‘But Why?’ Game & Hand Washing

June is Water, Sanitation & Hygiene month here at Children for Health! Read our 10 Messages For Children To Learn and Share about WASH or download a PDF with all 100 health messages.

And what better time to introduce you to one of our ‘Lesson Plans‘? This can be used or adapted for children to learn the importance of handwashing and its link to Diarrhoea. By the end of this activity the children should be able to:

  1. Describe what personal hygiene is and why it is important.
  2. Discuss the importance of good hygiene and good health habits.
  3. Share the message and activities with friends and family.

Note that Children for Health lesson plans are not designed to be ‘one off’ lessons. There should always be a series of lesson plans on one topic or message to give the children a chance to go home, share and discuss the topic with friends and family; then come back to the class/club, discuss what their friends and family were saying about the message and then go back again. We find that three (or more!) lessons or sessions works best for each topic.

Activity: The But Why Game?


Scissors, cardboard, pen that writes clearly on cardboard


Make five or more circles out of cardboard with holes in the middle as shown in the picture. Make a cut across one side so the circle can be linked with another. If no cardboard is available, children can hold hands each time a link in the chain is made (See Adapting the Game below).

  1. Do some introductory activities with the children – singing, name games, clapping games etc.
  2. Learn this, How to Wash Our Hands message, “Wash your hands properly: use water, a little soap. Rub for 20 seconds, rinse & air-dry. Ask the children to make up actions.” Pick the best action message and learn it together.

The But Why? Activity

  • Show the children a picture of a baby or a doll and give it a local name for example, ‘Victoria’.
  • Start the activity by saying to the group, “Victoria has diarrhoea.”
  • Then ask the children, “But why?” Their answers might include, “Germs have got into her body.” Write this on the first cardboard circle.
  • Ask again, “But why? Have germs got into her body?” The answer could be, “Because she did not wash her hands.” Write this on the second circle and link it to the first through the cuts in the sides.
  • Ask again, “But why? Didn’t she wash her hands?” Answers, “Because there is no soap and water in the house.“, “It’s not a family habit.“, “Because Victoria comes from a family where this is not the custom.” Continue asking, “But why?” and getting answers until the ideas are at an end and you have found root cause(s) of the problem. At each point, ask the children to choose the most common link to write on the card.
  • When you have finished, read out all the links in the chain.
  • Ask the children to make a drawing of the chain in a notebook and read out the links.

Reflection Circle

In a circle the children say in turn what they learned and enjoyed about this session.

Closing Activity

Repeat the message together. Then ask those that know the message to share it with classmates, friends and family when they get home.

Adapting the Game

If cardboard is unavailable, play this game using a chain of children instead.

  • One child stands up and states the problem and ends his statement, “But Why?”
  • The child with the next idea states her idea and if it works she holds one of the first child’s hands, repeats the first statement, adds her reason and ends her statement with, “But Why?
  • Repeat step two to make your “But Why?” human chain!

Further Uses of the “But Why?” Game

The game can be used for many other topics too, for example:

  • A baby that is suffering from malnutrition
  • A child who has not been immunised
  • A toddler who has burned themselves in the kitchen

Further Reading

Children for Health has two free storybooks on hygiene and sickness, download them now!