Did you know that up to 10 million bacteria flourish between our finger tip and elbow? (1)
We are surrounded by microbes that affect us in various ways and varying degrees. Maintaining personal hygiene is of utmost importance for children and needs to be approached with the right teaching tools and methods. Personal hygiene is much more than just keeping your hands clean. It is also about keeping your entire self clean and taking care of not infecting others around you. In this article, MomJunction tells you why personal hygiene for kids is important, and the seven habits that they should follow.
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Personal Hygiene For Kids – What Is It?
Personal hygiene is the act of taking care of our health and well-being by keeping ourselves clean. Children get in touch with a lot of dirt, dust, and bacteria when they go out. Whether they go to the school, park or any other place, they touch things that have bacteria, which get transferred to their hands. When the bacteria find their way into a child’s body, he is prone to diseases and illnesses.
We can prevent this by developing personal hygiene habits.
[ Read: Healthy Habits For Kids ]
Importance Of Personal Hygiene For Children
Not maintaining personal hygiene has its implications. Children who live in unhygienic conditions and have poor personal hygiene are prone to illnesses as their immune system is not as strong as that of the adults.
Good personal hygiene habits enable your children to:
- stay healthy, free from illnesses and diseases caused due to bacteria.
- feel good about themselves.
- maintain and enjoy a healthy body image – people with poor personal hygiene have a negative body image, which can disrupt their social life.
- develop a healthy personality – being clean, well-dressed and well-represented boosts one’s self-image, which in turn increases their confidence and their chances of success in professional as well as social lives.
Children do not have the knowledge or skills to take care of their personal hygiene. Therefore, parents need to oversee their habits. The best way to teach kids about hygiene is to start early, with simple practices at home. Read on to know more about the healthy habits that you can help your child develop.
7 Healthy Hygiene Habits For Kids
Whether your kid is at school or home, eating, sleeping, or playing, or helping you in the kitchen, they should maintain cleanliness. When you are teaching personal hygiene to your kids, here are a few topics you must talk about.
1. Food Hygiene For Kids
Unhealthy eating habits lead to food poisoning that could result in vomiting, diarrhea or tummy pains. It is important to maintain hygiene when eating, serving or preparing food to prevent bacteria from spreading from one person to another. Tell your children the importance of food hygiene.
Why is food hygiene important?
When bacteria gets into the body, it results in illnesses like food poisoning, gastroenteritis, skin allergies, diarrhea, and other bacterial infections that can leave you weak and tired. Some of these conditions can even be fatal in kids.
When you are teaching your kids about food hygiene, start with the basics – talk to them about germs and bacteria. Explain to them how quickly bacteria can spread from their hands to the food and into their bodies. Use practical ways. Here are a few food hygiene habits that you should inculcate in your child.
Washing hands before touching or handling food
Kids should clean their hands thoroughly before holding a slice of bread, a piece of fruit or candy, or handling food with a spoon to eat or serve, or holding a plate or bowl of food. Here are some handwash rules you can implement for your children:
- Always wash hands with soap and clean water before touching or handling food.
- It is all the more important to wash hands before eating if they have been to the toilet or were playing outside.
- Clean hands thoroughly so that there are no traces of soap left. Use fresh water to clear the soap completely.
- Wash your hands frequently when helping in the kitchen, as vegetables, raw meat and others may be carrying bacteria before they are cooked.
- Wash your hands after eating food.
- Always use a clean cloth to wipe your hands and mouth.
Good food hygiene also involves storing food in a healthy and clean way. Kids should be taught to keep their eating area clean and also store food properly.
- Teach them about the foods that should be stored in the fridge and those that can stay out.
- Never leave food uncovered, especially if you are not using it at a given time.
- Always put the lid back on the milk cartons, cheese containers, and jam tins before storing them.
- When storing raw meats, wrap them in foil to prevent blood from dripping and contaminating other foods. Always store raw meats at the bottom.
- Wipe the outer portions of a tin, bottle or dish clean to prevent accumulation of bacteria.
Hygiene when cooking food
Your children may not cook like you do. But if they do help you in the kitchen, here are a few hygiene rules they should follow.
