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Two kids playing handball in a school yard

Keeping children germ free through the power of play

From Global Goals Partner, Dettol

Dettol x Sydney Opera House

According to Dettol’s Global Hygiene Council’s most recent report,

  • Almost half (45%) of Australian primary school children do not always use soap when washing their hands at school*
  • More than 1 in 3 (36%) haven’t learned how to wash their hands at school at all*
  • Over 1 in 4 (26%) Australian parents and teachers do not know when their children should wash their hands with soap and water*

Australia has a hygiene literacy gap with a dearth of understanding around hand washing; when and how to do it. As schools are opening, it is of utmost importance that we instill simple hygiene habits amongst children, with the classroom being a prime location for passing germs.

So how can we bridge this apparent hygiene literacy gap and better educate our kids on the importance of hand washing?

Research in neuroscience has shown that play enhances children’s development and ability to learn new skills* and with this in mind, play is an incredible tool that can build the cognitive skills of good hygiene habits too, both at home and in school, whilst also giving parents and teachers opportunities to set foundational habits needed as the country and schools open back up.

Notable child psychologist, Dr Kimberley O’Brien recommends that parents and teachers use play and humour to engage children in learning for the best results. When it comes to developing good hygiene habits, bring the lesson outdoors and increase the fun factor with interactive games, messy play, loads of soap, and buckets of water.

Some additional tips from Dr Kimberley O’Brien to help children learn good hygiene habits include:

  1. Use praise! Children learn from their mistakes, but most accept positive reinforcement on their good habits, better than they do negative sentiment aimed at their poor choices or mistakes.
  2. Continue to set positive examples. Just because restrictions are easing doesn’t mean we should forget all of the great habits we as adults put into practice. Our kids watch and learn from us daily, so continue to keep up your positive hygiene habits, and they’ll rub off on to your kids too
  3. Be creative in the way you explore hand washing. Allowing kids to ge dirty, whether it’s with art supplies or in the garden, and then encouraging hand washing afterwards, re-enforces the positive habits and fun playful moments
  4. Use colour. There’s a reason kids toys, and activities are brightly coloured or sparkly. As their eyes and brains develop, children are attracted to them more, finding them more interesting and stimulating. Using coloured soaps in the bathroom is a great way to engage kids with hand washing.

By harnessing the power of play through engaging and imaginative activities such as these, children will develop a lifetime of hygiene habits in a nurturing and interactive environment, ultimately improving recall and embedding these behaviours more permanently.

Keep up to date with Dettol’s hygiene programs for children – “catch a habit” & hygiene quest.

Follow updates from Dettol in our Creative Learning newsletter and look out for hygiene programs and children’s activities at the SOH.

The two-year Dettol partnership with the Sydney Opera House will help to provide creative and educational experiences in Sydney Opera House’s new purpose-built Centre for Creativity and participatory Creative Play workshops for kids and families in school holidays. 

*The Power of Play, Paediatrics Journal,

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