Should Sunday school and other preschool programs simply close their doors in order to protect the health of young children? I don't know many churches willing to go that far. So, what can be done to see that preschoolers have happy, healthy experiences at church?

Here are some steps to creating successful hygiene policies.

All members of the preschool team must agree to follow the hygiene policies for them to work. Before you begin distributing new policies:

  • Alert church members to potential health and safety issues in preschool.

  • Arrange for a "town meeting" where parents and teachers from every preschool ministry can voice concerns and express their ideas. Ask health professionals (doctors, nurses, and/or public health specialists) from your church or community to be on hand at the meeting to answer questions.

  • Accept nominations of parents, preschool ministry teachers, a church leader, and a health professional to draft the hygiene policies, or at least serve as an advisory board regarding current best practices in children's health and safety.

  • Arrange for a system of accountability to be sure that every Sunday School, ETC, weekday, music, and missions teacher knows, understands, and follows the hygiene policies in place.

  • Assemble a list of resources (individuals, organizations and web sites) that provide up-to-date information on preschool health and safety issues. Some examples are the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. You can aslo get help from organizations such as your local Baptist association or state office, state department of health, and local hospital wellness programs.

Benefits of sound hygiene policies extend to everyone. Church is a hugging, kissing, hand-shaking kind of place. Ministries may be organized by age, gender, language, or marital status, but germs know no boundaries. Broadcast your church's commitment and strategies for creating a healthy environment through

  • Banners in classrooms reminding teachers of hygiene procedures such as santizing toys, equipment, and diapering areas.

  • Bulletin boards prominently stiuated near classroom doors which advise parents of preschool health issues (chicken pox in the fours department or pink-eye among the toddlers), remind parents of the recommended childhood immunization schedule, list the hygiene policies, and perhaps even alert parents to toy and quipment recalls.

  • Brightly colored brochures detailing what the preschool ministries must do when a child gets sick at church including rules about notifying the state department of health of certain diseases, and reminding parents when to keep their ailing children home.

Cleanliness is next to healthiness, if not godliness, so for the sake of the entire church body

  • Call every person to "a ministry of hand washing" since washing hands frequently and thoroughly is the easiest and best way to reduce the spread of germs.

  • Continue to emphasize good, consistent hygiene practices throughout preschool.

  • Consider the time and effort spent caring for children's health and safety to be a ministry to them and an act of worship toward our Lord.

Instituting sound hygiene policies and procedures is a good place to start. However, policies are only effective in so far as people are willing to adhere to them. Here are some suggestions to consider as you develop a hygiene policy for your church.

Washing hands - when?

  • After changing a diaper and removing disposable gloves

  • After assisting a child with toileting

  • After wiping a child's nose or mouth

  • Before feeding a baby or serving snacks

  • Before and after attending to a cut or other injury

  • After handling pets or other animals

Washing hands - how?

  • Use mild liquid antibacterial soap and warm water.

  • Scrub hands vigorously for 10-15 seconds.

  • Wash all surfaces, including backs of hands, between fingers, and under fingernails.

  • Rinse well.

  • To disinfect, dip hands in a diluted bleach solution.

  • Rinse hands.

  • Dry hands with a disposable paper towel.

Help preschoolers develop good hygiene habits

  • Provide antibacterial soap and paper towels for preschoolers to use after toileting.

  • For twos who are wearing diapers, encourage hand washing after diapering.

  • Encourage hand washing after inside and outside activities, before snacks, and before food-tasting experiences.

  • Guide preschoolers to wash hands after blowing nose or sneezing.

Hygiene without a water source

  • Use spray bottle or pan filled with soapy water, a spray bottle or pan filled with clear rinse water, and a dishpan for washing hands.

  • If pans of water are used, change water frequently (at least twice during a three-hour period).

  • Place paper towels and wastebasket nearby.

Disinfectant bleach solution recipe

  • Bleach solution can be used to disinfect toys, furnishings, hands, and other articles.

  • Mix ¼ cup of bleach with 1 gallon of water (or 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 quart water).

  • Prepare fresh solution daily (or for each session). If there is no chlorine smell, a new solution should be prepared, even if the solution was prepared fresh.

  • Solution is not toxic if accidentally ingested. However, since solution is mildly corrosive, caution should be exercised when handling it.

Changing a diaper

  1. Diaper babies in their cribs.

  2. Diaper ones and twos on a non-porous surface (such as a vinyl mat).

  3. Put on disposable gloves.

  4. Place waxed paper on top of clean diaper and slide both under child.

  5. Roll soiled/wet diaper and used moist towelettes into waxed paper.

  6. Fasten clean diaper securely.

  7. Place waxed paper and diaper in palm of one hand. With other hand, pull disposable glove over diaper. Place glove with diaper in gloved hand. Pull other glove over other end of diaper. (This process seals diaper inside gloves.)

  8. Wipe surface with bleach solution or change crib sheet if it has been soiled.

  9. Wash hands. Also wash child's hands.

Cleaning teaching materials and furnishings

Before the session for babies and ones, fill three basins:

  1. Soapy, warm water

  2. Disinfecting solution (bleach solution)

  3. Clear rinse water (or use running water)

Wash each toy and other teaching item used during the session, first with soapy water, then disinfecting solution, then rinse.

Set aside teaching materials on a towel or dish drainer to air dry.

For twos through kindergartners, wash teaching materials according to frequency of room use.

Regularly wash homeliving dress-up clothes, tablecloths, or other cloth items. Wipe homeliving table after each session with bleach solution.

Clean shelves and other furnishings according to frequency of room use and as needed.

Cleaning a crib

  1. Remove the crib sheet and all teaching materials.

  2. Clean bed with soapy water, disinfecting solution, and clear rinse.

  3. Clean all sides of mattress and rails.

  4. Wipe rails dry with disposable towel.

  5. Let mattress air dry.

Cleaning walls and floors

  1. Clean door and door knobs regularly with mild bleach solution.

  2. Clean walls and floors as needed. Consider using mild bleach solution on floors and walls.

  3. If carpet is a floor cover, use a nontoxic, deep-cleaning process regularly.

Cleaning contaminated surfaces (spills of body fluids)

  1. Use disposable gloves when cleaning contaminated surfaces.

  2. Clean surfaces/toys when spills from urine, feces, blood, saliva, nasal discharge occur and when injury or tissue discharge occurs.

  3. Wipe surfaces/toys with disinfecting solution (bleach solution).

  4. Rinse with clear water. Allow to air dry.

  5. Wash hands immediately after disposing of gloves.

Suzanne Arguello teaches preschoolers at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico.