When a lie turns into a farce

Remember the toddler that got severely drunk drinking hand sanitiser?   Have a look at this photo:


The four year old apparently got up there, on a chair bookcase, drank 75 mls of 70% alcohol without stopping, and none of the adults saw it.

Centres warned on hand sanitiser

The Ministry of Education will warn all early childhood centres in New Zealand about the risks of alcohol-based hand sanitiser in the wake of an Invercargill 4-year-old girl becoming grossly intoxicated at her preschool.

The ministry has completed a two-week investigation into an incident at the Woodhouse Early Learning Centre that resulted in the girl being admitted to hospital with a blood alcohol level of 188mg, nearly four times the new legal driving limit.

The preschool owner, Jackie Woodward, believed the girl got intoxicated from drinking hand sanitiser at the premises without the knowledge of staff.

75 mls of 70% alcohol is a significant amount.  It is an amount that would make most adults flinch and cough.  Not to mention the bad taste of the sanitiser, how do you think a four year old tongue and throat would react to it?


The ministry identified areas that needed improving at the centre, including a review of the centre’s supervision plan and practice. Centre staff also needed to be more aware of when a child’s behaviour seemed different, she said. “The centre’s management team have said they will implement our recommendations. We will assist in any way we can and will also monitor to ensure the recommendations are implemented.”

Following the incident a fortnight ago, National Poisons Centre toxicologist Leo Schep said it received two or three calls a day from parents saying their children had drunk hand sanitiser, which had 60 to 70 per cent alcohol content. “The biggest cause of alcohol consumption in kids is hand sanitiser by far. They [parents] should keep it out of reach of kiddies.”

I have no doubt that some kids will be enjoying an exploratory taste.

But let’s use Occam’s Razor here  – there is no way a four year old downed the above amount of 70% alcohol sanitiser from a dispenser that would have to be pressed many, many times to even dispense that much, without the girl flinching, having her throat burned or otherwise getting the message this stuff is poison to a toddlers mouth.

There was probably a different source of alcohol that day.  But because nobody wants to accuse the centre of letting a kid go legless on a nice fruity alcopop, now all early childhood education centres are made to pretend that a dispenser 1.5m off the ground is a serious health hazard to children.

None of this passes the bulldust test, and the fact we’re ignoring that some adults had a a serious lapse in supervision and are now blaming the hand sanitiser is just disgusting.


Photo caption:  Woodhouse Early Learning Centre owner Jackie Woodward holds up hand sanitiser where it was located at the centre. Woodward believes the four-year-old climbed onto a bookshelf, reached up and drank it.



– Evan  Harding, Southland T


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  • Wheninrome

    Maybe got hold of the refill which was left down low.
    Maybe was under the influence prior to arrival – I don’t know, it is all very strange.

  • mommadog

    I wasn’t there but the official story doesn’t smell right to me. I could believe a child might drink it out of a bottle if found at an easily reachable level but not from a dispenser. Standing on a chair. pulling the handle, catching it in your mouth. It would be hard enough for an adult to do. More likely the teachers had a bit of alcohol stocked away for an after work drink and the child found it. They’d rather seem like idiots with hand sanitizer than admit to the nicer tasting alcohol on the premises where everyone could loose their jobs.

    • sheppy

      I’d go with that explanation, that the story has got this far without anyone questioning it is incredible.
      If the original story is true the kid has a very promising career ahead as an old school Cold War spy

    • STAG

      There was wine in the fridge.

    • ShoreRight

      Exactly and 75mls seems a very precise amount – where did that “fact” come from ?

      • KinaRolf

        The bottle.

  • STAG

    I have it on very good authority that wine was regularly kept in the kitchen fridge and that this was what was drunk by the child and then very quickly got rid off by the staff.

    It’s now an open secret around the place that this preschool was already a poor performing education provider and this the latest in a series of “incidents”

    • So the Education Department warning should be about fridges needing locks at early childhood centres.

      • KinaRolf

        What about the fridges in the parliament. We got quite a lot of kids in the behive every day.