- Wear clean aprons and tie the hair back, or better wear a chef’s hat, before entering the kitchen. Roll your sleeves up to avoid soiling them with stains or grease.
- Do not sneeze or cough over the food. Always turn away from the food when you have to cough or sneeze. If you have the flu, do not enter the kitchen.
- Once you wash your hands, do not touch your hair or pick your nose. If you do, wash your hands again before touching anything.
- Avoid helping with cooking or touching ingredients if there are any cuts on your hands.
[ Read: Ways To Ensure Good Habits For Kids ]
2. Hand Hygiene For Kids
Hand hygiene is the most important thing you must teach your children. Research has proven that washing of hands frequently can decrease deaths associated with diarrhea by almost 50% (2). Researchers in London found that a whopping million deaths could be prevented a year if everyone around the world washed their hands routinely. So, here is how you get your children to maintain hand hygiene.
Start with washing hands, the simplest way to prevent diseases. Teach your children how to wash hands – give them a practical on how they must wash their hands thoroughly, and not just wet them under water.
- Wet your hands with clean water.
- Apply soap and rub your hands together to lather up for about 20 -30 seconds.
- Clean in between fingers, under the nails and up to the wrists.
- Wash away the soap completely with clean water
Teach them to keep their hands clean at all times – children may get carried away in play or activities they indulge in, and use their dirty hands to eat, wipe their face or eyes, which could result in bacterial infections.
Make a habit of washing hands before touching or eating food and after:
- using the toilet
- being outside, riding a bike, playing in the sand, etc
- cleaning the house
- cleaning their nose, sneezing or coughing
- touching an animal, especially after they pet an animal or touch an insect
- visiting a sick friend or relative, or returning from a hospital
3. Sleep Hygiene For Children
Sleep hygiene is about developing a set of habits or a routine that helps your children get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is a critical process that our body needs to restore and revive its cells. It is also a time when the mind works on creating memories and recording experiences that determine a person’s moods and behavior.
Sleep hygiene aims at creating an awake-resting pattern in kids, which enables them to stay active and alert during the day and sleep well at night. Help your children build these sleep hygiene habits to ensure that they get enough rest every day.
Children should sleep for at least 10 hours every day. (3)
- Help your kids build a sleep routine that allows them to sleep only at night. Prevent them from napping at odd hours as that affects their awake-sleep patterns.
- Use the bed only for sleeping. Children tend to do more than just sleep on the bed. From doing their homework to eating a snack and watching TV, they do a lot of things sitting or sleeping in their bed.
- That must be avoided. The only thing they should want to do when they get into bed is sleep.
- Create a soothing and relaxing environment in their bedroom. Blinking night lights, screen lights from gaming devices or mobiles and light from the TV can prevent kids from falling asleep quickly. Keep away electronic gadgets and any fun or distracting toys that can disturb your kid’s sleep. Also keep away any noisy alarm clocks that may be upsetting your child’s sleeping patterns.
- Consistency is critical to building habits. Create a routine that allows your child to go to bed at the same time every day. Most importantly, stick to the routine. Predictability is good for kids and makes them feel secure. So if the routine is a bath, bedtime story and then lights out, it has to be the same every day.
- Also, let your children sleep in their beds and not yours. Make this a habit, even if they tend to wake up in the middle of the night and come into your room. Walk them back to their room, tuck then in their bed and sit on a chair next to them. Make it a habit for them to fall asleep in their bed.
- Children may not be able to sleep of they are worried or are scared about something. Sleep time should not be a time to worry or be scared.
Healthy sleep hygiene enables kids to get a good night’s sleep, which is critical for their physical and psychological well-being.
[ Read: How Much Sleep Do Kids Need ]
4. Health Hygiene For Kids
Children are prone to illnesses like the flu or common colds. In fact, they get six to eight common colds a year because they are exposed to different viruses and are more vulnerable than adults (4). It is important to teach children about health hygiene to prevent germs and bacterial infections from spreading. When your child is down with the flu or any other infectious illness, ensure that they:
- Avoid close contact with other kids – do not send your child to school or for play.
