Keep germs at bay! Good personal hygiene habits are your child’s first line of defense against sickness. Help your child stay healthy by teaching kids about hygiene.
(And be sure to download the FREE hygiene activity packet!)
Teaching Kids About Hygiene and Germs
Most children are happy to comply with a personal hygiene routine; they just need to know why they are doing it. It’s not too early to tell your kids about germs in a way they can understand.
Introduce the idea that some things are very tiny. Can they see a freckle on their arm? What about a tiny hair? If they look closely at the skin on their arm, it might look smooth, but it is made of billions of tiny skin cells all stuck together. These cells are like LEGO bricks that stick together to form the skin we see.
These skin cells are tiny, so tiny we can’t see them with our eyes. We would need a special tool called a microscope to see them.
Did you know there is something even smaller than cells? These are called germs.
Germs can get inside your body through your mouth, nose, and open cuts and sometimes make you sick.
The good news? We can do some simple things to keep the germs away.
Here are some ideas for hygiene lessons you can teach your child. Teach one lesson about hygiene at a time. Give your child a week or two to put it into practice (and maybe form a habit), and then introduce the next lesson.
How to Wash Your Hands
This is the single most effective way to battle germs. Because we touch everything, germs get on our hands. But germs can easily be washed down the sink with a little soap and water.
Rub your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (and don’t forget to wash your thumb!). You can sing “Happy Birthday” or another tune to help time the scrubbing.
When to Wash Your Hands
It is one thing to know how to wash your hands, it is another thing to know when to do it. Here are four occasions where washing your hands helps rid you (and others) of germs:
- After using the bathroom
- Before eating
- Before preparing food for yourself or others
- When you come in from playing outside
Keep Your Nails Clean
Our hands are the germiest parts of our body because they touch doorknobs, desks, toothbrush holders, and other germ hot spots.
We wash our hands, but we forget that germs can hide under our nails.
Keep your child’s nails clipped short so germs can’t find safe harbor. You can also keep a nail brush by the bathroom sink to brush under your nails.
Brush Your Teeth
The benefits of brushing your teeth move beyond keeping them shiny.
It destroys the bacteria that ultimately cause cavities to form. The bacteria eat the food particles in your mouth and excrete an acid that eats away at your teeth.
Brush away those germs and leftover food particles by moving the toothbrush in a circular motion along the outer sides of your teeth, the inner sides, the tops of your molar, and your tongue.
Take your time; use 2 minutes as a guide.
Some toothbrushes will blink or make sounds for 2 minutes while you brush. Some electric toothbrushes turn on for 2-minute segments.
Looking for some musical reinforcement of this hygiene lesson? This song by Raffi is a classic!
Floss Your Teeth
Food particles often stick between teeth, and you need floss to remove them.
Even if your child currently has ample space between his teeth, he is not too young to establish this habit of healthy hygiene.
Flossers are a brilliant invention to make flossing a snap for small fingers. I love these G.U.M Crayola flossers. What kid doesn’t love grape flavor?
If your child has braces, these specialized orthodontic flossers are small enough to slide under the wires–no threading required!
Whether your child is a fan of the bath or shower, bathing is a must!
Your child should bathe at least three times a week. Teach her to soap up a washcloth or loofah/pouf ball and make sure to wash “down” their body.
She should start with her face and neck and then move down. Make sure not to forget her ears, underarms, feet, and bottom!
Wash Your Hair
Although different hair types have different needs, in general, your child should wash her hair twice a week.
Teach her the correct size of shampoo dollop she should use (my favorite kid shampoos use a pump). Then teach her to massage her scalp and work the shampoo from root to tip.
The missing step for most kids is rinsing thoroughly. Just as you massaged the shampoo into your hair, you need to massage it out of your hair while running it under streaming water.
Cover Your Cough
This simple hygiene lesson can keep your child’s germs from spreading everywhere!
Teach your child the “vampire cough,” in which he coughs into the crook of his elbow. This keeps the germs off his hands (and the next place he touches).
If you have a child with allergies, invest in pocket tissue packs so he can catch those frequent sneezes with something disposable.
Hygiene Lessons for Kids
With a little soap and a lot of patient reinforcement, your child can master these hygiene lessons. Little by little, your child will learn self-care and healthy hygiene habits. Germs, be gone!