Your 3-year-old nowIf you were to stick your child's fingers under a microscope, you'd see a long and potentially scary record of where she's been all day. She may still be putting things indiscriminately into her mouth. If she's in preschool, she's sharing germs with all her classmates. Plus she may be using the bathroom by herself. All good reasons for making hand-washing part of her daily routine.
Insist that your child wash up before snacks and meals and after coming in from outside. Keep a step stool near the sink so she can reach the faucet. Show her how to work the hot and cold taps. Demonstrate how to rub soap all over the top and underside of the hands, also getting between the fingers. Sing the ABCs while she lathers as an easy way to make sure she scrubs for at least 20 seconds. Teach her how to dry with a hand towel and thank her for replacing the towel when she's done.
Some kids respond to a simple rationale: Explain that there are invisible germs all over her hands and that it's important to make them disappear down the drain where they can't make her sick. For others, it works better to stress the pleasures of bubbles and water and to let them practice by washing up toys and dolls.