check out the Zoono Family Panel.
About Pippa Hobson
Pippa Hobson works as part of the experienced team of experts at Zoono who know everything there is to know about germs and bacteria. We understand how pathogens work and the best way to kill bacteria, viruses and all nasties from the skin and surfaces. Through the Family Panel, we aim to help protect the wellbeing of you and your family by offering advice and guidance.