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Most toddlers can wet, soap, rinse, and dry their hands by about 18 to 24 months. But you should always be there to check the water temperature and make sure your child scrubs thoroughly (proper hand washing is the best way to derail germs). Place a stool next to the sink and leave some fun soap and a towel within reach. Teach your child how to turn the water to cold or lukewarm. Since experts recommend washing hands for 30 seconds to completely kill germs, sing a short song with your child, such as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," to keep her occupied. Some child-friendly soap dispensers even come with lights and sounds that turn off once 30 seconds are up. --Elizabeth Rusch
Copyright 2005. Reprinted with permission from the August 2005 issue of Parents magazine. Updated 2009
The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.