In order for them to grow and develop healthily, it is very important for children to acquire good hygiene habits from an early age. It is especially important for children to wash their hands frequently, because the hands come into contact with all sorts of materials and are used when eating. In places like schools where children are engaged in communal activities, it is very easy for dirt and germs to spread from one person to another via contact between the hands and infected or dirty surfaces. To help tackle this problem, Kao has developed hand soap products that make it easy for even very small children to get the dirt off their hands. Kao is also continuing to implement its program of “visiting lessons” where Kao employees visit schools to help children learn how to wash their hands properly by singing Kao’s original hand washing song.
In the past, when washing their hands with conventional liquid soap, it was difficult for children to get their hands thoroughly clean. In 2004, Kao launched a new type of hand soap equipped with a foaming pump so that foam comes out just by pressing the pump, and which is weakly acidic so that it is gentle on the skin. Since then, Kao has continued to improve this product by introducing a new type of pump design that is easy for children’s small hands to use, and by modifying the formulation so that it removes stubborn grease more effectively.
However, despite making this hand soap easy for children to use, Kao’s surveys of how children actually wash their hands have shown that most children do not know how to wash their hands thoroughly. In response to these findings, Kao launched and has implemented its hand washing lesson program since 2009 to teach children the correct method for washing their hands.
To wash one’s hands properly, it is necessary to use soap and spend at least 40 seconds washing every part of the hands, including the palm, the back of the hand, between the fingers, and the wrist. Kao created an original hand washing song with lyrics that cover the six key points to remember when washing your hands. Doing the corresponding actions while singing the song can ensure that the hands get properly washed all over.
This song is being publicized using animated films on the Kao website and posters. The song is used in teaching by schools, social welfare facilities and hospitals to teach many children about proper hand washing.
Hand washing lessons are aimed at elementary school students in the lower grades; the lessons are taught at around 100 schools every year. During the lessons, first children learn about how important it is to wash your hands, and then they learn the correct method of washing hands by singing the Hand Washing Song. In the practical activity, every child in the class has the whole of their hands covered with a coating material that simulates dirt, and then washes it off. By checking which parts of their hands are still dirty afterwards, the children are able to find out which parts of their hands they tend not to wash properly. Having become expert little hand washers, the children can now teach their family members and other people around them about the correct technique for hand washing.
Besides these lessons, Kao also provides teaching materials so that teachers can strengthen children’s awareness of the importance of washing hands properly. Copies of these materials have been distributed to around 10,000 schools, representing roughly half of all elementary schools in Japan.
Several employees from each company and division within the Kao Group always participate in hand washing lessons as instructors. The idea is that, during a period of just 45 minutes, employees must use actual products to give individual instruction to each child and show them how keeping clean can be fun.
The Kao employees who have taken part in hand washing lessons as instructors feel that they get a lot out of the experience, in which they get to see children’s smiling faces. They note that providing people with products becomes even more meaningful when they show people how to use those products properly. Participation in the lessons helps employees reflect on what Yoki-Monozukuri that is useful to society really means, and on their own role in achieving this. Employees are able to make use of what they have learned through participation in hand washing lessons in their own workplaces.
Kao’s hand washing lessons are now being held not just in Japan, but also in other countries around the world, including Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia. In the future, Kao will continue to promote widespread adoption of the hand washing lesson concept, with the aim of helping even more children grow up healthily through good hygiene practices.
Kao receives letters of thanks and picture diaries from children at schools which Kao employees visited to give hand-washing lessons.
“When I get home, I want to try doing it together with my brother and with Mom. […] I am going to make sure I keep my hands really clean so I don’t transmit any germs to other people’s hands.”
“We learned how to wash our hands properly. I enjoyed singing the hand washing song. I’m going to remember the song and use it when I get home.”
“We will continue to make improvements to our products to make them easy for children to use, gentle on children’s skin, and effective in removing dirt.”
“I feel that the value of a product will increase when consumers are correctly informed about its function and how to use it. As I see it, hand washing lessons are a good way of putting this into practice for children.”