- use a tissue to cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze to prevent the germs from spreading around. Some viruses like influenza spread through the air as well, so teach your kid to use a cloth or a handkerchief to cover their mouth when they speak.
- wash their hands often. If the water is too cold to use, use a hand sanitizer.
- do not share food, water, bed clothes or other things that may spread germs to other children in the family.
- maintain clean surroundings and change their clothes at least twice a day.
5. Vocal Hygiene For Kids
Not known to many, vocal hygiene is a term used for healthy practices that help your child develop a strong, modulated voice that is pleasant to hear. Children tend to talk a lot, shout, scream and change their voice to imitate someone or sound funny. As a parent, you may not pay attention to how they speak.
You’ll love your children regardless of how they sound – brittle, croaky, nasal or squeaky. But here are a few good voice habits that can help your kid maintain complete vocal hygiene.
- Keep your children hydrated. Encourage them to drink enough water every day. Also, avoid giving them foods or drinks that are too cold and can affect the vocal chords.
- Encourage them to use a consistent tone when they have a conversation. Whispering or shouting when in play might seem okay, but it does affect their voice.
- Throat-clearing can affect the vocal fold tissue, thus affecting an individual’s sound when he or she speaks. Kids do not often clear their throat, but if they do, discourage them from doing so.
- Trying to compete with loud background noise can put a strain on their voice.
- Discourage your kids from shouting to make themselves heard in a noisy environment.
- Singing, as a learned practice or a hobby, is fine. But singing loudly with the radio or music in the car also affects their chords.
- Talking too much and too quickly impacts the vocal chords.
6. Body Hygiene For Kids
One of the most important aspects of personal hygiene is taking care of your body. Body hygiene is about keeping every part of your body clean to stay healthy and presentable. Healthy body hygiene habits include taking care of the skin, hair, feet, and the pubic region (5).
The skin is the largest organ in the body. It covers and protects all the other organs from external elements, which makes it prone to dirt, dust, and bacteria of different kinds. In fact, your skin prevents the bacteria from getting into the body and affecting the internal organs. To protect your skin from illnesses caused by the accumulation of bacteria, you must keep it clean. Children should be taught to keep their skin clean and healthy by doing these:
- Bathing regularly
One of the simplest ways to keep your skin clean and healthy is to bathe regularly. Teach your kids to take a shower twice a day — before they head out to school and after they come back. Teach them how to clean the different parts of the body – the hands, armpits, legs, feet, groin, joints, back, belly button (navel) elbows and knees. Show them how to do it and then let them practice it.
Make sure that they use soap to bathe and pat dry the body after bathing. Take extra care when teaching them to clean their face – make sure they clean their ears and the neck, which they often overlook. Also, we touch every other part of the skin with our hands, so a simpler way to keep the skin clean is through clean hands.
- Staying hydrated
Your skin is healthy and supple when it gets enough moisture. When you are dehydrated, the skin becomes dry and chappy. It is important to stay hydrated to protect the external layer of the skin. Encourage your child to drink plenty of water to keep the skin healthy and clean.
[ Read: Oral Hygiene For Kids ]
- Use moisturizers
Sometimes, drinking water is not enough to keep the skin hydrated. Use of moisturizers becomes necessary when the environment or weather makes your skin dry. Apply the right kind of moisturizing agents to keep the skin healthy.
- Facial skin contact
Kids tend to touch anything with their hands and then touch their cheeks, nose, mouth or eyes. Facial skin is more sensitive when compared to the skin that covers the rest of the body. When your child touches his face with unclean hands, he transmits the bacteria leading to skin allergies or acne. Some kids, especially tweens, tend to rub and pinch pimples on the face, which spreads the infection and makes it worse.
Poor hair care in children can lead to problems like head lice, dandruff, and other scalp infections. Children should be taught to take care of hair along with their skin.
- It is important to wash the hair at least twice a week to keep it free from dirt and grease.
- When washing the hair, teach your children to wash the scalp with soap and rinse it thoroughly with clean water.
- Children are prone to getting head lice, which is a problem that should be dealt with immediately.
