How to Make Hygiene Important to Kids
The key to making something important to kids is to make it part of their daily routine and let them be involved in the process. This is as true for hygiene as anything else. Early on, kids might not understand the importance of good hygiene. It's your job as parent to make it interesting and significant to them. To make hygiene a priority to your child, incorporate good hygiene practices as part of his daily routine.
Talk to your child about the different areas of hygiene so he knows where to focus. Areas to include are washing his hands, coughing and sneezing etiquette, clean hair and nails, oral hygiene, bathing, and avoiding touching things with germs.
Explain why good hygiene is important. Remind your child that proper hygiene helps prevent germs from spreading. According to KidsHealth, a good way to explain germs to children is that they are tiny living things that can get into their bodies and cause disease and avoiding germs helps keep them from getting sick 5.
Set a good example by practicing good hygiene yourself. Wash your hands and brush your teeth while your child is around, on a regular basis. If you have a cold, make sure your child sees you blow your nose, cough, or sneeze into a tissue, throw the tissue away and then wash your hands.
Set specific times for your child to practice certain hygiene habits. For example, ask her to wash her hands before every meal and when coming in from outside. Ask her to brush her teeth each morning when she wakes up and again at night, before she goes to bed. Include hand sanitizer in her lunchbox as a reminder when she’s in school. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children thrive on regular, predictable routines. Making hygiene part of your child's daily routine will help her keep up with the practices.
Give your child creative ways to ensure he’s giving hygiene tasks enough time. For example, have him sing “Happy Birthday” out loud or in his head two times when he’s washing his hands. For teeth brushing, choose a song that lasts about three minutes or buy a timer or timed toothbrush.
Allow your child to participate in choosing a fun toothpaste, colorful toothbrush and smelly, creative soap for practicing good hygiene. According to education.com, letting your child participate in picking out fun toiletries makes hygiene more fun for him and less of a chore 2.
If you have a younger child, set up an incentive chart where she can earn a reward for practicing proper hygiene. For example, if she remembers to brush her teeth each morning, she might earn a new toy or an extra story before bed. If she’s older, maybe she earns a new privilege for taking a shower a certain number of times during the week.
Give your younger child a “buddy” to wash while he washes his hands or one where he can “pretend” brush the teeth. A rubber ducky or favorite doll works well. Remind your child he should wash his hands after playing with a pet, playing outside, using the bathroom, sneezing, blowing his nose or coughing and before meals.
Use a favorite doll to teach your child how to bathe different body parts. Make sure your child knows to wash her face, hair, armpits and genital area and bottom.
- Education.com: Wash, Brush, Comb! Developing Preschool Hygiene Habits
- Education.com: Good Hygiene for Children
- Pediatric Center of Round Rock: Teaching Your Kids About Personal Hygiene
- McHenry County Health Department: Good Hygiene Habits - Prevention Tips
- KidsHealth: What Are Germs?
- HealthyChildren: The Importance of Family Routines
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images