Learning about germs (animation and activities for kids)

Lead Physician at Bupa
07 September 2020

With children returning to school, we’ve created this short animation for you to watch with your child to help them learn about germs. It’s designed for children of primary school age. We hope this animation will help your child understand the importance of hygiene and have fun learning about it too!

It can be hard for children to understand what germs are when they aren’t something that they can see. So here is another fun activity that you can do with your child to help them learn about germs and hand washing.

The ‘How clean are your hands?’ test

This is an activity that’s all about: ‘How clean are your hands?’

You will need:

  • three slices of bread
  • three clear plastic sandwich bags
  • some tongs
  • some sticky labels

First write out the labels: ‘clean’, ‘dirty’ and ‘untouched’ and stick them on the bags.

Use the tongs to place a piece of untouched bread into the first bag and seal it up.

With the next slice, get your child to touch the bread with unwashed hands. Place it in the bag and seal it. This will be the ‘dirty’ bag.

Then get your child to wash their hands with water and soap and dry them. Get them to touch the last piece of bread with their freshly washed hands, put it in the ‘clean’ bag and seal it.

Over the next few days have a look at the bags each day and talk to your child about what you can see happening. Ask questions such as: Which slice gets mouldy first? Which slice has the most mould?

It will be clear to see that the dirty bag will have the most mould and will develop mould the quickest. You can then explain to your child why the clean and untouched bags don’t have any or very much mould. Washing their hands with soap and water stops the mould, or ‘germs’. Touching things with unwashed hands can cause germs to spread.

Tips from kids

We asked Rose, aged seven, for her three top tips. Here’s what she said.

  • ‘If you cough or sneeze you get a tissue and wash your hands, because you might have germs, and you don’t want to spread the germs or people might be ill.
  • ‘If you don’t wash your hands that’s the reason why germs spread. And don’t pick your nose or this will spread germs.
  • ‘Always wash your hands when you go to the toilet and when you sneeze. Or if you touch something that’s dirty - you wash your hands.’

Talking to children about germs

You can use the following tips to explain to your child what germs are, how they spread and how to practise good hygiene.

What are germs?

Germs are tiny, tiny living things (called organisms) that can make us feel poorly. They are so small we can’t see them. The only way we can see them is by looking at them under a microscope. Germs can get into our bodies, but we don’t know about it until we may start to feel ill. That’s why we have to be really careful that we protect ourselves and others, so that we don’t spread germs.

How do germs spread?

Germs spread in lots of ways. Through the air (when someone coughs or sneezes), if they land on surfaces – like your toys or door handles – in bad food or dirty water.

How to protect yourself and others from germs

Washing your hands. Use plenty of soap and water, rub the soap all over your hands – between your fingers, your palms, tops of your hands and wrists. Rinse your hands with water. Dry your hands really well. Sing ‘happy birthday twice’ – this is about 20 seconds - the amount of time it takes to wash your hands properly!

You should wash your hands often, and especially:

  • after coughing or sneezing
  • before and after eating food
  • after going to the toilet
  • after playing at the park
  • when your hands have got grubby
  • after touching pets or animals

Try not to touch your face. This includes your eyes, mouth and nose. So, don’t pick your nose!

This is because germs love to live on our hands. And your hands might pick up germs from surfaces and transfer them to your eyes, nose or mouth when you touch them. The germs can then get into your body.

If you cough or sneeze, do it into your armpit or elbow or into a tissue. Throw the tissue away and wash your hands.

Tell your mum, dad, carer or teacher if you feel poorly. If something in your body hurts like your head or tummy, or if you’re too hot or cold, or if you notice any red marks on your skin (rash) tell an adult. Lots of illnesses from germs won’t last long, but for some you might need some medicine to help you feel better. Or you might need to stay at home for a few days so you don’t pass the same illness on to other people. Hospitals and doctors are there to treat people who are (very) sick.

Wearing a face covering

You might need to wear a face covering when you go to certain places. Wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off.

Dr Paula Falconer
Lead Physician at Bupa

    • How clean are your hands? C.S Mott Children’s Hospital, Michigan., accessed 23 July 2020
    • What are germs? KidsHealth., last reviewed July 2018
    • Coronavirus disease advice for the public. World Health Organization., last updated 29 April 2020
    • Clean care is safer care. World Health Organization., accessed 22 June 2020
    • Staying safe outside your home. Public Health England., updated 5 June 2020
    • Guidance for consumers on coronavirus (COVID-19) and food. Public Health England., updated 25 April 2020

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