Teaching Hygiene Habits to Children

Teaching your child proper hand-washing has become a concern lately, but good hygiene habits are important for children to learn as well. Learning the fundamentals of personal hygiene early will support your child to reduce viruses, infections, tooth decay, rashes, and more.

Instilling hygiene habits in early childhood will support them to build a foundation that will last them well into adulthood. Here are some tips for teaching hygiene habits to children.

  • Model good hygiene habits. Make sure your child sees you doing things like brushing your teeth, wearing clean clothes, or washing your hands regularly. Children look to parents and caregivers for guidance on how to behave, so modeling good personal hygiene will set a good example.
  • Explain germs and bacteria in an age-appropriate way. If your child understands what germs and bacteria are, and how good hygiene can keep them away, they’ll better understand why it’s important. Keep your explanation simple and light, and don’t exaggerate or make germs sound scary.
  • Frame hygiene in a positive light. Even if your child does understand the concept of germs and bacteria, it’s also important to emphasize that personal hygiene is a way to keep their body healthy, and to show self-care. If a child links hygiene habits to positive self-image, they’ll be more likely to carry these habits with them through their older years.
  • Make it fun. Children learn best through play and hands-on experiences, so incorporating some fun into hygiene habits can go a long way. For example, you can listen to their favorite music while they brush their teeth, or them to play with toys in the bath.
  • Encourage independence. When a child has a sense of ownership over a task, they’re more likely to want to do it. Depending on your child’s age, you can invite them to perform certain hygiene tasks on their own, like brushing their teeth for a few seconds before you do the rest, choosing their own clothes every day, or washing their own hair in the bath.
  • Check in often. As they grow, children will encounter different aspects of personal hygiene, so it’s important to revisit it frequently and give reminders if needed. This is also a good way to ensure that your child’s hygiene is becoming a habit.