None of the myriad of parenting books say “Warning, small children make excellent germ transportation vehicles. Be prepared to be sick for the next 10 years.” I used to dread wintertime. With my pre-schooler in child care, winter only meant endless colds, flu’s.
My generous daughter brought home all sorts of germs and then proceeded to “share” them with the entire family. At first I was resigned to be ill. How could you teach a small child to not spread germs?
One year, after weathering seven colds and sinus infections that were passed through the house from my adorable daughter, I came upon the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation to teach kids to cough and sneeze into their elbow. What? elbow – not hands?Ok…this makes sense. They get germs on their hands because they touch everything, then spread the germs, because they touch everything. But, it’s hard to touch things up with your elbow. Aha, the light bulb went off.
From that moment on, I was a mom on a mission. I was going to teach my three-year-old to use her elbow. Have you tried it? Asking a child to cough and sneeze into their elbow is like asking them to eat brussel sprouts — not fun, easy or fruitful. So I searched the internet, I talked to people, I looked for a solution — nothing.
Finally, I realized I would have to invent it myself. It had to be fun. It had to make this invisible thing — germs — easy to understand for a preschooler. A character, like her cartoon friends. Germy Wormy was born. Germy Wormy’s favorite food is germs and he is sooo hungry. Germy Wormy asks all kids, “May I please have your germs?”
Germy Wormy started out as a character drawn onto a chopped off top of a sock that I put on my daughter’s elbow over her sleeve. She loves feeding Germy Wormy all her germs. Mission accomplished! She wasn’t giving her germs everywhere! I got sick less often. She was still getting sick though. Why? She was still touching everything and getting every germ on the planet. Kids touch 300 surfaces in 1/2 hour. Surfaces that are 99% of the time covered in germs. Now, getting germs on hands won’t make kids sick. It is the next step where they then take those germy hands and fingers and proceed to place them in their mouth, nose, eyes and ears letting the germs in that make them sick.
To totally reduce the spread of germs, you also have to teach how not to get germs in the first place. More Internet research boiled down to the Germ Stoppers 5 — the top 5 things kids can do to keep from getting germs. I added an activity with glitter glue to show why they should do the 5 and to make those invisible germs visible. After, if she went to pick her nose, whined about washing her hands, all I had to say was Germ Stoppers 5. She would remember and stop.
She stopped getting sick as much, but her friends were still giving her germs. We had a Germy Wormy play date where I put on a puppet show and did the Germ Stoppers 5 activity. It was a hit. I took it to her preschool and it was a hit again. They were amazed at how the kids took to it and “jumped on the bandwagon.” That year only one major illness spread around the school. The “1 gets sick, the rest drop like flies” rule no longer applied.
Today, Germy Wormy is no longer the top of a sock but a commercially available disposable sleeve. The way I taught her and her friends is a complete program to make teaching your child about germs fun, fast, easy and kids love it! The Germy Wormy Germ Awareness Program is now available online for you to enjoy the same success.
Get sick less often — get the Germy Wormy!
Spread the word – Not the Germs