Turning “keep from spreading germs” into a game

There are germs everywhere. Literally.

There are germs on the phone you’re reading this from, and there are germs on the package of the antibacterial wipes that you’ll be using in a minute to wipe your phone clean.

Even the effect of those antimicrobial wipes is questionable according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

And yes, kids are very susceptible to germs. Not only that, they’re on top of the list for spreading germs, too!

What are germs?

“Germs,” is an umbrella term for these four types of disease-causing organisms: bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa.

Before you teach Baby how to avoid the spread of germs, they should first understand how they are transmitted.

The chain of infection is the way these germs are spread from one carrier to another. The most important part of the fight against the spread of germs is knowing how to break this chain.

In the chain of infection, the infection starts at the reservoir, passes through the portal of exit, is passed on through transmission, and is passed to the new host through the portal of entry.

Let’s take, for example, the way germs are passed on by coughing. The reservoir is the person or place in which the germs grow – in this case, whoever is coughing. The portal of exit is where the germs leave the reservoir – in this case, the mouth.

When the person coughs, the germs will transfer to the next person via the portal of entry – the hands or nose.

Breaking the chain should happen at the portal of exit. How? By teaching your little one to avoid spreading germs in a way that will stick – like a game!

Dotted hand-washing game

Why this game? Well, hand washing plays a very important – and underrated – role in breaking the chain of infection. This game can give young children visual aids for understanding how important hand-washing is.


  • Washable non-toxic markers
  • Liquid hand soap (foaming liquid soap is much better) in a pump dispenser. Don’t use a bar of soap as much as possible because it’s a hotspot for germs.
  • Clean hand towel
  • Running water


  • Explain the concept of germs and the chain of infection to your child by placing a couple of dots on your palms using the washable, non-toxic markers to represent the germs
  • Tell Baby that germs are super small and cannot be seen by the naked eye, but they look a little like the ones that you’ve just drawn, and they stick to their skin in the same way
  • While the marker is still wet, touch your child’s hand to show the transfer of germs.
  • Go to the sink and tell your child that both of you will wash off the dots using soap and water, and that whoever washes all the dots off first wins!
    • Rub your hands together:
    • Right palm over left dorsum (back of hand)
    • Left palm over right dorsum
    • Rotational rubbing of left thumb, rotational rubbing of right thumb
    • Rubbing your right palm with your clasped left fingers
    • Rubbing your left palm with your clasped right fingers  

While you’re doing this, you can talk to Baby about how the rubbing is what takes the germs off of the hand, while the soap removes the oily layer of the skin where the germs are attached. You have to do this for 20 seconds at the very least, or you can stop after you’ve finished singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.

  • Rinse hands with warm water
  • Dry your hands completely using the hand towel

Reinforcement is key, and hand-washing is an important part of a child’s daily routine, especially before each meal.

  • Anna Blackaby-Warwick. “Why kids top the list for spreading germs.” Futurity. University of Warwick, June 26 2013. Retrieved December 13 2017. http://www.futurity.org/why-kids-top-the-list-for-spreading-germs/.
  • Litjen Tan, et al. “Use of antimicrobial agents in consumer products.” JAMA Dermatology. 138(8): 1082-1086. August 2002. Retrieved December 13 2017. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/article-abstract/478930.
  • “Children are among the most vulnerable to environmental threats.”World Health Organization. World Health Organization. Retrieved December 13 2017. http://www.who.int/heca/advocacy/publications/HECIbr2.pdf.
  • “Germ prevention strategies.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, February 25 2016. Retrieved December 13 2017. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/prevention/Pages/Germ-Prevention-Strategies.aspx.
  • “Hand hygiene: Why, how, and when?” World Health Organization. World Health Organization, August 2009. Retrieved December 13 2017. http://who.int/gpsc/5may/Hand_Hygiene_Why_How_and_When_Brochure.pdf.
  • “Lesson 1: Introduction to epidemiology.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, May 18 2012. Retrieved December 13 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/ophss/csels/dsepd/ss1978/lesson1/section10.html.
  • “Stopping the spread of germs at home, work, & school.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, November 16 2017. Retrieved December 13 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/stopgerms.htm. 
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