        • Aucky

          Locks on domestic fridges might not be a bad idea as well for all parents & grandparents – R18 maybe? All household booze to be stored in lockable cabinets.The inspectors that supervise pool fencing could look after compliance. What a revenue gatherer for Len!

          • KinaRolf

            With all due respect, I don’t think you understand how the bureaucratic brotherhood works. They will claim that pool inspectors are specialists on pools only, so now they must hire and train a new clan of inspectors for the booze cabinets, weapons already have to have locket cabinets inspected by police, This really opens for a revenue bonanza, inspected cabinets for medications, detergents, sharp tools, fattening food, sugar drinks, keep on going. Len will love it.

      • Monito

        Or perhaps not keeping wine in the fridge that any child could open and consume.

  • This Centre has had a run of problem. There are no publicly available ERO reports from 2010, 2011 and 2012. This summary is from last year

    Key Next Steps

    The owner and senior teachers agree with ERO that more changes and improvements are needed. The centre has experienced times when the programme has not worked well for children. External support has had a significant positive effect.

    Many of the areas that continue to need improvement have been identified by the external support person and by the centre staff themselves. Some are being addressed. These include:

    improving the quality of their planning and assessment for individual children

    strengthening how they integrate aspects of Māori culture

    further developing of their understanding and use of self review as a way to ensure ongoing improvement

    looking more deeply at their philosophy and what it should look like in their day-to-day work

    regularly evaluating how their philosophy is evident in what they do.

    Aspects of management need to improve. For example, the owner and senior teachers need to:

    strengthen the quality of their appraisal process

    create job descriptions for senior and other teachers

    ensure that suitable professional support is in place for new teachers and leaders

    develop more useful planning such as strategic and annual plans

    simplify their systems for reviewing the centre’s policies and procedures.

    ERO noted the significance of the external help given to the centre over 2011 and 2012 and recommends that this continues while the newly-appointed senior team establishes the vision for best practice.

    Having a toddler drunk in 2014 and managing to get everyone to repeat the lie about the hand sanitiser goes to show that everyone is really interested about the welfare of children.

    I would avoid the Woodhouse Early Learning Centre if I was an Invercargill parent with young children.

    • Wallace Westland

      Yeah good call re avoid…but…what a load of bureaucratic drivel that report is.

      *Create a job discription for senior teachers-Make sure the toddlers are under the legal driving limit? Duh

      *strengthening how they integrate aspects of Māori culture-This little snivel could be found in any NZ Govt. Report on anything. Duh

      *looking more deeply at their philosophy and what it should look like in their day-to-day work-Ummm…making sure the kids are safe and sound and possibly learn and grow a little each day? Duh

      *simplify their systems for reviewing the centre’s policies and procedures.- In NZ? Under the ERO? HOW? Duh!

      I could go on….and on..and on

  • cows4me

    They’ll probably have to fence the hand sanitiser off now.

    • Don W

      Don’t forget the big danger sign, ” Beware hazardous substance”.

      • KinaRolf

        Better, “beware of hazardous media and bureaucrats”.

      • Disinfectant

        How many four year old kids could read it?
        Edit: spelling.

        • Don W

          I wonder how many of the adult there could read it.

          • Disinfectant

            They must have thought the word “sanitiser” mean’t “wine”.

          • Don W

            After a few wines they probably wouldn’t know the difference.

      • KinaRolf

        “hazardous substance”, bureaucrats and teachers, maybe :-) !!!

  • Kimbo

    I got fed soap at school for swearing didnt even make the back page of the paper. Eveyone’s a crybaby now, especially if there’s a dollar to be made from it.

  • Dave

    I would love to know more of the childs home situation, and the lifestyle of her parents, or the kids who influence her at the day care centre. Just think about this, and consider how hard it normally is to get a child to take just 10 M/l of cough medicine or similar……. The story is worthy of a “Tui” award, perhaps also the repeater needs to either go back to school, or learn to smell a rat, and start questioning.

    • KinaRolf

      You are not permitted to ask such questions in New Zealand today. That would be a serious breach of etiquette and state and media implemented unwritten rules.

