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5 Tips for a Healthy Return to Preschool

My preschoolers, on their first day this year.

Preschool can be a great time of learning and skill development for 2 to 5 year olds, full of advancements made and milestones reached. Kids gain social skills, improve communication and emotional development, and learn basic rules that lay the foundation for a lifetime.

Unfortunately, though, the start of preschool can also bring with it exposure to viruses, bacteria, and other not-so-warm and fuzzy things.

Here’s a list of 5 things you can work with your preschooler on at home to help prevent the spread of germs.

Well Child Visit

Before the start of preschool, your child might have had his or her annual well-child visit with a pediatrician or family doctor. These appointments cover the basics in child health and well-being, and give you an opportunity to communicate any concerns with a professional. It’ll also give you an idea of where your child lines up with peers along the developmental spectrum.

Handwashing

Encouraging hand washing is one of the most important things you can do to prevent the spread of germs that cause illness. For preschoolers, who are known to have hands that wander into all kinds of germy places (have a nose-picker, anyone?), it’s even more important. According to the Centers for Disease Control, proper hand washing technique includes: wetting hands and applying soap; lathering and scrubbing the fronts, backs, and under nails for at least 20 seconds (that’s 2 verses of the “Happy Birthday” song); then rinsing and drying. Soap and water are preferable to antibacterial gels or sprays, but those are fine in a pinch. Make it fun, with sticker rewards for a good job, or by having a silly face contest in the mirror.

Not Sharing Cups and Utensils

While we want to encourage children to share, they need to understand that drinking from the same cup as a friend spreads germs. Talk to your child about how sharing food, drinks, and utensils at preschool is never a good idea.

Cover your Cough

Back in the dark ages of the late 70s when I was in preschool, we were taught to cough and sneeze into our hands. Public health professionals these days are spreading the same message with a slight change: sneeze into your elbow. Here, Elmo and Rosita will show you how!

Know When to Keep them Home

If your child is displaying any signs of illness (fever, vomiting/diarrhea, severe cough and cold, sore throat, pink eye, headaches/earaches, or undiagnosed rashes), keep them home until symptoms have been gone at least 24 hours or until they’re no longer infectious (depending on the nature of the illness).

Always check with your health care provider about specific questions, and refer to preschool policies as they may be somewhat different. These are just reminders and not medical advice— just tips from a mom who’s been there!

Here’s to a happy, healthy year of preschool!

Mary Lauren Weimer is a social worker turned mother turned writer. Her blog, My 3 Little Birds, encourages moms to put down the baby books for a moment and tell their own stories. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

More by Mary Lauren:

Expert Tips for Tackling Tough Toddler Questions

Lengthening the Fuse: 5 Tips for Becoming a More Patient Mom

Parenting Preemies: Expert Advice for the Toddler Years

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