Hygiene isn’t just about maintaing a nice appearance, it is a proactive way to prevent the spread of bacteria and infection. Good hygiene habits will help your child stay healthy. It is very important that we teach our children good hygiene habits as early as possible.
Here are some tips for your child to maintain good hygiene habits:
Bathing obviously gets rid of dirt and germs but it also gets rid of dead skin cells so as to make way for new skin cells. With the amount of exercise that children do and how much they roam and explore, it is a good idea to bath them at least once a day, sometimes twice if necessary. Here are some bathing tips:
• Bathing at the end of the day can be part of a bedtime routine. You can make it fun with games and toys.
• Teach your child how to clean different parts of their body – armpits, legs, feet, face, behind their ears, groin, back, hands, hair, elbows and knees.
• When washing girls genitals, gently wash with a sensitive soap. Don’t put anything inside the genitals as this will clean itself.
• Boys can clean their penis the same way as they wash the rest of their body. If they have a foreskin and can lift it back then they can gently wash inside it with a gentle soap.
• No matter how skilled young children are at bathing themselves, it’s mandatory for an adult to supervise all bath times. Young children can drown quickly in even a small amount of bath water. As a result, you should always be watching your child when they bathe.
• Many people avoid giving their child a bath when they are sick as they think it might make the illness worse but this is not the case. It is good to give your child a bath, even when they are unwell as it helps to keep the body clean.
• Teach your child to pat their body dry after their bath and then they can apply a moisturiser to keep their skin hydrated.
2. Washing Hands
Hand washing is an integral part of hygiene that parents should teach their children at a young age. It is essential for removing harmful bacteria and germs that can make your child very sick. Washing hands is a simple activity that takes just a few seconds of time, but can make a big difference in keeping germs and infection at bay.
• Teach little ones in a very concrete and understandable way how germs are spread, and how hand washing kills germs.
• Wash with a good antibacterial soap.
• Get your child to lather the soap and spread it all over their hands and wrists.
• You can make hand washing fun (and last longer) by getting your child to sing a song/rhyme for 15/20 seconds.
• Clean hands thoroughly so that there are no traces of soap left. Use fresh water to clear the soap completely.
Always get your child to:
• Wash their hands before touching or handling food.
• Wash hands after using the bathroom.
• Wash hands before and after eating.
• Wash hands after playing outside or playing with anything dirty.
• Wash hands after touching/handling the pet.
• Wash hands frequently when helping in the kitchen, as vegetables, raw meat and others may be carrying bacteria before they are cooked.
• After washing, get your child to dry their hands completely with a clean towel.
3. Bathroom Hygiene
Gaining independence in the bathroom is an important milestone for young children.
While we take it for granted now, being able to go to the toilet all by yourself is a big step. It’s a skill that we need to teach children and it can take a while for them to get the hang of things. So it is extremely important that we are encouraging and patient. Even when they are independent in the bathroom it’s important to remember that little “accidents” do happen.
• The early stages of toilet training are very much about you cleaning your toddler. Explain to your child that everything must be clean before they get off the loo.
• As your child gets older, you can encourage them to try and have a go at cleaning themselves. Again, if they can’t do it, you are always there to help. Keep praising and encouraging your child so they don’t lose their enthusiasm and give up.
• When urinating, teach your child (little boys) to lift the seat. If they do urinate on the seat by accident, show them how and why it is important to clean it.
• When girls urinate, you can teach them to clean and wipe themselves. Teach them to wipe from the front to the back so no excrement goes into her genitals by mistake and causes an infection.
• Teach your child to always flush the loo after using it.
• Make sure your child always washes their hands after doing anything in the bathroom.
• If your child has an “accident” during the day, teach them what to do with their soiled clothes and how to clean themselves. Don’t get angry and discourage your child. Accidents happen and it is totally normal. We must not forget that children’s bladders are more sensitive than adults and it takes time for them to adjust to a routine.
