Wash Your Hands! 10 Books to Help Kids Understand Germs
by Eliza Smith
Cold and flu season is a great time to talk about germs, hygiene, and staying healthy. That conversation may feel even more urgent now as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. If your kids have questions about how viruses work, or if you’d like to instill in them the importance of proper handwashing, turn to these educational and engaging reads to fill in the gaps — and introduce them to fascinating facts about the human body!
With easy-to-follow diagrams, fun STEAM-related crafts, and a generous dosage of humor, these 10 germ-smashing books will provide children with the knowledge to stay safe and healthy.
Scrubba Dub, Carlos
Carlos likes to play hard and get his hands dirty, but washing up? Not so much. This helpful title from the I See, I Learn series teaches young readers the importance of hand-washing and offers easy-to-follow diagrams that demonstrate the best way to get those mitts clean!
(Ages 2 – 5)
Me and My Body
Perfect for little readers curious about the ins and outs of their miraculous — and sometimes silly — bodies, Me and My Body delivers answers to pressing questions (like how germs make us sick and why we have belly buttons), plus fun STEAM-related crafts to delve deeper into the lessons learned.
(Ages 3 – 5)
Iris Has a Virus
Ever wonder why we call a virus a bug? Iris and her brother, Doug, have a bit of a misunderstanding when they take turns coming down with one of those “bugs,” but this lighthearted story sets the facts straight and follows Iris as she’s on the mend.
(Ages 4 – 6)
How Do You Take a Bath?
Of course, bath time — in addition to being fun — is a key part of staying germ-free. This adorable picture book shows baby animals following their own bath-time routines (kittens licking, chickens rolling in dust) and kids hilariously trying (and failing) to emulate their techniques, before heading to the tried-and-true bathtub for some sudsy fun.
(Ages 4 – 8)
Oh, The Things You Can Do That Are Good For You
The Cat in the Hat has long been a trusted source of authority, even when he’s leading the shenanigans. This time, the beloved Seussian character teams up with the Partnership for a Healthier America to lead kids in developing healthy habits — from hand-washing and sneezing in elbows to eating right and getting plenty of rest.
(Ages 5 – 8)
The Bacteria Book
The Bacteria Book expertly toes the line between gross-out humor and super cool facts to engage readers in the tiny science of germs and microbes. They’ll learn how immune systems work, how illnesses are caught and spread, and even a timeline of microbiology and antibiotics. Don’t be surprised if this one inspires a healthy obsession with germs!
(Ages 6 – 9)
My Messy Body
The Body Works series is an excellent resource for helping young readers understand how their bodies and its various systems work. My Messy Body is both humorous and educational as it tackles the sometimes unpleasant but totally normal functions of bodily responses, like a snotty nose. Pair it with My Healthy Body for a fuller picture.
(Ages 6 – 9)
Professor Astro Cat’s Human Body Odyssey
Have you met Professor Astro Cat? He’s shot into space, taken a deep dive to the ocean floor, and now he’s on an odyssey through the human body. He and his fellow explorers wade through nasal mucus, battle a virus, and learn plenty of non-germ-adjacent knowledge in this engagingly illustrated, fact-filled read.
(Ages 7 – 10)
Why You Shouldn't Eat Your Boogers
Middle grade readers will love this compendium of bodily facts, adapted from Francesca Gould’s bestseller for grown-ups. From the bugs that live in our eyelashes to everything our noses can do (including, yes, produce boogers), this is the bizarre, scientific read you need.
(Ages 8 – 12)
The Fantastic Body
Written by a pediatrician, The Fantastic Body is an exceptionally comprehensive resource that readers will revisit again and again. Featuring diverse photographs, engaging sidebars, pronunciation guides, and even DIY science experiments, Dr. B’s guide will inform, empower, and fascinate readers.
(Ages 8 – 12)