- Encourage your child to keep the hair tied or braided, to avoid head-to-head contact with other kids who may have lice.
- Teach your children never to share personal objects like combs, pillows, and hats.
- If your girl has long hair, tell her not to leave the hair down at all times. Let her tie it up to prevent accumulation of too much dirt or grime.
Ever heard of the phrase “smelly feet”? That’s what happens when bacteria on the feet comes into contact with sweat. Kids who wear shoes all day, especially without socks, tend to accumulate more dirt on their feet, which the bacteria feed off. Help your children keep their feet clean with these tips.
- Wash your feet at least twice a day, when you take your bath.
- Clean the feet properly by scrubbing with soap between the toes, the soles of the feet and under the toenails.
- Use a clean cloth to wipe them dry.
- Encourage them to keep their shoes clean and dry. Dirty shoes have bacteria, which get transferred to the feet.
- Use a moisturizer after cleaning the feet.
Cleanliness of the body also includes cleansing of the pubic region.
- For girls, the vagina is one part of the body that can clean itself (6). So teach your daughter to clean around the genital region with soap and water, as she would the rest of the body. You should also talk to your young girls about how to use a tampon or a pad safely, and how often to change them for maintaining hygiene.
- Boys should be taught early on to clean their genitalia. They should gently wash the penis and the scrotum every day with soap and clean, warm water. Also, if they have the foreskin, teach them to pull it back and wash underneath with warm water gently. Not washing underneath the foreskin can lead to smegma (natural lubricant to keep the penis moist) accumulation, which can result in a foul smell. It can also become a breeding ground for a bacteria that causes balanitis, which is the swelling and redness of the tip of the penis (7).
7. Hygiene At Home
In addition to personal hygiene, children should also be taught to maintain hygiene when they are at home. Here are a few things you can teach them to do.
- Teach your kids to wear clean clothes every day. They may like a specific dress, t-shirt or jeans, but explain that they should wear it only if it is clean.
- Tell them to keep their surroundings clean and everything in its place.
- Make them put the bowl or plate in the sink after they eat a meal, and wash their hands.
- Teach them to clean if they spill or drop something on the floor or any other surface. If your kid is too young to be able to clean it, help him do it.
- Let them follow basic toilet and bathroom cleanliness standards – they must flush the toilet after use, use the restroom supplies, throw used tissues or other garbage in the bin, etc.
You cannot teach your kids these basic personal hygiene habits overnight. Developing healthy habits is a process that takes time and should be handled patiently.
Tips For Teaching Kids About Personal Hygiene
Just telling your kids what to do will not work. It is not about getting them to do what is hygienic. It is to make personal hygiene a part of their life. An individual’s hygiene habits tell you a lot about his or her personality. Here’s how you should inculcate personal hygiene habits in your children.
1. Explain good and bad habits
Start with something they already know – good and bad. Kids know that they are supposed to do what is good and not do the bad. So list out the good and bad hygiene habits – clearly tell them what is considered good and healthy, and what is bad or unhealthy. Repeat it as many times as you can in different situations. You can reiterate these points through play – a quick quiz in the car or as they step into the bath.
Most importantly, praise them when they display good hygiene. That way, they’ll remember better.
2. Start with the basics – hand-washing and bathing
Children shut their minds to things that they find overwhelming. Dumping too much information or instructions about personal hygiene will yield no results. Start with something simple like washing hand and bathing regularly and build other practices from there.
3. Use the right resources
The best way to teach a kid is by demonstration. And to do that, you need to have the right resources. If you want your child to use soap to wash hands, you need to make sure there is soap in the dispenser. The chances of your kid washing hands are better when there are supplies in stock.
4. Explain concepts of germs and bacteria
Introduce the concept of germs and bacteria early on. Tell how they can catch germs and what happens when they don’t wash them off. Kids tend to do something if they understand it better. Make sure you emphasize the importance of hygiene but do not exaggerate so much that they develop a phobia.
5. Talk about nice smell and foul smell
Our noses can recognize a wide range of smells, and our instincts tell us which smells are good and which are bad. Kids also know, instinctively, when something smells bad. But they may not be able to label it ‘bad’. You can help them learn the difference between good and bad smells, and explain that they should build good hygiene habits to keep bad or “stinky” smells away.
