The Traveling Closet -Teaching Kids what Germs are and hygiene

by Mary Ann on April 25, 2011

germs picture


Jack, Maggie and Mary have been very ill for two weeks so grandma school was postponed until Sat.

I decided this might be a really good opportunity to introduce the concept of germs, what germs are and how to maintain good health. That also meant teaching them about hygiene. So here is what I put into the Traveling Closet:

1. Pictures of real germs
2. A picture of what happens when someone sneezes
3. Yeast, sugar and a measuring cup to show how fast germs can multiply
4. A hand washing video for kids, how and why to wash your hands
5. A video on how and why to cover your nose when you sneeze
6. A magnifying glass
7. Pictures of healthy food
8. Some grain to taste i.e. granola
9. A tissue
10. The materials to trace our hands and stickers to mimic the germs that get on them
11. A germ worksheet
12. A coloring page

kid exploring picture

Mary exploring the contents

When I arrived  I  set my tub on the floor and began hugging and talking. Mary was the first one to look into the tub and she was soooo interested in the measuring cup. It was her favorite item.

On this day I just let them look at the contents and we talked about whatever they pulled out. Of course they were very interested in the pictures of the germs. When you introduce concepts that are very difficult for small children to grasp, such as the fact that a thing can be so small that you can’t see it, it is important not to scare or confuse them. Because one of videos showed some germs with faces I asked them if these germs had mouths, teeth, ears, feet, etc. They laughed and said, “no way”. We talked about the fact that germs are alive but that they do not look like people or animals but that they can give you a fever, a runny nose and a stomach ache.

what sneeze looks like picture

YUCK, cover your mouth when sneezing

We talked about the picture of what a sneeze looks like. We took turns demonstrating how to use a tissue and then how to crumple it up and throw it away. I showed them what to do if you don’t have a tissue; USE YOUR SLEEVE! We sneezed and coughed on our hands to feel the wetness.

I had previewed many videos on germs and found that most of them were too advanced or used nasty germ cartoons that would scare children. However, I

crawford sneezing picture

Crawford knows how to stay well

found two pretty good ones about Crawford the Cat. Crawford showed how to wash your hands properly and what to do when you sneeze. The children loved the videos.

We talked about all the things our hands can do and how many things they touch that have germs, the dog, the swing, the toilet. Then we practiced washing our hands at the sink and we sang our hand washing song. That was a good hand washing lesson for kids because it included a soap pump dispenser and LOTS of water.

We looked at our hands through the magnifying glass and then talked about why we can’t see germs if they are there. If they were older, and interested, which they weren’t, we could have talked about microscopes and how they make germs visible and that the germ pictures we had were taken under a microscope. We could also have talked about what an organism is, what microscopic means and then what it means to be a micro organism.

making yeast mixture

Food for the germs

We talked about how to keep your IMMUNE SYSTEM healthy so it can fight the germs. We acted out our immune system punching the germs and knocking them out. They loved that! We went through the pictures of the good food and ate the grain. We talked about getting enough sleep and exercise.

The part that they enjoyed the most was when I demonstrated how fast germs can grow if they aren’t washed off. Mary poured her measuring cup of water in a small bowl. Maggie added a bit of sugar. (Here is where mommy mentioned that this is why we eat only a little sugar, so we don’t encourage things that aren’t healthy) Jack poured in the yeast and we watched it grow. YUCK.

yeast fermentation picture

Germs multiply FAST! You can get an idea by watching yeast grow.

While our yeast was growing we did the worksheet, circling those things which help keep us healthy and putting and X on those things that make us sick. Maggie who is almost 5 loved that part. Jack and Mary were not interested in the least. Age does make a difference in the things that they will be interested in.

traced hands activity picture

Maggie likes projects the best - tracing hands is fun

Finally, we traced our hands, stuck some germs on them and attached them to a sign which

traced hands art picture

Wash your hands for healthy bodies art!

we posted in the bathroom. We never got to the color page.

It was fun. Mary mostly climbed on the table and had to be removed often. She carried her cup. Jack was interested in almost everything, enjoying growing yeast and the videos the most. Maggie loved it all, especially making her hand and the worksheet.

It was chaotic, as it always is when working with small children and lasted about 50 minutes. Ah success. This tub will be stored away to be repeated at intervals over the next few years while they grow so that they can really digest and learn how to stay healthy and what germs are. Next time I will add some books about germs and stories about staying healthy.

germs kids activities picture

Small children can be challenging but Mary loved this germ activity

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