As a parent, you’re always trying to do the best for your children, so isn’t the new year the perfect time to figure out what else you can be doing to set your child up for success? This new year, consider new ways to improve your child’s hygiene. Clean children are healthy children, but young children need your help to be as hygienic as possible. Make a resolution to teach your children new hygiene habits in the coming year. Here’s a list of simple ways to start.
Why Is Hygiene Important?
There are multiple benefits to encouraging your child to practice good hygiene. It allows your child to:
- Avoid contracting illnesses and diseases caused by bacteria
- Develop a healthy body image
- Increase their confidence and self image
Children who practice good hygiene have more success in their developing social and eventual professional lives. Children who live in unhygienic conditions get sick more often and can have trouble in social situations.
Your child doesn’t have the knowledge or skills to develop good personal hygiene habits on their own. As a parent, you can help your child learn routines and habits that will set them up for a lifetime of proper personal hygiene.
One of the most important personal hygiene habits that your children need to learn is how to properly wash their hands. Why is hygiene important for your child’s hands? Since your child is constantly touching things with their hands, they pick up so many germs and bacteria from their environment. Proper hand washing is a simple and easy way to rid your child’s hands of those disease-causing bacteria and to keep them healthy. To get their hands squeaky clean, have your child follow these steps:
- Wet your hands with clean water
- Apply soap to your hands
- Rub your hands together to create a lather, rubbing for 20 to 30 seconds
- Wash in between fingers, under nails, and all the way up to the wrist
- Rinse off the soap completely with clean water
- Dry hands with a clean towel or paper towels
Once your child has their hand-washing technique down, the next step is to teach them when they should be washing their hands. Encourage them to wash their hands after:
- Using the bathroom
- Going outside, especially if they’re playing at a playground, riding a bike, etc.
- Cleaning the house
- Blowing their nose, sneezing, or coughing
- Touching an animal
- Visiting a sick friend or relative
Hand washing is a simple but highly effective way to improve your child’s hygiene.
Of course, hands aren’t the only part of your child’s body that require good hygiene habits. There are a lot of other body-related hygiene habits that your child needs to learn.
While it may seem like second nature to you, children need to be taught proper showering habits. Your child’s hygiene is dependent on regular bathing to eliminate dirt and germs that can cause illness and odors. Teach them how to clean the different parts of their body with soap, including difficult spots like behind the ears. Children should shower or bathe at least once a day.
Body hygiene habits should also extend to your child’s hair. Poor hair hygiene can lead to issues like lice, dandruff, or scalp infections. Teach your child how to lather shampoo in their hair in the shower to remove dirt and grease. Show them how to brush their hair, and teach them not to share personal grooming items like brushes. For children with longer hair, help them detangle knots to keep hair healthy and tame.
As your children become more independent and start dressing themselves, it’s important to teach them to wear clean clothes. Show them where to put their dirty clothes so they can be washed. If they get their clothes dirty or sweaty while playing, encourage them to change their clothes so they aren’t letting accumulated bacteria sit near their skin. You don’t want to have your child go off to school wearing an old, smelly shirt, but they won’t know better until they’re taught.
Practicing proper oral hygiene will help protect your child against tooth decay and gum disease. Cavities are one of the most common health issues in children since their teeth aren’t as strong as adult teeth. By following proper oral hygiene habits, your child will be able to banish harmful cavity-causing bacteria. They’ll have a healthy mouth and smile that will leave them feeling confident.
Once their permanent adult teeth come in, it’s even more important to make sure your child takes proper care of their teeth. Why is hygiene important for adult teeth? Adult teeth have to last for your child’s entire life, so establishing good habits early on will help keep their teeth healthy for years and years.
The simplest oral hygiene tip is to teach your children how to properly brush their teeth. Children should brush their teeth twice a day, following these steps:
- Angle the toothbrush at 45 degrees towards the gums of the upper and lower teeth.
- Move the toothbrush gently back and forth with short strokes along the teeth and gums. Continue to move the toothbrush along the inner and outer surfaces of every tooth.
- Place the tip of the brush in an upright position to reach behind the front teeth along the top and bottom of the jaw.
Brush the tongue to remove bacteria.
Children won’t be able to brush their teeth on their own until they reach around 6 years of age. For younger children, parents should help brush children’s teeth for them to ensure they’re being properly cleaned.
Of course, you can’t forgot to floss! Flossing may be difficult for younger children, so consider getting them floss holders or picks to make the process easier for tiny hands. For older children, teach them how to floss in between each tooth to clear lingering plaque and debris from the teeth and gums. Children should rinse their mouths after flossing, using either water or mouthwash to clear any lingering particles from their mouth.
In addition to tooth brushing, be sure to schedule regular dentist appointments for your child. No amount of home dental care can take the place of a professional cleaning. Your child may also benefit from fluoride treatments that can help strengthen teeth. Preventative dental services will help keep your child cavity-free, and if your dentist detects any issues, early treatment can stop them from getting any worse. Visit your child’s dentist every 6 months for a healthy smile.
Your child’s personal hygiene habits extend to the things that they put into their body: food. Since food can accumulate bacteria in a variety of ways, teaching your children how to safely handle food can help prevent illnesses like diarrhea, food poisoning, and gastroenteritis. Here are a few important things to teach your child about food hygiene:
- Wash your hands before and after handling food to prevent transferring bacteria.
- Teach children about perishable and nonperishable foods. Show them which foods need to be stored in the fridge and which ones can stay out.
- Never leave food uncovered, especially if it’s being left out for a while.
- Don’t sneeze or cough on food.
- When preparing food, keep hair tied back and wear an apron.
A major part of the reason why hygiene is important is to help prevent your child from getting sick, but sometimes illness is unavoidable. Even when your child is sick, there are hygiene habits that they can follow to help prevent others from getting sick.
If your child is sick, have them avoid contact with as many people as possible. Don’t send them to school or out to play. Don’t let them share things with other members in your household either.
When your sick child coughs or sneezes, teach them to cover their mouth with a tissue to help prevent the spread of airborne viruses. They should also wash their hands often to rid themselves of lingering bacteria. Keep them in clean clothes and encourage them to shower so that they are not spending too much time in the same germ-infested clothes.
Following health hygiene habits will not only prevent others from getting sick, it will also help reduce the length of your child’s illness.
Good hygiene habits don’t happen overnight — it takes practice and repetition to get your child into the routine of taking care of themselves. As a parent, it’s your job to teach your child the ins and outs of personal hygiene, everything from washing their hands to brushing their teeth. While all of these things seem obvious to adults, everyone had to learn at some point. This year, make a resolution to start the new year on a healthy note, and teach your child how to be happy, clean, and germ-free.
You can start by scheduling your appointment with your pediatric dentist.