What is personal hygiene and why is it important for kids? Personal hygiene, in simple terms, is the act of keeping oneself clean. As we all know, children love to run about and play, getting themselves, especially their hands dirty; and they sweat. If not cleaned properly, their chances of ingesting germs is higher, thereby risking their health as their immune levels are way lower than adults.
12 Essential hygiene practices your toddler must learn :
- The number one golden rule is WASHING HANDS. Always wash hands after each restroom use. and before and after each meal/snack. If you have pets at home, then a hand wash is required each time the child touches the pet.
- BRUSHING – Brush teeth and clean tongue at least twice a day and compulsorily in the mornings. During the night sleep, our body detoxifies and the waste is found as white debris on the surface of the tongue which is nothing but dead cells and bacteria and should not be ingested. Only after proper brushing should the first meal or drink be offered to the child. Similarly, brush at nights before bedtime to remove any stubborn food particles.
- Wash up immediately after playground visits. Hands, feet, face and any other exposed area is to be washed well. The sand pit area has many germs that are invisible to the naked eye and can easily cling on to the child’s hands, especially inside nail beds. The same applies for indoor playgrounds, as they are equally dirty if not dirtier.
- Teach the child to wash armpit area, genitals and to clean the nostrils and the area behind the ears everyday during bath. Children have to bathe daily as the skin is an excellent place for harbouring bacteria and other germs. Wash hair at least twice a week.
- Advise child not to share straw water bottles with peers. Germs transfer easily via saliva. Similarly lollipops and other such foods should not be shared.
- Wear a clean set of clothes for the child every day. Preferably, a separate set of night clothes which is loose fitting while sleeping. Do not let the child sleep in the same clothes which he/she wore to the playground as it may be sweat soaked and dirty, even if it isn’t visibly dirty or smelly.
- STRICTLY no footwear inside the house – have a designated area outside or just inside the house to keep footwear. Footwear is the carrier of most germs. If the weather is too cold, have a separate set of indoor footwear.
- No gadgets at the table. Did you know that your cell phone carries more germs than your toilet?
- Never share hygiene products. All kids need a separate toothbrush, tongue cleaner, combs, inner wear and socks exclusively for themselves.
- Wash feet after each outdoor trip.
- Never grow their fingernails too long as nail beds make excellent shelter for germs and food remnants.
- Exercise extra caution with hygiene when the child or any member in the family is sick, especially with cold, coughs and other contagious diseases. Teach the child to cover the mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of germs.
Remember, our children are not under our constant supervision. It’s our primary responsibility to train them to maintain personal hygiene. The initial days might require extra attention, effort and persuasion, but it definitely pays in the long run. Kids remember something when it is fun, let’s see how to make personal hygiene into a fun activity so that kids don’t dread it.
Few fun activities that you could try with your child :
- Sing a song while the child brushes. It could be the rhyme, “this is the way we brush our teeth…..”, or any other song. Children enjoy the attention and fun which takes away the monotony of brushing.
- Points or stars for “good habits.” Chart out a table for the child and reward him every time he displays an act of personal hygiene. Motivation is a great tool to get kids going.
- Pretend play – Paint your kid’s finger tips telling him to pretend it is bacteria. Then allow him to touch food particles (for example, cheese slice or chapathi dough) and see the colour transfer telling him that germs, although invisible, transfer the same way.
And like I always stress, we are our child’s role models. By displaying and maintaining personal hygiene ourselves, we teach the kids through our actions which sometimes speak louder than our words!! Stay safe, stay clean and stay happy!:)