How Hand Washing Visual Aids Can Help Students Learn Hand Hygiene

How Hand Washing Visual Aids Can Help Students Learn Hand Hygiene


Whenever a group of kids gets together, you can bet there will be germs. These pesky creatures are one of teachers’ biggest enemies – and hand washing is one of their greatest defenses. But how can you make sure your students build this healthy habit?  

For younger and neurodiverse students, like those with autism, hand washing visual aids are especially useful. Let’s dive into these tools so you can help your students build a foundation for hygiene and self-care that will last a lifetime. 

Why Is Hand Washing So Important in a Classroom Setting?

Teachers know that regular hand washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses. But there are other benefits for both students and teachers, like: 

  • Public health: Hand washing doesn’t just protect the individual, but also everyone around them. Students who learn to wash their hands regularly won’t transmit germs inside or outside the classroom.  
  • Better attendance: When students maintain good hygiene, they’re less likely to get sick and miss school. Research has consistently shown that good attendance in earlier grades increases learning and even positively affects high school graduation rates years later. 
  • Healthy habit building: Hand washing visuals in schools not only teach students about personal hygiene, but also about how to build healthy habits in general. That sets the foundation for success later in life.   

What Is the Minimum Amount of Time Required to Complete the Hand Washing Process?

The minimum amount of time to effectively wash your hands is 20 seconds of active soaping and scrubbing. This doesn’t include time to get the soap and rinse the hands at the end of the process. Here’s a simple breakdown of a good hand washing routine: 

  1. Wet hands with clean, running water. 
  2. Apply soap and lather well. 
  3. Scrub the hands for at least 20 seconds, including the backs of hands, between fingers and under nails. 
  4. Rinse hands well under clean, running water. 
  5. Dry hands using a clean towel or air dryer. 

Why Do Students Struggle with Hand Hygiene?

Teachers find that hand washing visuals are especially important in younger grades, like preschool, kindergarten and first and second grades. These students may struggle with hand hygiene for a few reasons: 

  • Lack of awareness: Younger students simply don’t understand the importance of hand hygiene. Adults need to help them make the connection between hand washing and preventing illness. 
  • Not understanding time: Time is an abstract concept. Young children have difficulty grasping abstract concepts because their cognitive skills are still developing. They may not know how to estimate 20 seconds, which is where hand wash timers come in handy. 
  • Forgetfulness and distractions: Every teacher knows how easy it is for younger children to get distracted. Hand washing can easily be forgotten amid more exciting activities. Even when students do remember, 20 seconds can seem like a very long time to a young mind. 
  • Social influence: Students might skip hand washing if they see their peers doing the same, either due to peer pressure or a desire to conform to group norms. And if hand hygiene isn't emphasized at home, students might not consider it important at school. 

Hand washing visuals can help students understand the importance of hygiene, remind them to wash their hands and keep them on track for the full 20 seconds. In younger grades, like preschool, hand washing timers are especially important and effective. There are also other hand washing visual aids you can turn to.  

How to Help Students with Hand Washing Visual Aids

When it comes to washing hands, visual aids are an essential classroom tool. A good hand washing station uses a variety of visuals that empower students to develop this healthy habit. 

Wash Your Hands Signs and Posters

Signs and posters are some of the most common hand washing visual aids. They include step-by-step images or diagrams showing the proper technique for washing hands, including the time each step should take. They’re placed near hand washing stations or in bathrooms. 

Reminder Stickers and Learning Flashcards

Stickers show brief instructions or reminders to wash hands for at least 20 seconds. They can be placed in smaller spaces, like on mirrors, above sinks or on the backs of restroom doors for a quick “wash your hands” visual reminder. You can also use flashcards that include engaging pictures or cartoons to teach students the steps of hand washing. 

Hand Washing Timers

Twenty-second hand washing timers are designed to help students wash their hands for the recommended amount of time. The most effective hand wash timers are visual. Instead of just ticking down the time and beeping when 20 seconds is up, they show the passage of time visually, helping students truly understand how long hand washing takes.  

How a Hand Washing Visual Timer Can Teach Students About Hand Hygiene

A visual hand wash timer can be a highly effective tool for teaching students about hand hygiene by: 

  • Building routine and consistency: Using a timer helps students establish consistent hand washing habits. Timers that guide students through the steps are especially useful for building consistent routines 
  • Ensuring adequate washing time: By providing a clear start and finish, a timer takes the guesswork out of how long to wash. Everyone benefits when students wash their hands for the full 20 seconds.  
  • Making the process engaging: For younger students, timers that include music, lights or other fun elements can turn hand washing from a chore into a more enjoyable and anticipated activity. 
  • Empowering students: Hand washing visual timers empower students to manage their own hygiene independently. This gives them a sense of responsibility and confidence, which are important for students of all ages. 

Build Healthy Habits with Time Timer® Visual Timers

Hand washing visuals for preschoolers, younger grades and neurodiverse students are an important tool for educators. They’re a positive way to encourage proper hand washing, empower students to take control of their self-care and give them the confidence to build even more healthy habits that will help them be successful in all areas of life.  

Time Timer® visual timers are designed to help students of all ages improve their life skills while reducing anxiety around time- and transition-related tasks. Our timers don’t just time – they show the passage of time visually. Our patented disappearing disk is proven to increase focus and self-regulation in young children.  

The Time Timer WASH® is our touchless, hand washing visual timer. Students just hold their hand in front of the timer and it will automatically guide them through three simple steps of effective hand washing using symbols for soaping up, scrubbing and rinsing. Or opt for the Time Timer® WASH + Soap Dispenser, which automatically dispenses soap. Learn more about our hand wash timers and purchase them for your classroom today!  

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