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Teaching Your Child Good Personal Hygiene

Health and hygiene go hand in hand -- so teach your kids these hygiene habits


Make sure to clean away all the dirt
Abel Mitja Varela/Vetta/Getty Images

Teaching the basics of proper personal hygiene is important for keeping kids healthy and clean. It’s especially important for grade-schoolers to practice good hygiene -- particularly hand washing -- because they spend so much of their time in close contact with each other in the classroom, sharing everything from desks and chairs to germs. And when your grade-schooler reaches adolescence, hormonal changes will lead to increased production of oils in skin and hair and more stinkiness in body odor. That’s when you will be glad you didn’t wait till then to instill good health and hygiene habits! Some good personal hygiene practices to teach your child:

Teach proper hand washing.
The most important health and hygiene habit to teach your child is to wash her hands, especially after coming home from school or playing outside and before eating. Hand washing is, without a doubt, one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs and illnesses. With younger grade-schoolers, you may need to remind them from time to time not to splash and dash -- run their hands for two seconds under the tap without soap and call it done. Make sure your child uses soap and lathers for at least 15 seconds (with the tap turned off to conserve water) before rinsing.

Teach him to cover sneezes and coughs.
Germs can travel far and wide on a sneeze or a cough. Get your child into the habit of covering his mouth and nose with a tissue (or his arm if he can’t reach a tissue fast enough) when he sneezes or coughs.

Remind her not to touch her eyes or mouth or to pick her nose.
Germs can easily enter the body through the mucous membranes of the eyes and through the nose and mouth.

Encourage good dental health and hygiene.
Grade-school age children have the motor skills necessary to do a fairly good job of brushing teeth on their own (though you may still want to take a quick turn until he’s 6 or 7). Get your child into the habit of flossing, and if he has bad breath, have him gently scrape the back of his tongue with his toothbrush. Get a fun timer to help your child brush longer, like a cool little hourglass filled with blue sand.

Set up regular bath times.
Many parents find that evening baths are a nice way to relax a child before bed. And bathing the night before can help ease the morning rush. Some grade-schoolers prefer showers, which can also save a lot of time on a busy school night or morning. Showers can also save water. Many kids can shower on their own starting around age 6. You may want to supervise the shampooing and rinsing till she gets the hang of it. And be sure to put down a secure bath mat to prevent any slips on the wet floor when she’s done.

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