4. Cleaning and cutting nails
It is important to keep your child’s fingernails short and clean. Nails and nail beds offer a perfect environment for germs to live and breed in so if they are long, dirt and bacteria can fill the nails and can contaminate things the child touches. If your child is a ‘nail biter’, this permits the transfer of these bugs to the mouth which can then lead them to the stomach, causing problems.
How to trim fingernails and toenails:
• Trim your child’s nails after they have had a bath/shower. Nails are softer then, so trimming is easier.
• Use a nail clipper or nail scissors to trim nails.
• Cut fingernails almost straight across. Round a little at the corners to keep the nails strong.
• Cut toenails straight across. This reduces the chance of getting an ingrown nail.
• Smooth rough edges with a nail file.
• Cuticles protect the nail root, so don’t cut or push them back.
5. Cleaning nose
Your child should blow their nose gently when it’s blocked as this makes breathing easier. It can be a little difficult at first and they often need a good bit of practice to get the hang of it. Teach your child to blow out candles or blow bubbles with their mouth, then to blow with their nose. By encouraging frequent nose blowing, this helps diminish nasal congestion and helps to prevent the presence of viruses and bacteria.
6. Looking after their hair
• Make sure to wash your child’s hair after swimming to remove the chemicals from the water.
• Lice are commonly spread with children. Tie up your child’s hair (girls) to reduce the amount of contact and therefore lice transmission.
• Encourage your child to tie their hair up when eating so they don’t end up chewing on it or have hair falling in their food.
• When brushing, use a wide tooth comb more often than a brush.
7. Looking after their teeth
Parents have a key role in helping their children to develop a proper oral hygiene routine in the first years of their life. Parents should lead and supervise their children’s toothbrushing until motor and mental functions allow the child to routinely perform a proper toothbrushing technique alone.
• As soon as the first primary teeth erupt into the oral cavity, parents should begin brushing their children’s teeth
• From 2 years of age, your child’s teeth should be brushed twice daily.
• Use a pea size amount of toothpaste. If you put too much on the brush, your child’s mouth may get too frothy and they will want to spit it all out and not complete the brushing.
• Make brushing fun by letting your child choose their own brush and toothpaste.
• A great way to encourage brushing at a young age is to put a song on and encourage your child to brush right up to the end of the song.
8. Preventing sickness
Children often fall sick due to the spread of germs and infections. Children need to learn about ways to prevent sickness.
• Your child should cover their mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing.
• After using the tissue, make sure it goes straight in the bin.
• Make sure they wash or sanitise their hands more frequently when they are sick.
• Discourage your child from covering their mouth with their hands while coughing or sneezing because this will leave germs on the hands that can be spread by touching other people or objects. Most often, germs are spread by the hands, not through the air.
• Discourage your child from using their elbow or sleeve when they don’t have a tissue. Teach them that this is not right and if they don’t have a tissue, try and find someone who does.
9. Food hygiene
It is important to teach your child about the importance of food hygiene as unhealthy eating habits lead to food poisoning that could result in vomiting, diarrhoea or stomach ache. It is important to maintain hygiene when eating, serving or preparing food to prevent bacteria from spreading from one person to another.
• Start with the basics. Talk to them about germs and bacteria. Explain to them how quickly bacteria can spread from their hands to the food and into their bodies.
• Make sure your child washes their hands before touching any food.
• If your child is helping you cook, get them to wear clean aprons and tie their hair back.
• Teach them not to sneeze or cough on the food. If they are not well, ask them not to enter the kitchen.
• Teach your children to always put food away and not leave cartons open or lids off anything.
• Your child should learn that sharing cups and eating utensils, is an easy way to spread germs and become sick, and should therefore be avoided.
As we can see bad personal hygiene can harm a child’s health in several ways. Unclean children are more prone to illness, either from the dirt itself or from exposure to cold and flu germs and other illnesses carried by others. As a parent you hear it time and time again – Children thrive on routines. Incorporating hygiene into your child’s routine is the best way to teach them and for them to maintain the good habits they have learned. As your child starts to perform these tasks daily, they will begin to accept them as part of their daily life. A great way to engage children is to increase the excitement for the task by adding in a little incentive. Make it fun and not mundane.