New handwashing song and story pack rolled out for pre-schools

The new pack has been launched by Safefood Ireland

Justin Kelly

Reporter:

Justin Kelly

ABOVE: Storytime with Rufus the Handwashing Hero launched back in April amidst the Covid-19 pandemic

With the majority of pre-school and schoolchildren back in the classroom this week, safefood is launching its free handwashing education pack ‘Rufus the Handwashing Hero’.

The aim of this teaching resource is to make learning about handwashing fun and engaging for children as they start in pre-school and Junior Infants this year. This will also help support parents and teachers with reinforcing good handwashing behaviours.

While handwashing has always been a pillar of good food safety, current public health advice has highlighted the importance of good personal hygiene, including handwashing even more. Developed with input from educational professionals to teach children about handwashing through story and song, the safefood pack is a unique education resource suitable for children aged between 3 – 6 years, as it uses familiar concepts, story and rhymes to engage young minds.

When asked about using the safefood song and story pack, 77% of preschool educators perceived children were more engaged and enthusiastic about handwashing when using the pack. In addition, a further 47% of educators believed that children remembered when to wash their hands thanks to the Rufus character.

Introducing the resource, Ray Dolan, Chief Executive, safefood said “Handwashing is one of the most important life skills we can teach children from a young age. ‘Rufus’ is a fun, friendly character with a big personality and we’ve created him to engage and educate young minds. Our free pack which is being distributed to all pre-schools and Junior Infant classes in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland features a large, colourful storybook, catchy song, waterproof posters for bathroom sinks and our easy-to-remember five steps of handwashing – Wet; Soap; Rub; Rinse and Dry. The pack also contains extra reusable sink posters that children can bring home so they can learn with their parents too.”

Dr Linda Gordon, Chief Specialist in Food Science, safefood, continued: “We know that young children can be more vulnerable to gastrointestinal illness and handwashing is really important in preventing this. With our ‘Rufus the Handwashing Hero’ pack, we are helping young children by making handwashing fun, memorable and educational. We are also supporting parents and teachers so they can continue to reinforce these good hygiene habits in a positive, supportive way.”

Developed with input from educational professionals to teach children about handwashing through story and song, the safefood pack was originally developed and distributed to all pre-school, nurseries and crèches. This year, the pack is being distributed to include all primary schools, specifically for Junior Infant classes where Rufus will be familiar to children from their pre-school experience.

Ireland AM presenter and Mum of three, Karen Koster is supporting the initiative, adding: “While it is second nature to so many of us, we often forget it’s a skill we need to teach. I know with three small children of my own, the most important thing is to start early with children, when they’re toddlers. My own son, JJ is starting school for the first time and I am hoping to pick up some tips from Rufus along the way. Teaching children good handwashing habits has become more important than ever,” Koster said.

Additional classroom resources, including videos and downloadable activities are available on the safefood website. For more information, visit www.safefood.net/handwashing.