When a full day involves digging in the dirt, climbing through a jungle gym and running through the sprinkler at the park or at home, it’s likely the children in your care are exposed to germs at every turn. As a child, routine activities such as washing hands regularly and covering your mouth when coughing are not always second nature.
Healthy habits can be taught, though, and can become part of your child’s daily routine. From necessary dental care and sanitizing to preventing body odor and maintaining personal hygiene, with some instructions and a positive example, you can teach your children to brush off the dirt and live a healthy lifestyle.
Educate and Demonstrate
Even though personal hygiene is a priority for adults, for many children, it is not. If your child is unwilling to take a bath, wash her hair, brush her teeth or cleanse her hands when prompted, it’s time to step in and teach the benefits of healthy habits.
You can educate your child about personal hygiene by providing examples he or she can relate to on a daily basis. For example, discuss what causes body odor and explore how uncomfortable it can be to stand next to someone who doesn’t smell clean.
According to Women’s and Children’s Health Network, children who reach puberty struggle more with body odor, as the sweat glands under the arms are in full production. Talk to your child about how body odor can be prevented and show him or her how to apply deodorant and properly cleanse your body in the shower. Children are often self-conscious about their bodies, so it’s important to instill the need to smell clean and fresh by showering often, especially after rigorous activity, to avoid foul smells.
Lessons about personal hygiene should also include discussions and activities surrounding germs. Germs are everywhere and your child may not realize that sharing drinks, touching railings and even shaking hands with others can transport unwanted germs onto their body. Discuss how germs can carry diseases and contribute to common colds and ailments.
According to Elena Selivan, board certified health and wellness coach in Boston, fungus is one of the many concerns when it comes to hygiene. “It is highly contagious and easily transfers from one person to another,” she says. “You can pick up an infection on the floor in a shared shower or locker room, at a public pool, from contaminated surfaces such as gym mats, exercise equipment, towels, combs, shoes and other personal items.”
Children can avoid picking up bacteria, germs and fungus by changing out of sweaty clothes right away, wearing shoes in public areas and washing hands regularly.
When teaching about personal hygiene, cater the message to the child’s activities. Does he play soccer and notice areas where his body produces sweat? Does she walk barefoot when entering the locker room at the pool? A child may understand more about cleanliness when he or she can relate the information to daily activities. Get creative, too, with flash cards or matching games to help your child learn about germs, hygiene and even healthy eating habits.
Set the Example
Whether you realize it or not, the children in your care are watching your every move. If they see you washing your hands before a meal, brushing your teeth after each meal and wiping off counters on a regular basis, it’s likely they will be more obliged to follow suit.
According to Selivan, it is more of a parent or nanny’s responsibility to take care of a toddler or young child’s hygiene, however, they can learn through modeled behavior.
“We have to help and encourage them with flossing, brushing their teeth, washing and brushing hair, taking a bath, washing hands before a meal and after coming home from outside and using hand sanitizer when at a public facility,” she says. “With toddlers, it is all about setting an example, helping and being consistent.”
As your children get older and recognize the help you have provided and the example you have set, the responsibility of personal hygiene and healthy habits is transferred to the child. “With teens, it is a bit different,” says Selivan. “One has to hope by that age they have in fact developed strong personal hygiene habits. All parents and nannies can do is reinforce them.”← 100 Ways to Show You Child He’s Loved | Continuing Education: Classes Nannies Can Take to Improve Their Craft →