How to Teach Children Proper Hygiene

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Maintaining good hygiene is habit forming; once kids have practice in taking care of their bodies, it will become automatic. Using little rhymes, sayings and games for encouragement works more effectively than nagging, and some kids will respond to using products like shampoo, soaps and toothbrushes they pick out themselves. Even toddlers can begin learning to care for themselves; by the time kids are in middle school they should be able to manage their own personal hygiene routines.

Make it a Routine

Make hand washing a routine part of other activities. Teach kids to say this nonsense sequence: "Bathroom, pets, outside, food" to help them remember when they need to wash their hands. Coming in from outside, playing with or caring for pets, using the bathroom and eating — even just snacks — are all activities that call for hand washing. Show children how to lather up their hands thoroughly, including the tops of their hands and the areas between their fingers. Then, they should know how to rinse thoroughly and use their own towels to dry thoroughly.

Self-Care

Talk about the importance of wiping and cleaning themselves well after using the bathroom — even before children are toilet trained. Say, for example, when changing a diaper, "Mommy’s making your bottom all clean." You can add, "Now I’m washing my hands." As they are able, show children how to wipe themselves; using baby wipes for this purpose helps little ones do an effective job. By the time they are toilet trained, children should already know how to do a good job of hand washing.

Make Bath Time Fun

Make bath time fun so kids will look forward to their baths rather than dread them. Give your little one a rubber doll and a washcloth; as you wash your child’s body parts, have the child wash the doll. Show him how to soap up the washcloth, wash the doll’s tummy, for example, and then rinse off the soap. As kids get older, let them begin to wash themselves, even though you could do it in half the time yourself. Some children learn to like the idea of a shower by playing under the water sprinkler on hot days.

Introduce Shampooing

Create bubble hair sculptures as an introduction to shampooing. Seat the child in front of a mirror; you can often do this in a bathroom vanity sink. Let the child watch while you carefully wet her hair, and then make lather with no-tears shampoo. Have the child fashion different "hair-do’s" with their lathered hair. As soon as they are able to do so, let them use a small watering can to rinse out the shampoo; doing so gives them a sense of control over the gush of water. Some kids like to wear sponge-lined goggles during the whole process.

Brushing Teeth

Take the tedious out of tooth brushing with a few tricks. Start little ones out by letting them watch you brush your own teeth. Then let them brush your teeth, giving them instructions as they go. Since parents should brush teeth for the under-five crowd, perhaps two or three sentences of an on-going tall tale could accompany the task. For older kids, timers help insure that the brushing lasts long enough — approximately 3 minutes.

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