Much to the chagrin of many moms, little kids with the natural ability to get themselves dirty seem to lack the same talent when it’s time for soap and water. Teaching your child personal hygiene is vital to keep him or her healthy. To effectively teach this life lesson to your inexperienced kid–who just doesn’t know any better!–employ a multi-faceted approach. After teaching and reteaching, your son or daughter will finally get the hang of it and hygiene will become a part of daily life!
Read about germs with your child. Select picture books to read with your child, making your germ lessons less preachy and more entertaining. Consider "Germs Are Not for Sharing" by Elizabeth Verdick and Marieka Heinlen. In this book, Verdick and Heinlen use colorful pictures and easy-to-understand text to introduce children to the concept of germs. If your child is more of a poet at heart, try "Germ Stories" by Nobel laureate Arthur Kornberg. This text contains a series of illustrated poems by Kornberg that discuss an assortment of germs, both good and bad.
Sing with your child while he washes his hands. Many children’s hand washing efforts are not as effective as they could be because they fail to scrub for a sufficient period of time. Teach your child to sing a short ditty, like the Happy Birthday song, while he washes, increasing the likelihood that he puts in a reasonable amount of time at the sink. To put your own creativity to work, compose your own hand-washing song that you and your child can sing together as you get your hands clean each day.
Make a bath-time poster with your child. While bathing seems like second nature to most adults, to children, the task can seem highly complex and even intimidating. As your child becomes ready to take on some of the duties of bathing herself, break the process down for her. Make a list of directions for activities that you must do in the shower to get clean: wash your hair, scrub behind your ears, wash your body with soap, rinse off the soap, and wash your face. After you create this list, make a poster, or series of posters, to illustrate these cleaning steps. Allow your little artist to help draw pictures on these posters, then hang them in the bathroom, encouraging her to refer to them should she forget a cleansing step.
Have your child brush his teeth to music. Load an MP3 or CD player with a variety of child-friendly songs and place it in the bathroom. Select songs that last approximately two minutes, as this is how long your child should spend brushing his teeth. Play a new song each time he takes on the task of brushing to ensure that he doesn’t rush through the job.
Play it by Ear…
Broach the topic of deodorant as necessary. While all children sweat, this perspiration doesn’t start to become malodorous until just before puberty. This varies by child, but if you notice that your kid comes in from play smelling a bit ripe, tackle the topic of deodorant with her in as delicate a manner possible.