How to teach my child to wash hand independently

Be independent is one of the top goal parents dream of their child to achieve. Parents always wonder why the child is not able to perform the task when they are not next to the child or when they are not telling the child what to do. Let me share some of the procedures and tips with you when you want to teach your child to wash hand independently.


Prerequisites skills

  • • Be sure your child is able to perform each step.
  • • If your child is not able to perform each step, you need to teach them individually. For example, get 1 pump of soap, rub palms with interlocking fingers.
  • • Able to sustain attention for a short period of time.
  • • Able to follow actions in pictures.



  • • Toys or snacks for reinforcements
  • • Pictures for each step
  • • A schedule board for parent to stick on all the steps in sequence


A way to teach – Follow picture schedule

1. Parents should be next to the child

  1. Place the sequenced pictures horizontally or vertically in front of the sink, same eye level of the child.
  2. Have the first step on the schedule, ask the child to do. If he is able to perform the action, reinforcement should be given.
  3. Repeat step 1b but put the first 2 step picture on the schedule.
  4. Keep adding in 1 new step onto the schedule at a time until the sequence is completed.


2. When the child has practiced the whole sequence, then it’s time to fade the parent’s supervision

  1. Parents could stand 1 foot away from the child and ask the child to wash hand.
  2. Parents could stand 3 foot away from the child and ask the child to wash hand.
  3. Parents could stand 1 meter away from the child and ask the child to wash hand.
  4. Parents could stand at the door from the child and ask the child to wash hand.
  5. Parents could stand right outside the toilet and ask the child to wash hand but the parent could peek from time to time while the child is washing hands.
  6. Parents could stand outside the toilet and ask the child to wash hand. This time the parent no need to peek and wait for the child to tell you he or she has finished washing hands.



  • • According to the child’s functioning level, you could adjust whether your child need to use the picture schedule or just verbal instruction to instruct your child what to do.
  • • If you decide to use verbal instruction to teach, you could also follow the procedures listed above.
  • • Reinforcement should be given right after the target skills have performed.
  • • When your child washes hands, he/she might not look at their hands. As long as the child is able to perform the action, NO need to expect your child to look at what they are doing.
  • • If the child is capable of washing hand independently but not looking, then a separate attention program could be taught.


Information provided by:

Teri Mok, MA, BCBA (Autism Partnership Senior Case Supervisor)
Ms. Teri Mok obtained her Master degree in Early Childhood Education in the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). She joined Autism Partnership in 2002 and began working as a Program Specialist. She is experienced in working with children across different settings, including therapy session, small group training and ABA Classrooms. Moreover, she also helped conducting workshop for professionals in Mainland China and Hong Kong since 2013. Since 2014, Ms. Mok has been helping to set up an office in Manila, Philippine. She has been helping to design individualized programs, supervise cases, train local staffs, conduct school observation, provide parents and helpers training, and meet new families at AP Manila office. Currently, she is one of the leading Case Supervisor in our new established AP Beijing center.

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