In the initial phase of a child’s life, all the health and hygiene habits and routines are followed by parents and elders around them, for them. Right from washing their hands, to brushing their teeth, bathing and washing their clothes with a disinfectant etc.
However as children grow they start exploring everything they see around them and become more independent in performing daily activities by themselves, under adult supervision. They will touch, feel, and also try and taste things. All objects are first put in the mouth. This is just the right age where parents should step in to make sure their children develop good personal hygiene habits. These habits are essential as you will not be around to protect them the minute they step outside of the house, into the world. These habits are also very essential as their immune system is still developing hence they are susceptible to infections. However following good personal hygiene habits can avoid these infections.
Inculcating good health and hygiene habits in the early foundation years helps building healthier children. Let’s first look at a few essential personal hygiene habits and then we shall look at how to inculcate them:
1.Washing hands often (after using the washroom, before eating your food, after playing outside, etc)
2.Covering their mouth when they sneeze or cough
3.Having a bath twice a day
4.Washing their hair once or twice a week
5.Brushing teeth twice a day
6.Wearing clean clothes
7.Cleaning dirty shoes
8.Wearing clean socks
9.Using a handkerchief
These are a few essential personal hygiene habits; you may choose to add more if you like. Now comes the challenging part, how do we inculcate these habits into young children?
1. Lead by example: children will follow what you do and not what you say. They ape everything their adults do. So the easiest thing to do is to lead by example. Follow all the hygiene habits you would like your children to imbibe.
2. Talk to them about the importance of hygiene: children will not follow what you say blindly. You need to convince them that following these habits is essential. So talk to them about the importance of these habits. Read personal hygiene stories to them or make them watch some fun videos that talk about the importance of these habits. You can also speak to your school to find appropriate stories and videos on the same.
3. Make it fun: make the routine fun. Sing songs while washing hands. Make a story around brushing teeth. Have a reward mechanism. Every time they follow the personal hygiene habit. Add points. Once they collect a huge sum get them something they want.
4. Make a fun routine sheet for them: make a routine for them, a timetable to follow which is stuck in their room, and set subtle reminders to follow the personal hygiene habits and they will slowly adopt these habits and it will become a part of their being.
5. Talk to them about infections and germs: talk to them about infections and germs and how they spread, the harm they cause. Keep in mind that the goal is not to scare them, rather to share this as information so that they can understand the reasons for following these habits. Talk to them about the consequences of not following these simple things.
Children are smart and they understand what is being said to them. You might have to repeat yourself several times or try out different methods to make them understand the importance of these habits. You might need to reason with them, negotiate with them. However when you do strike the right chords you will see how children will easily imbibe these habits and it will become second nature. Just make sure of one thing – children do not listen to instructions or rules just because you said so. Reasoning with them is essential. Once they understand the reason why they are doing what they are doing, they automatically do it better!