Acting lax when it comes to hygiene is the fastest way to ensure that viruses and bacteria run amok in your house. Parents may love their children, but that doesn’t make kids less filthy. And, make no mistake, kids are pretty filthy–especially after they start attending school and sharing the bacterial wealth. The reason it’s so important to teach kids good hygiene and make sure they take the lessons to heart is that kids want to touch stuff. There’s nothing wrong with that and plenty of research to support the notion that exposure to outside bacteria can be healthy. Still, it’s not great to go through life covered in a thin layer of grime. It gets parents sick. It gets other kids sick. If it gets bad enough, it tend to result in a less than stellar reputation. Better to form healthy hygiene habits as early as possible.
Here’s what researchers, scientists, and experts recommend for teaching kids good hygiene.
Hygiene Rule #1: Start With Baths
- A kid’s first bath should come no sooner than 48 hours after birth. After that, a routine of about twice a week (or whenever they are sweaty and dirty) will help them build a stronger immune system according to studies.
- Let kids take control during bath time but tell them what to wash step by step and never leave them unattended.
- There’s no age expectancy for when kids can wash alone so use your own childhood as a guide. When they start feeling embarrassed by your presence, it’s probably time.
Hygiene Rule #2: The Great Outdoors Are Not Great Indoors
- When it comes to being unsanitary outside, minimize antibiotics and let your kid get a little dirty. Research says a kid’s getting exposed to germs from healthy soil, animals, and people is acceptable.
- Parents can and should create at-home checkpoints to stop diseases from getting into the house in the first place.
- Set up a hand-washing station right inside the doorway with antibacterial hand foam or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Here, kids should remove shoes and put all items aside that are often touched and travel between home and school.
- When a child is learning to dress themselves, accept their struggles, encourage their successes, and let them be goofballs. You can expect a lot of trial and error. Remember that none of it matters until they smell bad. If they get obsessed with a certain piece of clothing, it’s not necessarily a problem for them to wear it again and again.
Hygiene Rule #3: Teeth Matter
- Brush your kid’s teeth early to create the routine of brushing. When they get old enough, refrain from doing the work and let the kid do it.
- Allow your kid to choose their own toothbrush or toothpaste as it’ll encourage their independence.
- Let your child mimic your brushing technique, or play a two minute song during the routine to make it fun for the child, or play a quick pretend game while brushing to keep the routine stress free.
Hygiene Rule #4: Hygiene Can Be Internal
- Kids should get the flu shot not only because it can mitigate the chance of complications but also to protect their family members.