I can remember each of my children’s first baths. Oh the sense of accomplishment I got from washing them head to toe, trimming their nails, and swaddling them in clean clothing and linens. I would smell the tops of their damp downy heads.
I never imagined that this precious nightly routine could become a bit tedious.
With four kids to wash (that’s 80 finger & toenails to trim!), dozens of teeth to brush, etc., it has always been important to me to teach my kids how to groom themselves. The key to self care for kids is making it fun and empowering the child (rather than creating a battle.) Here’s some of the self care tasks that my kids have been able to tackle solo, or with only minimal help from about age 6 or 7. My trick? Having the right gear.
The Skill: Washing their own hair and bodies
- All in one bodywash and shampoo (let kids pick the scent that appeals to them)
- Netted “scrubbie” that can hang in the shower (each kid gets their own color)
- Handheld shower sprayer for hair rinsing
After explaining and demonstrating the way the shower works, and supervising a few times to be sure they know how much shampoo to use and how to get all the shampoo out, our kids are now all shower independent. Tip: It’s a good idea to ensure your hot water heater doesn’t allow the hot water to get hot enough to burn anyone, if your 7-9 year old is showering independently.
The Skill: Applying sunscreen
- Self pumping sunscreen or kid friendly spray sunscreen
I wish I could take full credit for this one, but it was my kid’s summer camps that taught them all to use sunscreen! Living in southern California, we always applied sunscreen on our kids first thing in the morning. But once they got to camp, their counselors made a game of the re-application. “Simon Says put sunscreen on your arms…” Once I realized how great my kids were at sunscreening up on their own, I checked that one off my list.
The Skill: Detangling their own hair
- Detangling hair spray
My daughters have very long hair and super sensitive scalps. (I’ve threatened to shave their heads a hundred times!) We went out and bought new hairbrushes and detangling spray in their choice of scent. I gave them a choice they could do it or I could. Turns out that even at 7 or 8, given the right tools, they were pretty good at it! No more fighting.
The Skill: Trimming toe nails.
- Safety clippers
My oldest son used to HATE having his toenails clipped. He would dread bathtime because he knew we were going to trim nails after. Even though he’d never been cut, he had a tremendous fear of this. So one day I handed him a basic pair of nail clippers and told him that they were only for big kids, and he would have to be very, very careful with them, taking great care not to cut himself. I was pretty sure that he couldn’t do too much damage with them, but the point was that I put him in control. He was 6 and a half at the time.
Turned out he did a terrific job. He was so proud of himself and now trims his own nails exclusively. He’s never cut himself and keeps his nails in great shape without having to be reminded.
The Skill: Brushing Teeth
- A great toothbrush like Philips Sonicare for kids and a toothpaste flavor they really like!
We’ve always made tooth-brushing a part of the daily routine, reminding our kids at night and in the a.m. to brush. But the fact of the matter is that when our kids have a toothbrush and toothpaste they love using, there is no need to remind them. Their Sonicare toothbrushes put the power (literally) in their hands to brush effectively and responsibly. So, now I can relax. They’ve got this handled.
Note: I still like to snuggle them and kiss the tops of their fresh clean heads. Some things won’t ever change.