The Importance of Teaching Your Child Personal Hygiene

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Personal hygiene is an important form of self-care that will ensure that your child will lead a healthy life. Forming good hygiene practice from early childhood can have a positive effect on your child’s growth and development. Your child will also learn to be independent and boost their confidence and self-esteem.1

These tips can be very useful to ensure that your child is equipped with the best defence against all forms of bacteria and viruses.

For children, the basics of good personal hygiene include:2

  • Hand-washing
  • Covering their nose and/or mouth when coughing or sneezing
  • Regular baths or showers
  • Brushing and flossing their teeth

Hand-washing is the best defence against any bacteria and viruses. You can teach your child good hygiene practices from home. Here are some ways you can explain and teach your child basic personal hygiene:

Hand-washing

One of the most important, and the easiest, hygiene practice your child should master is hand-washing. It is important to explain why your child needs to do this regularly. You can tell them that “we wash our hands to get rid of dirt and germs that make us sick”.3

Another way you can explain the importance of hand-washing is to show what happens to germs when we wash our hands. A recent viral video done by a pre-school teacher is a good way to demonstrate what happens when you wash your hands with soap:

  1. Fill a plate with water and black pepper
  2. Dip your child’s finger into the water and hold it there
  3. When they remove their finger, there will be bits of black pepper stuck to it
  4. Dip the same finger into a plate of soap and swish it around to ensure that the soap coats their finger
  5. When they dip the same finger into the plate of black pepper water, the black pepper should repel away from the soap-coated finger

By visualising what happens to germs and viruses, your child will most likely understand why they should be washing their hands regularly. Encourage your child to wash their hands with soap and water:

  • When their hands look dirty
  • Before and after preparing food
  • Before and after eating
  • After going to the toilet
  • After blowing their nose, sneezing, or coughing
  • After touching animals
  • After playing outside

Now that they understand why it is important to keep their hands clean, it is time to teach your child the proper hand-washing techniques:

  1. Teach your child how to wash their hands. Ensure that they wash:
  • Their palms and fingers
  • The back of their hands
  • Their fingers and knuckles
  • Their thumbs
  • Their fingertips and wrists
  1. Make sure that they are washing with soap for at least 20 seconds. You can make this fun by singing some songs together:
  • Happy Birthday
  • The Alphabet Song
  • Wash Your Hands (to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat)4

     “Wash, wash, wash my hands

      Make them nice and clean.

      Rub the bottoms, and the tops

      And fingers in between.”

  1. Ensure that they wipe their hands dry after washing them.

The best way to teach your child is to lead by example. Remember to wash your hands after doing any of the above activities and your child will follow suit. By teaching your child to wash their hands and keep themselves clean, it also teaches them to practice social responsibility.

Coughing and sneezing etiquette

Coughing and sneezing is a common way for germs to spread. You can explain this to your child by showing them how a sneeze or cough travels.

  • Take a spray bottle and coloured water (e.g. food dye in water)
  • Pretend that the water is a sneeze/cough
  • Spray it on a blank paper or tissue to see how far and wide the coloured water ‘germs’ can reach5

This will teach them that it is important to cover their mouth and/or nose when they cough or sneeze to prevent the germs from spreading. It is crucial that they cover their nose and/or mouth with a tissue or cough/sneeze into their elbow to prevent the ‘spray’.

Leading by example

The easiest way to develop good hygiene habits is to keep practicing and lead by example. By washing their hands regularly, your child will lower their risk of contracting COVID-19 and also prevent the spread of any other virus or bacteria to their peers.

As long as your child is able to do the 2 basic hygiene practices, they have mastered the best defence against many types of bacteria and viruses, while developing self-help skills and learning about social responsibility.

 

References

  1. Ivy Prep Team. Developing Good Personal Hygiene Practices in Children. (Link)
  2. Health Direct. Personal hygiene for children. (Link)
  3. Reece, T. Teaching Toddlers About Hygiene. (Link)
  4. Columbus Public Health. Teaching Handwashing. (Link)
  5. Understanding Germs for Kids: 20 Fun Ways to Teach Your Kids about Germs. (Link)
  6. Proper Hand washing for kids and parents. (Image Link)
  7. Teaching children social responsibility (Link)
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