Some of the most important life lessons that parents impart to their children have to do with cleanliness. As you've probably figured out, children weren't born knowing how to take care of themselves. If you don't teach your child how to keep herself clean from the beginning, you'll find that teaching her later on in life will be much more difficult. Proper hygiene methods can become a part of your child's life and lead to good health, a stress-free social life and a comfortable lifestyle.
Keeping Hands Clean
Possibly one of the first hygiene practices you'll want to teach your child is hand washing. Hands spread germs, as well as receive germs from others. Children tend to touch anything and everything, coming into contact with various bacteria and viruses each day. Make sure your child washes her hands after handling food, going to the bathroom or playing in water, sand or with animals. Teach your child proper hand-washing methods, which include wetting the hands, lathering with soap, scrubbing the hands for at least five seconds and drying them with a clean towel.
Teaching your child proper illness prevention techniques can keep germs from spreading from one kid to another. Besides the frequent washing of hands, children should learn coughing and sneezing etiquette. Have your child practice over and over coughing or sneezing into a tissue, her sleeve or crook of her elbow. She shouldn't be sneezing into the air, onto any surfaces or into her hand -- and definitely not onto another person!
When your child was younger, you were the one bathing her. Once she has developed the necessary motor skills to give herself a bath or shower, show her the proper way to bathe. Showers are preferable to baths because they wash cleaner and decrease the chances of getting a urinary tract infection. Teach your child to wash her hair thoroughly. Show her how to clean the rest of her body with soap and rinse it off well. Private parts must be cleaned meticulously because they have many hidden crevices where germs and dirt can accumulate, so your child should take special care when washing herself "down there."
Taking Care of Teeth
Remind your child that her teeth need to last a lifetime. When she's able to use a toothbrush, she should learn how to brush her own teeth. Help her to understand that eating food causes bacteria to produce a substance called plaque to form on the teeth. This plaque causes the gums to swell and become sore, a condition called gingivitis. Bacteria also produces acids that eat away at teeth, causing holes called cavities.
To combat cavities and gingivitis, children should brush at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Show your child how to brush in a circular motion -- front, sides and back -- for at least two to three minutes. Kids should also learn flossing techniques. Antibacterial mouthwash and brushing the tongue can get rid of much of the unhealthy bacteria left in the mouth and on the tongue.
Clean and Shiny Hair
Your child's hair and nails are just as important as teeth. Supervise your child's hair-washing technique, making sure she wets both hair and scalp with warm water. She should then put a drop of shampoo as big as a quarter into her hand and massage the shampoo into the deepest parts of the scalp, then rinse the hair thoroughly with clear water. Instead of rubbing the hair with a towel, which damages hair strands, your child should wrap her hair up in a towel to help it dry. A wide-toothed comb helps get rid of tangles with minimal pain.
Healthy, clean nails reflect a healthy body. Make sure your child has enough fine motor skills to hold onto a nail trimmer before you let her trim her own nails. Children should trim their nails after a bath or shower. Both fingernails and toenails should be cut straight across to guard against ingrown nails. In addition to keeping fingernails short, children should dry their hands well to avoid contracting a nail infection. Toenails often become infected, so make sure your child changes her socks every day to prevent germs from growing underneath toenails. Kids should never go barefoot in public places; this prevents toenail infections.
Sharing with a Buddy
Children grow up being encouraged to share, but not everything should be shared, even between the best of buddies. Sharing objects such as combs and brushes can lead to the transmission of head lice. Using the same toothbrushes, utensils and lip products can transfer germs and the herpes virus. Eye makeup sharing may lead to pinkeye infections and other skin conditions. Manicuring items such as nail clippers can transmit the germs that lead to nail infections. Always remind your children that they shouldn't share personal items with friends, no matter how close they are.