By CELA on 24 Jun, 2021


Cold season is upon us and with that comes the inevitable dribble of noses, chorus of coughs and gaggle of germs.The government’s guidelines for hygiene measures in ECEC include asking children to wash their hands, sneeze or cough into their elbow or a tissue, and place used tissues straight into a bin. These simple hygiene activities are vital, but getting young children to follow them can be challenging.

Remember that we are still in the midst of a pandemic and the government advises that if a staff member or child is unwell, follow your normal policies and procedures for managing infectious diseases.

This week we share four fun ways to engage young children in learning how to avoid spreading germs when a cough or sneeze escapes.

1. Catch a germ with a funky dance move

Do you do the dab? It’s a dance where you put one arm straight in the air and bend the other elbow to your face. Children love doing the dab and it’s a perfect way to demonstrate how children should cough into the crook of the arm to avoid spreading germs.

You could put on some music and do the demonstration while teaching the dance, or you could put posters up around the room showing fun characters doing the dab. Either way, everyone will have fun while learning how to reduce the spread of germs.

2. Use a rhyme to keep etiquette top of mind

Rhyming is a great technique for helping us to remember information. This simple rhyme can help children remember to avoid coughing into their hand.

Stick with the plan,
Don’t cough in your hand.
Do no harm,
Cough in your arm.

Need more melodic inspiration? Try ‘The Germ Stopping Song’ which can be sung to the tune of Row Row Row Your Boat, with a free downloadable poster via Classroom Helpers.

3. End the ah-choo blues with a fun demonstration

Tutor-Coach.PNGIn order to demonstrate how and why we must cover our mouths when sneezing, and how germs can spread from one little sneeze, you can create an engaging demonstration using a paper plate and spray bottle.

Step 1: Take a paper plate and make a face, cut a small hole for the nose.

Step 2: Attach a water spray bottle with water and poke it through the hole.

Step 3: Invite children to gather around and do a little role play to make their new ‘friend’ sneeze. Talk about how the water represents the germs spreading and how far the droplets can go. Spray the water again but put your arm up to cover the droplets and ask the children what was different/better this time.

Remind children after that they should try to sneeze into their arm and to always wash their hands afterwards.

Further instructions can be found at

4. Get crafty to showcase tissue techniques and supplement storytelling

Preschool-Playbook.PNGAfter explaining the benefits of sneezing and coughing into an elbow, it may be helpful to teach children the benefits of using a tissue and the importance of throwing it in the bin afterwards.This could be done by demonstration or storytelling.

One idea could be to supplement supplement reading a book such as Germs are Not for Sharing by Elizabeth Verdick with a crafty resource such as this paper plate face and hand, which can be created by an educator and left in the library area as a reminder for children and to be used along with the book the next time it’s read.

Visit Preschool Playbook to read more about the paper plate and hand craft idea. The below poem is also from Preschool Playbook.

Remember this rule,
won’t you please.
Cover your mouth,
when you cough and sneeze.

What’s your favourite way to engage children in cough and sneeze etiquette? We’d love to hear about it.

 Further reading

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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