  • LesleyNZ

    There NO WAY that child drank hand sanitiser. After I heard about this story I tasted a pin head amount (as an experiment) and felt like vomiting straight away and my mouth burned. I had to eat something straight away to get the foul bitter taste out of my mouth. This lie must be put right by the Ministry of Education.

    • KinaRolf

      I am sure you are right. The hidden agenda must be to motivate more rules and fines to boost the state coffers, remember the “weapons of mass destruction”, this will probably be a new one.

    • That’s our Lesley, taking one for the team. Go Lesley.

      • LesleyNZ

        I dare the Ministry of Education to try out a smidgen. That should have been step one in the investigation.

  • Chris EM

    I thought the explanation was dodgy when I first read about it. I wonder if anyone has asked the child.

  • 1951

    I luv judging book by its cover….”If the littley found something in the fridge she shouldn’t have, own up to it!!”

  • KinaRolf

    I am sure the bureaucratic fraternity soon will think up more rules with reasons of “security” and “protection”, etc. Maybe copy the swimming pool laws, all sanitizers must have a fence, then spend a few millions figuring out how high and what design, then hire sanitizer inspector and implement sanitizer laws and fines. We are soon there.

  • Richard McGrath

    Were the teachers there all duly trained, registered and unionised?

  • Ginny

    Another dud ministry. Are they serious about this? Has the investigator been hoodwinked by this child care centre? This should be renivestigated.

    • 1951

      Send in Jordon Williams

  • exactchange

    Hmmm, if we believe Leo the toxicologist – that the centre gets calls every day about kids drinking hand sanitiser – then maybe it does taste pretty good. I wonder if tests can determine the source of the alcohol.

    Seems rather more likely that parents have left alcopops around but don’t want to say so in case CYFS comes calling.

  • Spiker

    Is WhaleOil the only media outlet to question the very dodgy explanation given? The real story here is that the preschool operators appear caught out not to be providing a safe environment for the children in their care. Then lying about the reason for the child’s poisoning.

  • Sticktotheknitting

    Highly unlikely a child would drink this stuff from a dispenser. Come on, pull the other one. Thanks for bringing this out in the open. Three cheers for LesleyNZ a great guinea pig. Braver than me.

  • Disinfectant

    One way of prising out the truth might be to post a photo of all the alleged fibbers (teachers/administrastors), then see who sticks to the “sanitiser” story.

  • sarahmw

    I work in ECE and there is no way that alcohol is permitted on the premises during opening hours.In fact it is against regulations. And like LesleyNZ I have tasted hand sanitiser by mistake I might add. It’s taste is absolutely foul and no amount of mints took it away. I very much doubt that a child would drink hand sanitiser and like alot of people I did query that. I would be investigating the teachers and staff because they seem to be very unprofessional. I imagine the child found the wine in the fridge and thought it was cordial and drank it. And the other question is, why was a child unsupervised in a kitchen area or where the wine was kept? Lots of questions to be answered in regards this centre. I would think twice about leaving a child there. ERO reports are generally done every 3 or 4 years for a very good/excellent report. Centres that have poor reports can be put on notice and be visited on a regular basis.

  • Rodger T

    Gullibility seems to be a prerequisite for getting a “journalism” qualification these days.

  • Sam Bearda

    This place should win the Tui Billboard award

  • Steve (North Shore)

    So what does this stuff taste like anyway? What will put you over the limit?
    I have seen this stuff in North Shore Hospital (Ward 10, 14, 15 not nice) It is cable tied so the needy don’t steal it. (visitors I mean) By the viscocity I reckon it is like hair gel; hey does hair gel have alcohol? and can you steal it from Te Wharehouse

    • kehua

      It is called Te Whariwhare Steve haha.

  • Michelle

    What is wrong with a good old fashioned bar of soap?

  • Sailor Sam

    Where is the bookcase?

  • Mark Harrison

    Don’t understand why the centre has created this bs smokescreen.
    Even if an ECE staff member is repeatedly reminded about potentially damaging chemicals within reach of children, a formal warning results in a visit to the employment tribunal and compensation paid.
    Ministry of Education: wrong planet, Employment Courts: wrong galaxy.