Clean It Up

  • Target Age3-6
  • Learning GoalsHealth
  • Related EpisodeEpisode 118: The Big Sneeze


Dig in and let your child get his hands dirty then clean up to show why proper hand washing is important.


  • Potting soil in a large container
  • Paper towels
  • Soap and water for washing hands
  • Magnifying glass to observe really closely (optional)


  1. Dig into the soil and really get those hands dirty.
  2. Then use paper towels to try to wipe the dirt away. Did it work? Are your hands still dirty? If you have magnifying glasses, use them to look at fingernails and other areas that trap dirt. Have the children describe what they are seeing.
  3. Dig into the dirt again. Now, try to remove the dirt using soap and warm water. Observe your hands now. Did the soap and water clean your hands better? If there’s still some dirt, have children wash their hands again, paying special attention to the dirty places.

Take It Further

  • Continue experimenting. Try washing hands with just water, then with soap and water.
  • How many times have parents and teachers heard this, "I don't need to wash my hands. They're not even dirty. SEE?!?" Remind children that we wash our hands to get rid of germs, too. They can't observe the germs on their skin, but they are there. The soap and water get rid of germs, just like they get rid of dirt.
  • If you have a digital camera and printer, you might want to take before and after pictures. If you hang these by the sink, children might be reminded why it's important to use soap!

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