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Module 2: Creating a Healthy Mealtime Environment

Part 4b: Personal Hygiene

Good personal hygiene practices of adults and children are the key to helping prevent the spread of harmful microorganisms and illness in child care settings.

One simple and important step you can take to create a healthy mealtime environment is to wash your hands properly and teach children to do the same. Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives (Outside Source) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines the following steps for proper hand washing.

Follow these steps when washing hands with soap and water:

Picture of person washing hands 1. Wet your hands with clean running water and apply liquid soap. Use warm water if it is available. Rub hands together vigorously to make a lather and scrub all surfaces.
Picture of a clock 2. Continue rubbing hands vigorously for 20 seconds. If you do not have a timer, imagine singing the "Happy Birthday" song twice.
Picture of a faucet 3. Rinse hands well under running water.
Picture of person drying hands 4. Dry your hands using an air dryer or paper towel. When possible, use your paper towel to turn off the faucet.

Always wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds:

  • Before you handle food
  • After you:
    • Use the bathroom
    • Assist a child in the bathroom
    • Change a diaper
    • Tend to a sick child or treat a wound or cut
    • Blow your nose, cough, or sneeze
    • Touch dirty rags, clothing, or surfaces
    • Clear away dirty dishes or utensils
    • Handle garbage
    • Handle an animal or animal waste

To help prevent the spread of harmful microorganisms and illness in child care:

  • Teach children proper hand washing techniques.
  • Teach children to wash for 20 seconds by reciting the alphabet, counting to 20, or singing the "Happy Birthday" song twice.
  • Teach children proper hygiene at the table:  
    • Make sure children hold the handles of utensils to serve food. Assist children when necessary.
    • Teach children to pass serving bowls and plates around the table by using two hands and not allowing their fingers to touch the food.
    • Do not allow children to eat off of each other’s plates.

Use alcohol-based gel sanitizers to clean hands only when soap and water are not available, such as during field trips, picnics, and other outdoor activities. 

When using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer:

Picture of hands pumping sanitizer 1. Apply product to the palm of one hand.
Picture of person rubbing hands 2. Rub the product briskly over all surfaces of hands and fingers until hands are dry.

Are you ready to discover how much you have learned about creating a healthy mealtime environment through sanitation and hygiene?


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