UPDATE: You spoke and we listened! After learning of the negative environmental effects of traditional glitter we have updated the blog post with edible cake glitter. This particular type of glitter is made with Gum Arabic and dissolves in water.
Kids may understand that germs can make them sick, but it can be hard to explain exactly how easy it is to spread germs at home, school or in public places. Looking for a fun and friendly way to talk to kids about germs and how to stay healthy during cold and flu season, and all year long? Here’s a sparkling way to get the message across at home or in the classroom!
What you’ll need:
- Unscented hand lotion
- Edible Cake Glitter
- Paper towel
- Soap and water
- 20-Second Handwashing Timer
What you’ll do:
- Ask everyone who is going to participate in the experiment to wash and dry their hands.
- Give one child a small squirt of lotion and ask them to spread it in a thin layer over their hands.
- Holding their hand over a trash can or sink, sprinkle a pinch of edible cake glitter onto the palm of one of their hands (a little goes a long way!). Explain in this experiment, the glitter represents germs which we normally can’t see or feel. We used blue to make it extra obvious!
- First, have them clap their hands together gently, and see how the glitter transfers from one hand to the other. Ask them what they think might happen if they touched their face or ate their lunch right now? Where would the glitter germs end up?
- Next, have them high-five someone else. Ask what they notice about the glitter now? What would happen if the glitter was actually germs?
- Give both participants a dry paper towel, and ask them to try to rub off the glitter. What observations do you make?
- Ask both participants to try rinsing the glitter with cold water. Is it easy or hard to remove the glitter? What does that mean for germs?
- Finally, try washing off the glitter germs with warm water and soap, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds. Use a timer to help the kids understand how long 20 seconds is. How did that go? Which method was best for removing the glitter germs?
- Wrap up the experiment by talking about what they learned about how germs spread and how we can keep from sharing our germs with others!
Ways to keep the experiment going:
*If you’re feeling particularly brave, you can take the experiment further by having the kids continue their day without washing the glitter off their hands. As the day goes on, you’ll begin to see the glitter migrating from place to place – just like germs do!
*If several children want to participate, you can start with several colors of glitter. In this version of the experiment, the children can see how their own glitter germs get shared and how they also end up with other’s glitter germs on their own hands, too!
For more great ideas on how to talk to kids about germs and good hand hygiene, here are a few additional resources:
- CDC – Teaching Children About the Flu
- Be Cold & Flu Season Ready: DIY Hand Sanitizer
- KidsHealth.org – K to Grade 2 Germs Teacher’s Guide