No one wants their child to be the smelly kid in class, but convincing them of the importance of brushing their teeth and washing their body can be tricky and frustrating. To a kid, hygiene can seem like a hassle. Lather? Rinse? Repeat? What’s the point?
Until they reach the teenage years and realize the opposite sex appreciates the use of soap, toothpaste, and deodorant, teaching children that practicing good hygiene is essential to their health and well-being can be a daily challenge.
Lucky for you, there are ways to make the journey to having an independent, sweet-smelling, and squeaky clean kid a little less arduous. Dr. Matthew Weimer, a family physician who has been practicing for four years, has a few ideas about how to encourage children to practice good grooming habits.
Here are 7 helpful tips for instilling proper hygiene habits in your child:
1. Start With The Basics
“Hand washing is one of the most important hygiene practices we can teach our kids. The basics include washing several times daily, especially after using the bathroom, using soap and water (preferable to alcohol-based hand sanitizers), using friction when washing, washing for an appropriate period of time, and proper rinsing,” says Dr. Weimer. According to the Center for Disease Control, soap and water are preferable to hand sanitizers because sanitizers don’t eliminate all types of germs and are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty. To encourage children to scrub for an appropriate amount of time, try having them sing “Happy Birthday” while they wash. Go on. Sing it with them. It’s fun.
2. Have Fun With Hygiene
Turn blowing a runny nose into your best horn impression. Use those shampoo suds to turn their hair into a mohawk or bath bubbles into a beard. Do a dance while brushing teeth each morning. Who said hygiene has to be a chore?
3. Lead By Example
Let your child observe your own routine. Invite them into the bathroom while you brush your teeth, comb your hair, and wash your face at night. Remind yourself aloud within their earshot to wash your hands before preparing dinner. If they see you taking care to wash and brush, they will be more likely to follow suit.
4. Explain The Importance Of Grooming
“From my perspective as a physician, I like the idea of using hygiene to introduce basic, age-appropriate concepts of health, wellness, and disease,” says Dr. Weimer. “Kids can grasp the idea of infection (like icky colds with runny noses) without knowing the scary details. Kids of certain ages can understand the ideas that diseases can be communicable and that they can prevent transmission by practicing good hygiene. (Plus you’re laying the foundation for those fun STD talks in later years!)”
5. Make Use Of Visual Or Interactive Resources
You say you want to teach your child to groom themselves? There’s an app for that! For starters, download Pepi Bath. It allows your child to choose a girl or boy character and role play — putting clothes in the machine, washing hands, shampooing hair, and, yes, even using the toilet — in a fun and engaging way. There are also tons of children’s books and videos on the subject. Relax and let their favorite character teach them about the importance of proper hygiene.
6. Buy Something Special They Will Look Forward To Using
A great way to engage children in their own grooming is to pump up the excitement for the task by adding in a little incentive. It can be as simple as toothpaste in their favorite flavor, a brand new rubber duck, or a cool light-up tooth brush. It doesn’t take much to make the mundane magical.
Check out the best bath toys for kids
7. Make It Routine
As parents, we hear it time and time again. Children thrive on routines. Incorporate hair and teeth brushing into your morning and evening ritual. Make bath time a precursor to your bedtime story. As they start to perform these tasks daily, they will begin to accept them as part of their daily life. They may even surprise you and remind you when you’ve forgotten an important part of the hygiene routine!