Almost every toddler possesses the natural inclination to get dirty. In fact, many of these little ones seem to master the art of getting all messy down to a pat. Rest assured that most little ones don’t dirty themselves just for the sake of annoying their parents (though sometimes the look of horror in some parents’ faces are enough to amuse any kid!). Well, while it’s all fun to get messy now and then, as parents we have the responsibility to instil a sense of hygiene and cleanliness into our little ones’ minds, so that they will grow up knowing how to take better care of themselves and to avoia germ-related sicknesses.
It is not a pretty thought, but toddlers and germs are a synonymous pair, so much so that they go, well, hand in hand ( more in the hands of the tots, actually!). A young child with a runny nose generally thinks nothing of rubbing the snort off his nose with his hand and thereafter, placing that same hand over a buddy’s shoulder. Similarly, few toddlers give much thought to picking up a snack which has fallen off their hands onto the hygienically questionable surface of a floor and popping it back into their mouth, especially if they were enjoying their food in the first place. So, where do we begin to teach our young ones about the virtues of cleanliness for their own health and well being? From as young as possible, of course! The following are some useful points to keep in mind when teaching toddlers about hygiene.
Keep those hands clean!
Some parents seem to be blessed with little clean freaks who just don’t like getting their hands dirty, but most are not. Keeping little hands clean is the first step in teaching kids about hygiene because hands are literally the main gateway for germs to travel from the surroundings into the body. Ensure your toddler washes his or her hands at these times:
- After a potty session or using the toilet
- Before every meal or snack
- After spending time at a playground
- As soon as they reach home from any kind of outing
- After an arts and crafts class
- After playing with a petHighlighted
Make hand washing time less boring
Toddlers are attracted to fun things all the time and more likely to wash willingly if they have ‘tools’ they like, hence you can liven up hand washing times with colourful animal shaped soaps or hand-washes in attractive dispensers. Attractive hand towels to wipe hands dry afterwards can also be little motivations to help them look forward to washing their hands. Tip: To ensure they wash long enough to remove all dirt and grime, have them sing a nursery rhyme, such as the alphabet song, as an indication of how long they should take to wash.
Kiddy see, kiddy do
The best way to get your toddler to pick up good hygiene habits is by setting an example yourself. If your kids see you washing your hands before a meal or after using the toilet often enough, they will soon pick up the habit out of imitating you. Therefore, do make sure you constantly display good habits for them to emulate.
Make it convenient
Teach your little one how to use a hand sanitiser properly and keep bottles of kid-friendly ones handy around the house for quick and easy clean-ups. Kids will take to keeping their hands clean and germ-free more willingly if it’s convenient to do so.
Games to teach toddlers about good hygiene
Where are the germs?
Teach children about the spread of germs with a demonstration game of how germs can live on hands and spread to the things they touch. For this game, you will need some washable paint. Pretend to sneeze into your bare hands and then cover your hands in the washable paint. Explain to your child or children that the paint represent the germs that were expelled from your body. Then go around touching things around the room, leaving behind a ‘trail of germs’ for them to see. After that, reinforce the lesson by having the kids find and identify all the surfaces where germs now live and how it got there. – (From your transferring them around the room by not washing your hands after sneezing into them or not covering your mouth with a hanky or tissue
Good habits, bad habits
Get about 12 small pieces of papers. Write one good habit each in six pieces of paper ( brushing the teeth after each meal, washing hands after using the toilet, etc..) and one bad habits each in the remaining six pieces of paper ( picking the nose with your fingers, coughing or sneezing without covering the mouth, etc..) . Fold all the pieces of paper and place them in a bottle or box. Then have your kid/kids draw out one paper at a time to see what’s written on it. If your kid is still illiterate, read it out loud. Then let them determine if its a good habit or bad one while explaining why so.
The matching game
For this game, use two sets of index cards. On one set, draw a picture of a hygiene care tool on each of the card – toothbrush, nail-clipper, shampoo, etc. On the other set, draw pictures of body parts which correspond to the tools you have drawn on the previous set of cards – teeth, fingernails, hair, etc. Spread out the cards facing down and have your little one open flip them over to try to find the corresponding cards.
