Frequent and proper hand washing, hand sanitizing, and respiratory etiquette are important ways to help reduce the spread of infections and illness among students, school staff and their family members. The Clean Hands Kit is an online resource from Toronto Public Health with activities and videos to teach children (grades 4 to 8) how to keep their hands clean and practice respiratory etiquette.

This online kit was developed to help keep students and teachers healthy by reducing the spread of germs that cause illness (e.g. cold, flu) in school communities. It was initially produced by Toronto Public Health in collaboration with the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

Our hands are a common means of spreading germs therefore frequent hand washing, and hand sanitizing helps to reduce the spread of infections and illness amongst students, school staff and their family members. Practicing respiratory etiquette by covering our mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing also helps to do so.

The kit includes activities for students in grades 4 to 6, and a video for students in grades 4 to 8, to reinforce the clean hands message, and an action planner on hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette promotion for use in the school community. It emphasizes the importance of frequent and proper hand washing, hand sanitizing as well as practicing respiratory etiquette to reduce illness.

What you will find in the online Clean Hands Kit:

  • A video suitable for up to grade 8 that helps students understand how to limit the spread of germs by frequently and properly washing and/or sanitizing their hands, and by covering their cough/sneeze
  • Downloadable posters that depict the basic methods to reduce the spread of germs: proper hand washing, hand sanitizing, and covering your cough
  • An outline of the key messages for teachers to use in the classroom
  • An action planner for educators with ideas and resources for hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette promotion within the school community
  • A selection of activities to reinforce the key messages with students
  • Look for possible curriculum links and use in the classroom
  • Look for ways to incorporate ideas into school assemblies
  • Promote hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette during lunch and recess  periods utilizing posters, providing supplies/equipment, and providing opportunities for frequent hand washing
  • Encourage schools to recruit student champions who lead efforts throughout the year to engage students, celebrate efforts, and help with monitoring hand hygiene efforts
  • Link to the Ministry of Education’s Foundations for a Healthy School

Ideas for Discussion:

  • Where have you seen hand sanitizer available in public places?
  • Where can you find sinks in schools, homes and malls so you can wash your hands?
  • How many times in a day should a person wash their hands?
  • What things have the students touched that can result in the spread of germs?
  • Why should a person cover their mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when they need to cough or sneeze?

How the school can help students and the school community to keep their hands clean and also reduce the spread of infections:

  • Educate and promote hand hygiene,  respiratory etiquette, mask friendly behaviour and staying home when sick
  • Provide opportunities for frequent hand cleaning
  • Provide a bottle of alcohol-based (70% to 90% alcohol) hand sanitizer at the school entrance
  • Provide a bottle of alcohol-based (70% to 90% alcohol) hand sanitizer in each classroom
  • Provide a box of tissues in each classroom
  • Provide bottles of hand sanitizer (70% to 90% alcohol) in the lunch room or cafeteria
  • Encourage students to inform school staff if hand sanitizer supplies are low or unavailable. Have a plan in place to restock them
  • Provide hand washing supplies/equipment in school washrooms (i.e. liquid soap, paper towels, functioning hand dryers, etc.)
  • Encourage students to inform school staff if hand washing supplies/equipment are not available in the washrooms. Have a plan in place to repair and/or restock these items
  • Promote the importance and benefits of staying up to date on vaccines. Different vaccines can help prevent certain cancers and other communicable diseases.

The Lather, Rinse, Defeat Germs video (4 minutes, 18 seconds) uses drama and humour to reinforce key messages about how germs are spread and the importance of hand washing and hand sanitizing, and respiratory etiquette.

Key Messages:

  • Germs are so small we cannot see them but they are found almost everywhere
  • There are many types of germs (bacteria and viruses)
  • Bacteria and viruses can cause illnesses and diseases such as cold, influenza, food poisoning, vomiting and diarrhea (commonly known as stomach flu)
  • Washing our hands and practicing proper respiratory etiquette helps to prevent illnesses and diseases
  • If hands are not visibly soiled, using hand sanitizer is an alternative way of reducing illnesses and diseases

How to Wash Your Hands:

  • Wet hands
  • Apply soap
  • Lather for 15 seconds. Rub palms, back of hands, fingertips, between fingers and under the nails
  • Rinse well under running water
  • Dry hands well with paper towel or hot air blower
  • Turn taps off with paper towel, if available

How to Use Hand Sanitizer:

  • Apply sanitizer (70 – 90% alcohol-based) only if hands are not visibly soiled
  • Rub hands together
  • Work sanitizer between fingers, palms, back of hands, fingertips, under the nails
  • Rub hands until dry

When to Clean Your Hands:

  • After sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose
  • After using the washroom or changing diapers
  • After handling garbage
  • Before and after preparing or eating your food
  • After touching raw meat before touching other foods
  • Before and after touching a cut or open sore
  • When you cannot remember the last time you washed your hands
  • When your hands are visibly soiled

Points to Remember:

  • Hand hygiene message needs to be reinforced several times throughout the day,  especially before lunch and after using the washroom
  • Teach by example
  • For further lesson plans and activity ideas, please see “Bug Out! Get the Facts on Germs” or call 613-740-1900
  • Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette are a few of several strategies to help prevent infections. It is also important to stay home when sick, screen for symptoms of infections (i.e. COVID-19) and stay up to date on all immunizations.

Posters are available in more languages here.