01/20/2015 12:05 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

5 Ways Little Kids Wash Their Hands

They don't call this the dead of winter for nothing. Bitter cold. No sunshine. Cooped-up kids tearing the house apart as you slowly tear out your hair. No new episodes of The Walking Dead for nearly a month.

And the sickness -- the never-ending cycle of sickness.

Mid-winter is always rough for families with kids, and this year has been particularly infectious. Aside from getting a flu shot, one of the most effective ways to prevent illness is to wash your hands. Every doctor, childcare professional, teacher, parent and educational Muppet has been drilling this into your kids' heads since birth. And yet, based on personal experience of how regularly my child practices responsible (unassisted) hygiene, it's a wonder we're not in the midst of a full-blown toddler zombie apocalypse. Here are five reasons why...

Scenario 1:

Your child has peed and pooped on their own (Yay!), but is still perfecting his wiping technique (Booo!), and has a single-minded goal: to race back and finish his game of LEGO Star Wars on your iPad.

Washing Method:

Doesn't flush, doesn't wash, has to be told multiple times to do so (after he's already got your iPad in his grubby hands). Dragged back into the bathroom and watched so he doesn't just stand in there and pretend he did. Barely runs his hands under the water, so you make him use soap. Uses only a little, so you make him use more. Just squirts it on his hands, doesn't lather, so you make him lather. Rinses and dries hands quickly, towel falls in toilet.

Scenario 2:


Washing Method:

So thorough, so deliberate, it's like she's prepping for surgery. Or perhaps procrastinating going to bed. And driving her parents insane. Also part of her regimen: 14 individual sips of water, two stories she needs to tell you while at the sink, seven tricks she wants to show you on her steppy stool, four attempts to hang off the doorknob like a chimpanzee, one more time to pee, and then of course more hand-washing.

Scenario 3:

A nice restaurant.

Washing Method:

Splashing. EVERYWHERE.

Scenario 4:

Emergency stop at a gas station bathroom.

Washing Method:

Touches every surface he can reach during the toilet-using process. Plays with gum stuck to stall door. Picks up lollipop he set on the empty toilet paper dispenser while peeing, puts back in mouth. Removes lollipop, places on edge of sink while trying to wash hands. Can't quite reach the faucet, so stands on his tiptoes, accidentally putting his mouth on sink. You pick him up to help him reach the faucet, only to find out the water doesn't work (or comes out non-water-colored). This, after your child has already covered his hands with sticky, pink soap (which of course he could reach). Hand drier is broken. No paper towels or toilet paper anywhere. Only option is a cloth towel dispenser from the late '70s that looks like it was most recently used by a serial killer. Buy bottled water, pour it over his hands, air dry out the window as you haul ass out of there.

Scenario 5:

Grandma's house; at school; with a sitter. Basically, anytime you're not there.

Washing Method:


Are any of these scenarios familiar to you? If you've ever been a parent, they should be. If they're not, you're a lying zombie sympathizer. And if you're planning on becoming a parent, you should probably start saving up for a hazmat suit.

Feel free to share your own hygiene horror stories in the comments. As the old saying goes, contamination loves company.


After you've thoroughly washed your hands with soap and water, stop by Brent Almond's personal blog, Designer Daddy, for even more tales of parental wit, wonder, and woe.

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