Yesterday, a parent emailed me and said that despite talking (over and over again) to her three year old about staying clean and washing hands - her three year old still kissed the doorknob....
As you know, young children don't always understand the importance of cleanliness.
So what should be do to teach them about healthy habits in a way they will understand?
Children learn best by "doing." Here are 10 ideas on how to teach your kids about hygiene.
1. There are tons of books on staying healthy (you can google and even see some on youtube when you search "Teaching Kids Hygiene."
2. Children learn best by helping you! If you are cleaning doorknobs or toys, encourage your child to help you by handing them a clean cloth to help! If you are washing toys, some might need to be bleached, but others might just need warm water with soap. Fill up a small bucket of warm soapy water and allow your child to help clean those toys!
3. Sneeze Game: When we are sick, sneezing and coughing into our elbows is the best way to keep our hands clean and not spread germs. To prepare your child (in case the do get sick) play the sneeze and cough game. Sit down and tell them that you are going first. The adult should pretend to either sneeze or cough into their elbow! Have your child guess what you did (sneeze or cough). Now it's your child's turn. There might be lots of giggling or laughing during this game which is great! This is practice just in case! Your child will remember to use their elbow to "catch" the germs.
4. What about when our kids don't want us to wipe their nose? The best way to wipe a child's nose is to walk up to them, showing them the tissue or wipe. I see a lot of adults come at a child from behind and wipe their nose! This is scary and didn't give the child time to process what was going on. When you walk up to them, encourage them to help you hold the Cleanex and wipe! We all know that children love to be independent!
5. Hand-Washing Songs: Washing hands for a long time can be tricky! Teaching children to sing a song while they are washing hands, gives them a specific length of time they should scrub! Scrubbing our hands for 20-30 seconds is the best! Some songs that last take 30 seconds to sing are "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," "ABC's" and "Happy Birthday."
6. Color Wash: Another fun way to wash hands is to put some food coloring in the soap! Have your child wash all the way till the color is gone!
7. Cleaning Routines: Build cleanliness into your day! If you have a daily routine, build in time for washing hands and cleaning toys throughout your day.
8. Game of Doctor Play: Role play a doctors office. Encourage children to pretend that their toys are going to the doctor. Have stuffed animals, doctor kits and books about doctors be available. Join them in play and at the end of each "doctor visit" remind each "patient" to wash their hands and not put their hands in their mouth.
9. No-Mouth Game: For young children, putting items in their mouth, including their hands, is how germs spread fast. Play the "no mouth" game! Place a variety of food snacks, cups, and toy items on the floor. The adult should pick up a food item and put it in their mouth. Ask the child - "Can I do this?" YES YOU CAN! Next, pick up a non-food item and place it near your mouth. Ask the child "Can I put this in my mouth?" NOOO!! That's not food! Keep going (including pretending to put your hand in your mouth (NOO!!) Playing this game often will help children remember to think about what is going in their mouth before they put it in!
10. Clean With Your Kids Around! Children learn by watching, so as they see all their friends, their family and teachers constantly cleaning, they will remember to do so also! So don't only clean during nap time, keep them involved in the cleanliness!
Do you have a game that you use to teach children to stay clean? Let us know in the comments below!