Health and Wellness

Hygiene in children - an Introduction

Payal
3 to 7 years

Created by Payal
Updated on Dec 17, 2012

Hygiene in children an Introduction

While growing up there were two boys (brothers) in my school, one about 10 years old and the other was 6 years old. The reason I remember them 25 years hence, is their nails would always be too long, and caked in black, and often the younger one would have snot running down his nose. Even at that age children understood this was dirty and unacceptable and made fun of them.

At this age, with a child of my own, I realize how I took personal hygiene for granted at that age, but how my mother had grilled the clean habits into my very psyche that it became a part of my daily life. As parents, one of our major responsibilities is to keep our kids healthy and hygiene plays a very important part in this process or endeavor.

The major part of the work of a caregiver is to ensure our children stay clean and away from potential infections and illnesses. And that means day-to-day care about personal hygiene. What we teach our kids about hygiene in their formative years may go a long way to determine, how clean and disciplined they are later on in life. And since this is a subject that I feel, is too wide to finish within a few hundred words, I have divided it into two parts. The first part here deals with what personal hygiene means and the results of having poor hygiene standards. This part will also tell you age specific hygiene practices and how you may want to teach your child about hygiene.


What is Personal hygiene?

Keeping the body clean and maintaining proper personal appearance can be described as personal hygiene. This also would include the clothes children wear. Small children would not understand the importance of keeping their body and clothes clean unless we teach them and hope they will grow into hygienic adults themselves.


What happens if you have poor hygiene?

Usually it has been recorded, that children with poor hygiene practices become the center of negative attention and ridicule in school, much like the two boys from my school. Badly kept nails, unkempt hair, dirty clothes or body, body odor, greasy hands or hair, snotty nose, all this can be part of poor hygiene. This plays havoc with their self-esteem, something they take with them to their adulthood. It has been seen to affect performance in school. Poor hygiene in small children can also be a sign of parental neglect. It makes children more prone to illness, by being more exposed to germs or by reducing their immunity. Low dental hygiene results in tooth decay, gum problems and premature loss of teeth. Poor ear hygiene may lead to life-long ear trouble and infections.

 

Age specific hygiene practices

Hygiene practices can be honed into children from the time they are toddlers.

1. Children as small as 3 can be taught to wash their hands themselves and brush their teeth with proper parental guidance. They can be left to bathe themselves for some time, but taught how to use the shower and soap in order to clean themselves properly. Bath time itself can be fun, with toys and waterproof books, nice smelling children’s soap or bubble bath. Smaller children love bubble baths, and even if you don’t have a bathtub, a large wide bucket would serve the purpose. Please ensure proper safety of your child in any area that has water. 

2. By the time a child reaches the age of 4, they should be able to bathe themselves and wear their clothes with some assistance. 

3. From the age of 7, puberty sets in in many children. It becomes imperative that children of this age are well informed about the changes expected in their bodies in the coming years. Hormonal changes may make them moody while also bringing in problems like body odor. So they need to bathe frequently and change clothes often, especially if they play sports.
How to teach your child about hygiene.

4. You may want to set an example for your child. Making your child brush his/her teeth when you are brushing yours can be an effective way for the same. Cutting nails together or going for a haircut together may instill in your child the importance of Hygiene.

5. Having discussions around illnesses and germs and explaining to them why hands need to be washed or bodies cleaned is also a great teaching tool.

6. Children should be made aware of the importance of extra care after using the toilet or before touching food.

7. Providing the necessities; soap, toothbrush and paste that is age appropriate and interesting. (My child loves strawberry flavored everything) You can mutually decide on a favorite color or flavor. 

 

What to do if your child refuses hygienic practices?

The refusal to clean themselves, bathe or brush has often been linked to depression in children. If by chance, you notice any behavioral changes in your child, which includes bad hygiene, poor performance in school, or even if just your child’s lack of hygiene is becoming a health risk, with your child falling ill often, or leading to dental issues, please take help of your child’s pediatrician. It might help to rule out any mental health issue before you tackle your child’s lack of hygiene.

However for most kids, this may be just a phase where they are just bored of cleaning and want to do something else more fun instead. For toddlers, it is up to you to make them maintain their own hygiene fun by using music, books, stories etc.

1. For a child between 4-6 year old you might want to explain the logic and guide them through the process of hygiene, brushing, bathing.

2. The ages 7-9 is a transition phase in children with puberty setting in. it is also a time when controlling children becomes harder as they develop strong likes and dislikes. Making them practice without nagging and giving them extra time and attention usually helps. Talking to them about the changes in their body and why it is important to keep their body clean because of over active sweat glands might have the desired positive impact.

3. If your child is not bathing or brushing without any reason you might want to have a talk with him or her. Be understanding and inquire the reason behind their behavior. 

4. Setting rules that cannot be broken, while being accepting of certain things helps for example; if your child wants to bathe in the night and not in the morning you may want to indulge him/her .

5. Letting them know how much you love and respect them will make them strive towards excellence. 

6. Your child may be shy or embarrassed to discuss certain issues with you, in such times you may want to respect their boundaries while making your point empathetically. 

7. Name calling never works hence you may want to refrain from calling your child smelly or stinky as that would simply be reinforcing school behavior. 

8. Motivating them through incentives, simple enough for them (preferably not money). For smaller children making a chart of days s/he has been good and marking it in front of them usually is a great motivating tool. Simple things turn out very effective in the long run. Make sure to keep changing your rewards to avoid boredom.

 

That said, we still have to know the different types of hygiene that one can follow starting from the time one is a toddler. The second part of my article will be on “Hygiene 101” – a comprehensive list of types of hygiene practices that will turn our clean children into disciplined and well-behaved adults.

 

Image source - progressiveearlychildhoodeducation.blogspot.in

 

Continue to read - Hygiene in children : step by step guidelines

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| Dec 18, 2012

Great blog. It is difficult to make a child understand the importance of washing up and staying clean. Bathing and washing up can be made enjoyable to help them look forward to getting cleaned up after a messy evening outdoors.

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| Dec 18, 2012

Its good for kids to get all dirty at times, so long as they understand the importance of hygiene and know that rolling in the mud is fun but must be followed by a thorough washing !

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| Dec 18, 2012

Hi, this is really very simply written - easy on the reader while also driving home the point. What to do if kids refuse to stay clean - my favorite part of the article.

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