[ Read: How To Brush Teeth For Kids ]
6. Talk about grooming
Kids who are poorly dressed may be teased, or even bullied at school. To avoid that, it is imperative that your children wear clean clothes, smell fresh and stay clean and hygienic in school as well as at home. Talk to your kids about the different grooming activities like wearing clean, pressed clothes, combing their hair, polishing their shoes and keeping their school and lunch bag clean and hygienic. Help them learn about grooming by practice.
7. Fun with hygiene
Kids remember something better when it is fun and makes them happy. Don’t make hygiene a dreadful topic for children. Make it fun. Try to teach them about personal hygiene in different ways like games, fun activities and online games.
8. Be an example
Kids learn by observation. Studies say that kids are like little scientists, gathering information or evidence by observation (10). To encourage your child to follow good hygiene practices you must start practicing them yourself. Be an example. Do little things like washing hands, cleaning the kitchen or the table, brushing teeth, etc. together.
Personal Hygiene Activities For Kids
Children love to play and learn better through activities. Here are a few games and activities you can try to make personal hygiene fun for your kids.
1. Germ Transfer Game
Germ Transfer is a fun game that teaches how germs get transferred from one person to another. For this game, you will need some washable paint. Apply the paint to your hands without the kids looking at you and then pretend to sneeze. Then go about your way, touching everything you can with your hands and spreading the paint. Ask the kids to go to these places and touch the paint.
After the exercise, ask the children to count the number of locations the “germs” have been transferred to. Also, highlight the fact that they ‘got’ germs from you because you didn’t wash hands after sneezing.
2. Glitter Hands
Glitter Hands is a fun game that lets the kids get a little dirty. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kids should scrub and wash hands with soap for at least 30 seconds to get rid of germs. To explain that, take some glitter and apply it to your child’s hands. Ask them to wash their hands now, using soap and tap water.
Glitter is naturally sticky and won’t go away with a quick rinse under the tap. It will take your kid some time to get rid of all the glitter from the hands. Tell them that like glitter, germs can only be removed by washing hands for at least 30 seconds, not just a rinse.
3. Good Habit, Bad Habit
This is a fun trivia kind of game you can play with kids anytime, anywhere. Make a list of activities that your child needs to identify as either good habit or bad habit. Make it a point to include your kid’s habits and remind them of what they should continue doing and what they should not. For every right answer, give them a treat or a word of praise.
4. Hygiene Charades
Charades are fun. Play charades with your family, where you or your kids will have to enact right or wrong hygiene practices. This game makes learning about hygiene fun and remembering it easier.
5. Personal Hygiene Worksheets
The internet has several personal hygiene worksheets that you can use to teach your children about it. You can use these worksheets online or print and use them as checklists.
Personal Hygiene Facts For Kids
Is your child not taking personal hygiene seriously? Well, here are a few interesting facts that can encourage him to develop healthy hygiene habits.
- 80% of the diseases are spread by the hands.
- Some germs are stubborn and can thrive on certain surfaces like plastic or stainless steel surfaces and on work spaces where food is prepared, for up to 48 hours.
- You spread 100 times more bacteria with damp hands than with wet hands.
- Bacteria live on your hand for up to three hours, while one bacterium can multiply by four million times in just eight hours! Imagine how much bacteria you carry if you don’t wash your hands for eight hours!
- An average dollar bill can carry up to 26,000 live bacteria.
- Fingernails are the toughest places to clean of bacteria.
- An average keyboard has more bacteria than the toilet seat.
- Your phone contains 30,000 units of bacteria per swab.
- You can infect up to 150 people with common cold by sneezing without covering.
- Your belly button maybe carrying thousands of varieties of bacteria.
Poor personal hygiene makes your children susceptible to disease. But it does not have to be that way. You can keep your kids healthy and away from bacteria-causing disease by practicing the personal hygiene habits discussed above. If your children already practice good hygiene then that is great. If not, now is a good time to teach them.
How do you teach your kids about personal hygiene? Tell us about it here.
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