Children may know that germs cause illness, but they also know it's much easier to hurry through the hand-washing process so that they can get back to playing. Hands-on activities on invisible pesky germs are a great way to teach children about germs and show them that spending a little more time washing their hands can really prevent the spread of illness.
Grungy the Germ
A great activity about germs for kids ranging in age from 2 to 6 years old is storytime. Pkids.org, sponsored by Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases (PKIDS), features a free printable storybook, complete with coloured illustrations and an engaging story about Grungy the Germ. The teacher or parent can read the story, which defines germs, instructs on where they live, what they do and how to prevent infection. Next, place pictures of hair, food, dirt and other things where germs are found on the blackboard. Ask the students which of the pictures shows places where germs can live and how to prevent spreading them.
Dirt Digging Activity
Kidshealth.org features a lesson plan that calls for a fun hands-on activity. This activity, which is appropriate for small kids up to second grade, allows kids to get their hands as dirty as possible. Have the kids dig around in dirt for five minutes, return indoors and take a look at their hands through a magnifying glass. Ask if they would want to eat their lunch with hands that dirty.
Next, one half of the class washes their hands with just water while the other half washes with water and soap. Again, look at their hands through the magnifying glass to see how much soap really helps remove the dirt. Now, tell them that germs are just like the dirt, except you can't see them. This teaches the children that washing their hands with soap is very important.
Scholastic.com features an exciting activity that demonstrates how germs spread. Place a hidden amount of cornflour or flour in your hand and fake a sneeze into it. Cornflour will fly every which way and land on objects around you, and some will remain on your hand. Shake a student's hand and touch a student's desk to transfer some of the cornflour onto those objects. Clean up the cornflour mess with baby wipes.
Now, place another bit of cornflour into your hand and fake another sneeze, this time covering your hand and face with your arm. Students will see that much less cornflour makes it out of your hand. This shows how properly covering a sneeze or cough--along with washing your hands right after--can help to prevent the spread of germs.
The Scrub Club
The National Science Foundation hosts an exciting website called The Scrub Club (scrubclub.org) that has all kinds of fun interactive games on germs. The site revolves around the rivalry between the Scrub Club, a group of cool germ-fighting youngsters, and their enemy germs, Influenza Enzo, Bac, E. coli and Sal Monella. Kids can go through the site to learn about proper hand washing and infectious diseases, play a game about an Elvis-impersonating germ and watch hilarious webisodes. The site has fun music, animation and colourful backdrops that teach kids about germs and preventing the spread of illness, all while having fun.