A great way to teach young kids hygiene while having fun! Write down various hygiene care actions such as “ Brushing teeth” and “Washing hands” etc on pieces of papers. Let one child read it and try to act out the action while the other/others guess what the action is about. This game can also double up as a game to teach the proper ways to carry out hygiene care.
To the toilet we go!
First and foremost, resist making a big deal out of poop and pee, for the last thing you want is a toddler with an unhealthy phobia about these normal bodily functions! While its completely harmless to say things like “ Now, let’s flush this stinky poop down the toilet”, try not to make it sound like the stool itself is revolting. Toddlers are vulnerable and they might unintentionally become ashamed of passing stools or urinating and needless to say, encounter problems down this road.
Remind them that pooping and peeing are completely normal bodily functions but they need to be managed well for they contain germs, so they always have to wash their hands after a potty session.
Teach them to wash/wipe themselves
Potty times are much more manageable with seats designed for little bottoms, either self-contained ones or ones that fit atop an adults toilet seat. While it’s always a good idea to do a once over after a kid is done, have the little one wash/wipe with toilet tissue, teaching the correct techniques according to your culture or how you see fit. When teaching little girls to wipe, don’t neglect to point out the ‘front to back’ technique to prevent bacteria from the rectum from infecting the vagina or bladder.
As much as we feel the need to always bathe our little ones ourselves to ensure that they are really clean, do remember that toddlers love to learn new things, including how to take a bath. If your little one expresses that he or she would like to bathe themselves, it is actually the perfect opportunity to teach them how. Allowing children to take a bath themselves while keeping a watchful eye on them can be a great way to get them interested in a bath time routine.
When dealing with toddlers in the bathroom we need to understand them and respect their likes and dislikes and be sensitive to their needs. While many kids take to water like a ballerina to her tutus, just as many have an unexplainable phobia of getting wet. To make bath time more appealing for such kids, get creative with the bath products you choose! Colorfully packaged body washes, soft, attractive wash-cloths and bath toys are some of the ‘tools’ that can be utilised to make bath times more appealing for these little enemies of water. Choose gentle, non-tear body washes or head-to-toe cleanser so that they will not sting their eyes with the suds.
Announce and name each and every body part during your toddler’s bath time and explain why it is important to keep these parts clean. Teaching a small child the proper names of their body parts will also make it easier for them to inform you at any time if a particular place on their body is in pain or needs your attention.
Bath time is also the perfect time to re-instate the importance of keeping their private parts clean. Teach them how to properly clean their genitals and rectum to keep bacteria away. Most important of all, help them to master the art of rinsing off every scrap of cleanser from every part of their body to prevent the onset of uncomfortable rashes.
Keeping a head of clean hair
When we talk about toddlers who behave like they’re allergic to baths, most of the time, if not always, the real problem is when its hair washing time. Cut off half the stress by choosing a non-tear formula shampoo, for most little bath rebels are just petrified tots who have accidentally stung their eyes with suds. The rest are just naturally wary of the idea of water running down their faces, cutting off their freedom to breathe for a few split seconds. If you are faced with such a situation, teach your little one how to tilt the head in such a way that the least possible amount of water passes down the face. Alternatively, you can get an appropriately sized bath visor which will protect little faces from water and suds come rinsing time.
Teach toddlers to brush or comb their hair to prevent knots. A good detangling shampoo for children and/ or conditioner will make the process more pleasant and manageable. A soft nylon brush made especially for toddlers is best for their delicate head of hair.
In these modern time, we would like to think that hair lice are a thing of the past, but unfortunately, there are still cases of outbreak now and then. Always perform routine checks on your little ones hair to make sure that he or she has not carried home some uninvited pest from playschool, the playground or heaven forbid, even from a kids’ party. In the event that you find lice in your child’s hair, consult your doctor at once for a prescription for the best lice medication to use for your child’s age. Remind your little one about the importance of not sharing combs, hats, caps or hair accessories with others to prevent the spread of head lice.