Some germs protect us.

Explaining Good Germs to Kids

by Kelly Sundstrom

As a mom, you tell your toddler or preschooler to wash their hands to get rid of nasty germs. However, do you also teach your children that some germs are good for the body? Cornell University suggests that healthy bacteria help the body maintain proper digestion and create a healthy immune system, so it can be helpful to educate your children about the different between good and bad germs.

1. Keep It Simple

Little children are going to look at you with a blank stare if you use large words and lengthy descriptions to explain how bacteria helps the body. Save your breath and keep it simple. Say something like, "The good germs find homes inside your tummy, and work hard so that the vitamins from your food know where to go." This simple explanation can help small children understand that healthy bacteria, or probiotics, are life-giving nutrients that help the body maintain healthy flora (microrganisms) that live in the digestive tract, enabling the body to use nutrients better. Use simple, kid-friendly words to describe this process, such as "good germs."

2. Foods That Encourage Good Germs

If your little ones love yogurt, you are in luck! Yogurt and other foods with active cultures encourage good germs to set up camp in the digestive tract. Talk to your children about which foods with these good germ probiotics that will help their will make it so that good germs want to live there. These foods include yogurt, kefir, kombucha tea, miso soup, apples, garlic, bananas and onions. You might even set up plates and bowls with these different foods around the table, for a good lunch.

3. What To Avoid

You don't need to go into too much detail about the differences between good and bad germs. Healthy bacteria in the body act in a way that's very different from the way that harmful bacteria acts. If your little ones ask, explain that good germs are found in certain foods, and bad germs are microorganisms found on dirty things, and it is the bad germs that carry illnesses like viral or bacterial infections, such as a cold, sore throat, ear ache or the flu. Avoid giving your child dairy products if he is lactose intolerant, has milk protein allergy, is sensitive to dairy foods, or if your family is vegan.

4. Books

Let's face it, sometimes you need a little help knowing what to say or how to explain something like healthy bacteria. So, don't go it alone! Enlist the help of a few popular and colorful children's books about good germs that can lead the way. Pick out books from your local library that really describe healthy bacteria in a way that toddlers and preschoolers can understand, like, "The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body," by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen, "The Surprising World of Bacteria With Max Axiom, Super Scientist," by Agnieszka Biskup and Tod G. Smith, and "The Good, the Bad, the Slimy: The Secret Life of Microbes," by Sara L. Latta.

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