As adults, we shake hands.  We take for granted that it is a polite thing to do.  Sometimes we are really happy to be shaking hands, sometimes it is just something compulsory.  But we need to remember that it is the job of an adult to raise respectful children, which is a part of raising children with good manners and, yes, teaching children how to shake hands.  They don’t just learn social skills by themselves.  They see us as their models.

Most children want to do the right thing, try to be “good,” and, along with that, often  goes a shyness sometimes even in the most gregarious children.  The younger the child(ren), the more likely they are to be shy.  Teaching children how to make a good impression makes others comfortable (and impressed) and the child has increased confidence in meeting a stranger.

Not so incidentally, kids can feel extra pride when they do something a grown up does.

One way of teaching this is to model.  Have the children bring to mind such things as:  seeing an adult relative shaking hands with someone else.  Shaking hands isn’t just for meeting people.  You can shake hands as a way of saying hello to someone you already know.

Why would your mom or dad or teacher, for example, shake hands with someone?  Handshakes show respect.  They feel welcoming.

Children practicing handshakes may feel or act silly at first, but the more they learn this proper form of etiquette the more it will become secondhand.

Children need to be taught how to shake hands. Try to get them to guess which handshakes are good and which are not.  Again, you can model this.  Demonstrate a bone crusher and its opposite, the “spaghetti shake.”  Neither is good and the minute they start practicing they will know why.

Ask the children what they think a proper handshake is.  Get their ideas and then show them.  Palms touch palms; fingers are wrapped firmly; shaking takes place from the elbow, not the shoulder; and then it is time to let go.

This is also an opportunity to teach children other things; namely, related to personal space and hygiene.

It is always a good idea to remind children that if they have a cold or have been coughing or sneezing into their hands, or their hands are otherwise dirty, they should not spread germs.  So the handshaking scenario is yet another chance to do this.  It is also an opportunity to explain why we use Kleenex, wash often, or use hand sanitizer.  The message:  do not shake hands if your hands aren’t “germ free.”

Demonstrate to your group the types of handshakes and have them choose the one that they think shows respect. Have them practice with each other and then a guided tour of the location of the Kleenex, hand sanitizer, soap, etc. might be fun.  Another memory to create will be the time they received decorative, cute or cartoon wrapped mini Kleenex packs.

There are other things that can be done for fun so they remember handshaking forever!  Have them pick their favorite and most respectful.  They can shake hands of adults at a time when they are dropped off or picked up.  Create scenarios wherein they might use a handshake.

Food can be used as well.  For example, a hand put into a cold bowl of spaghetti shows how a “spaghetti” handshake might feel.

Feathers work for a limp handshake, and shaking hands with a rock will demonstrate both cold and heaviness.

Who knew that the art of handshaking could have so many lessons or be so much fun?