How to Teach Kids About Germs


If you haven’t caught that nasty old cold or flu that’s going around this year, take a moment to consider yourself one of the lucky ones. If you’re a parent and you haven’t gotten sick yet, we all hate you a little.

Not really. I’m sure if we met I’d like you a lot. But currently, all I can think about is how much I want to whine about my stuffy nose, rattly chest and sore throat. I know how admirable it is to endure a cold without whining. Know why it’s admirable? Cause it’s really freaking hard. Wah.

This reminds me of my classroom policy on whining when I was a high school teacher: no unproductive complaining. Want to complain? Ok, but have a solution to your problem.

So let’s talk solutions. Last week, my idea of a solution was to start making a list of names, Arya Stark style. Who could have possibly done this to me? Since I couldn’t track down the one who did it, I would instead systematically take out everyone I know who’s been sick over the last few weeks.

My in-laws. Over 50% of my coworkers. The bag boy at the grocery store (I saw a slight glisten under his nose).

Maybe murdering in the name of vengeance isn’t the most practical solution here. Instead, the best thing to do is to teach our whole households how to combat germs. Of course, since we’re Nerdy, a simple “wash your hands” poster simply won’t do.

Here are a few fun, memorable ways to teach kids about germs.

Step one to keeping sickness at bay is keeping hands clean. Easy enough, right? Lather, rinse, repeat. But how much stuff gets left on when kids are done washing? Is there any way to tell?

This cool germ simulator lotion leaves a residue that glows under a blacklight, showing kids exactly how much guck gets left behind after a too-quick hand wash.


A good DIY way to show how germs get passed around is to put some glitter into your hand with lotion, then shake hands with one of your kids. Have them shake hands with someone else, and so forth. How far have the glitter “germs” travelled? Idea via Growing in Pre K.

Growing in Pre K also gives instructions for an awesomely disgusing science experiment to demonstrate just how dirty hands can be. Using a clean apple slice and one passed around after playing outside, observe how funky the passed-around apple slice gets day by day compared to the clean one.

Pre-K Sept. 2010 127

Then, there’s the DIY version of the “what’s the dirtiest spot you can find” experiment from our high school biology days. Have kids make predictions about where the yuckiest spots in the house are, and make some homemade petri dish germ beds after swabbing said hot spots. Find the detailed how-to at


Experiments with germs, you say? The Magic School Bus series has a kit for that. Take things a little further than you could with items you found in the home.


Once you’ve nailed down a few hands-on ways to show kids the importance of avoiding germs, it’s time to explain what germs do once they get inside the body.

What do your kids think germs look like up close? Do they imagine creepy crawly bugs? Or do their science brains conjur up accurate images of microbes? If you don’t mind a little fuzziness in the details, help kids get close enough to the right idea with these cuddly little germie wormies with these microbe plushies from ThinkGeek.


It’s funny how the old classics come back around, isn’t it? It seems like Bill Nye is everywhere again, and the little 90’s science nerd inside of me couldn’t be happier to see Nye to push our collective scientific imaginations. Slide Bill Nye’s Great Big Book of Tiny Germs your child’s way, and see if you can’t nudge them a little further toward the appreciation of science he awoke in us as kids.


And if they don’t absorb any of this, at least make them carry some hand sanitizer. They keep ignoring it because it’s boring, you say? Well then obviously a sock monkey hand sanitizer carrier is in order.


Do whatever it takes to stay well!

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