Hygiene is one of the most important factors in maintaining good health, so it’s a good idea to instill these habits early. As one of the most controllable aspects of wellness, good hygiene can give your child a great foundation for a healthy life.
Let’s review some basic facts about what hygiene is and some tips on how to build healthy habits for your body and home.
We often think first of cleanliness when it comes to hygiene. While being clean is a large part of good hygiene, it isn’t the whole picture.
Hygiene doesn’t just mean washing hands or cleaning up after using the toilet; it actually applies to all aspects of wellness, including making sure you get plenty of sleep, good nutrition, and exercise. Hygiene is made up of all the habits that maintain health and prevent the spread of disease.
Hygiene is also a social skill. According to SLP Social, an organization that provides social skills training for teens and young adults, “When we communicate with other people, we can pick up on social cues related to hygiene and personal care. We often find that lack of awareness about personal hygiene can have a negative impact on an individual’s ability to make and maintain friendships.”
There are a few universal hygiene basics that kids should learn. While there are several habits to master, they can all be done together in a pretty short amount of time.
Wash hands before meals, after using the bathroom, and after playing outside. Washing hands removes dirt and bacteria, which helps to prevent the spread of illness. Hand sanitizer is great for on the go, but washing hands with warm water and soap is preferred.
Brush teeth twice a day (morning and night). Removing plaque and food is essential in order to prevent the buildup of bacteria in the mouth. Brushing twice a day lowers the risk of developing cavities and gingivitus – not to mention bad breath!
Wash your face daily to remove dirt, sweat, and makeup. Daily washing is a great habit to start early. As children approach adolescence, unwashed skin can lead to acne. Our faces usually aren’t protected by clothing throughout the day, so is exposed to environmental pollutants that much more.
Wear clean clothes every day. Throughout the day, we sweat and accumulate dirt on our clothes. Wearing dirty clothes is uncomfortable and causes an odor.
Keep nails trimmed and neat. It’s easy for filth to get trapped under the fingernails, leading to the spread of germs. Short, clean nails are the most hygienic. Take care of the toes, too!
Take care of hair by brushing it daily. Daily brushing helps keep the hair clean, neat, and free of tangles. Long hair can be braided or tied back to keep it more manageable.
Keep living spaces neat and orderly. An organized living space is much easier to keep clean and sanitary. The more clutter there is, the more places there are for germs, dust, and filth to accumulate. Clean frequently, with periodic deep cleaning in your home to combat hidden messes.
Bathe or shower regularly. Removing sweat and dirt from the skin is essential. Small children may only need to bathe a couple of times a week, while teens will likely need daily baths or showers.
Healthy habits are also an aspect of hygiene. It’s important to get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, eat healthy food, get outside often for exercise, and avoid drugs and alcohol.
Helping kids learn hygiene habits isn’t always easy. Establishing new habits is a challenge for anyone, but by getting an early start, your child can enjoy the results of good hygiene for life.
Songs can help your child remember the steps to take when performing personal care. Songs can also serve as a “timer” to make sure that kids are thorough when washing their hands or brushing their teeth. The Itsy Bitsy Spider takes about 20 seconds to sing at a regular pace, so it’s a perfect song to sing while washing hands. Kids should brush their teeth for at least 2 minutes, so choose a song they love to play or sing while brushing. Encourage them to focus on brushing every tooth.
Children who thrive on rewards might find a sticker chart to be a helpful visual aid when establishing hygiene habits. Encourage your child to check off each daily habit as they’re completed to stay consistent. If you want to take it even further, you could offer a prize or fun outing when they reach a certain milestone.
Choosing clean clothes to wear each day can be overwhelming, especially if mornings are busy. Take time every week to help your child prepare outfits for each day. Bundle entire outfits together, including socks and underwear. It will be much easier to put on a fresh outfit each morning when they’re ready to grab and go.
Germs and dirt can easily hide in piles of clothing, toys, and clutter. Keeping the bedroom as organized as possible makes it that much easier to sanitize. Encourage your child to dust and vacuum their bedroom frequently.
After sticking with a routine for a while, we can almost do them on “autopilot” without much thought. Help your child make good hygiene a lifelong routine by doing personal care tasks in the same order each time.
Hygiene can be fun! Toddlers can have more fun while taking a bath with bubbles, fun toys, bath crayons, and colorful soap.
Give each family member their own personal care tools in an attractive bag. Include a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, soap or body wash. Older kids and teens could also have their own nail care kit.
Finally, modeling good hygiene habits as a parent is another way to help your child learn the basics. Don’t forget your own self care!
Katie Reed is a passionate writer and mother of four vivacious boys from Salt Lake City, Utah. Drawing from her own journey through TTC, pregnancy, and the joys of raising children, she offers a wealth of insight into the world of motherhood. Beyond her heartfelt tales, Katie delights her readers with family-friendly recipes, engaging crafts, and a curated library of printables for both kids and adults. When she’s not penning her experiences, you’ll find her crafting memories with her husband and sons—Dexter, Daniel, Chester, and Wilder.