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Rufus starts school

Rufus starts school

Through fun story and song, safefood’s education pack helps support young children, parents and teachers with handwashing as primary schools start this year

•    Research* reveals 77% of children were more engaged and enthusiastic about handwashing after using the Rufus learning programme
•    47% of children remembered when to wash their hands thanks to Rufus

Wednesday, September 2nd September 2020: With the majority of pre-school and schoolchildren back in the classroom this week, safefood is launching its free handwashing education pack ‘Rufus the Handwashing Hero’. The aim of this teaching resource is to make learning about handwashing fun and engaging for children as they start in pre-school and Junior Infants this year. This will also help support parents and teachers with reinforcing good handwashing behaviours.

While handwashing has always been a pillar of good food safety, current public health advice has highlighted the importance of good personal hygiene, including handwashing even more. Developed with input from educational professionals to teach children about handwashing through story and song, the safefood pack is a unique education resource suitable for children aged between 3 – 6 years, as it uses familiar concepts, story and rhymes to engage young minds.

When asked about using the safefood song and story pack, 77% of preschool educators perceived children were more engaged and enthusiastic about handwashing when using the pack. In addition, a further 47% of educators believed that children remembered when to wash their hands thanks to the Rufus character. 

Introducing the resource, Ray Dolan, Chief Executive safefood said “Handwashing is one of the most important life skills we can teach children from a young age. ‘Rufus’ is a fun, friendly character with a big personality and we’ve created him to engage and educate young minds. Our free pack which is being distributed to all pre-schools and Junior Infant classes in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland features a large, colourful storybook, catchy song, waterproof posters for bathroom sinks and our easy-to-remember five steps of handwashing – Wet; Soap; Rub; Rinse and Dry. The pack also contains extra reusable sink posters that children can bring home so they can learn with their parents too.”

Dr Linda Gordon, Chief Specialist in Food Science, safefood continued: “We know that young children can be more vulnerable to gastrointestinal illness and handwashing is really important in preventing this. With our ‘Rufus the Handwashing Hero’ pack, we are helping young children by making handwashing fun, memorable and educational. We are also supporting parents and teachers so they can continue to reinforce these good hygiene habits in a positive, supportive way.”

Developed with input from educational professionals to teach children about handwashing through story and song, the safefood pack was originally developed and distributed to all pre-school, nurseries and crèches. This year, the pack is being distributed to include all primary schools, specifically for Junior Infant classes where Rufus will be familiar to children from their pre-school experience.

Ireland AM presenter and Mum of three, Karen Koster is supporting the initiative, adding: “While it is second nature to so many of us, we often forget it’s a skill we need to teach. I know with three small children of my own, the most important thing is to start early with children, when they’re toddlers. My own son, JJ is starting school for the first time and I am hoping to pick up some tips from Rufus along the way. Teaching children good handwashing habits has become more important than ever,” Koster said. 

Additional classroom resources, including videos and downloadable activities are available on the safefood web site. For more information, visit


For further information or to request an interview, please contact:
Clodagh Hogan / Sally McLoughlin
Wilson Hartnell
Mob: +353 87 774 6128 (Clodagh Hogan) /
+353 87 972 2549 (Sally McLoughlin)
Email: [email protected] / [email protected]

Reference :
*Early Childhood Ireland (ECI) survey of 430 pre-school educators (December 2019). 

Editor’s Notes:
Developed by safefood, the Rufus Handwashing Hero pack for pre-schools and schools contains:
•    A poster to help remind everyone just how important handwashing is, especially now.
•    A leaflet to explain how to get the most out of using Rufus handwashing resources.
•    Waterproof handwashing posters to be placed at sinks in children’s toilets at home and in school, as a prompt and learning tool for children.
•    A Storybook using fun illustrations and rhyme to teach children how and when to wash their hands.
•    Stickers to get children excited and reward them for good handwashing.

The pack also includes additional waterproof sink posters for children to take home to their parents to encourage the continuity of good handwashing habits at home.

Parents are encouraged to display the poster at home as part of their school community commitment to keeping everyone safe and healthy.

The resource was developed to communicate the importance of correct and regular handwashing, emphasising that children need to clean their hands for at least 20 seconds, and to dry their hands thoroughly. The resource also highlights the key occasions when hands should be washed. These include when we enter the home, school or pre-school, before we eat, after play/pets and after using the toilet.

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