Help your Kids Turn Personal Hygiene into Habits

by Jodi Gilray-Szostak, PT, DPT, c/NDT, Jodi Gilray Pediatric Therapy

Personal hygiene tasks are superb for fine motor skills practice. For your kiddo, sticking to hygiene routines also encourages them to build self-esteem.

Squeaky Clean Over Here

While a task may take 20 seconds for an adult, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a kiddo will have similar success right off the bat. It takes time and energy to teach kids new skills.

Consistency is a must.

Aim to complete tasks at the same time such as washing hands always before meals and after using the bathroom. Set the example.

Take the learning process one step at a time. If you see your kiddo cough in the store without covering their mouth, give them a gentle reminder and have them model it with you.

Another tip for personal hygiene success: allow for enough time.

Your kiddo may need more than one reminder, require your help or decide to take their precious time. Allow for this time to spend learning.

If you have trouble getting your kiddo to complete certain tasks, try giving a fun spin to an activity by setting up a playlist. Teach them to sing a song such as the ABCs or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star while washing their hands.

Consider rewarding your kiddo with stickers or a small gift at the end of the week for a job well done. Personal hygiene can be made into a fun event.

Habits to Add to your Day-to-Day

We need to know the specifics of each habit. Create a small-scale plan. Jumping in blindly could result in rushed, inconsistent or sloppy practices. Think water all over the sink or forgetting to use soap.

With handwashing, for example, you’ll want to make sure your child knows how to complete the task (with soap and water at a sink) and for how long (around 20 seconds every time before eating/after using bathroom/after blowing nose).

Here are some other personal hygiene habits to consider putting into daily practice:

  • Take baths or showers
  • Brush and floss teeth
  • Changing and washing clothes
  • Brushing hair

Starting habits as early as possible can encourage children to take what they learned right into adulthood.