Capture the cough and seize the sneeze

Capture the cough and seize the sneeze


A child’s sneeze can be a lot like their laugh – loud, unrestrained and easy to catch. At SDN, we're heightening our hygiene by studying the ins and outs of wheezes and sneezes. Through a little biology – and a whole lot of fun – we keep the germs at bay without stopping play.

In sniffles season, playtime can be problematic. Toys get coughed on, snacks get sneezed at, and hugs get in the way of good hygiene.

In our centres, we’d rather catch laughter not germs. So, to help boost hygiene across our centres, we’ve been teaching Hygiene 101 – the basics of how to help your body.

Body Awareness helps everybody

Body awareness develops organically. Babies become fascinated with fingers, toddlers learn to balance their bodies, and pre-schoolers discover their powerful limbs through play.

It’s a natural progression: The more we understand our bodies, the more we use them effectively.

Learning good hygiene can be a fun and empowering way to master body awareness – it can also give children a sense of control over their own bodies. Children can identify their triggers, then race their body to ‘seize the sneeze’ or ‘capture the cough.’

Whether at home or in our centres, encourage children to think about the 'how, what, why and when' in their body, by raising questions like:

  • What does it feel like when a sneeze is coming?
  • What happens in your body when you cough?
  • What shoots out of your nose when you sneeze?
  • What comes out of your mouth when you cough?

Seizing your sneezes

Sneezes are a powerful event. A single ‘achoo’ can spread 100,000 germs at up to 160 kilometres per hour. But, though fast, a sneeze is easy to stop in its tracks.

In our centres, we’ve developed simple strategies to seize sneezes before they spray – with tools to help children remember their hygiene habits:

  • Everybody sneezes – find ways to demonstrate sneezing safely.
    Try over-exaggerating a sneeze coming on, then loudly pretend sneeze into your elbow. You can also have your child’s favourite toys practice ‘sneezing’ into their elbows or a tissue.

    Enjoy a little humour: a big toy might have a tiny 'squeak' sneeze, while a small toy might shock them with a loud, long sneeze.

  • Do some sneezy science – try this simple flour sneeze experiment:
  1. Head outside with your child and have them hold their hands out and open.
  2. Sprinkle some flour in their hands.
  3. Tell them to fake cough or sneeze or blow into their hands (standing a safe distance away from others).
  4. Take a moment to talk about how far the flour went. This is how far germs can travel, too – we just can’t see them.

Capture those coughs

A cough can sound bad, but they aren’t always dangerous. Whether it’s a bark, a sputter or a wheeze, coughs are a protective reflex designed to clear our airways. But, like sneezes, coughs can send germs into the air at great speed. We need to catch them before they get away from us.

Across SDN, we’ve been practising ‘capturing our coughs.’  Some are simple, some might seem silly, but all these tips help keep hygiene in check - in the centre or at home:

  • Target practice – encourage your children to put a sticker on the inside of their elbow. This is their target – every time they need to cough or sneeze, they have to shoot it into their target.

  • Sneeze-snaffling friend – Similar to above, but from a more nurturing perspective. The sticker is a little friend who loves to eat sneezes and coughs. The children need to feed their friend by coughing/sneezing into their elbow.

  • Sing about coughs and sneezes – to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb:

“When you have to cough and sneeze, cough and sneeze, cough and sneeze,
When you have to cough and sneeze, cover your mouth, please.
When you have to cough and sneeze, cough and sneeze, cough and sneeze,
When you have to cough and sneeze, do it in your sleeve.”

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