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Ways You Can Instill Good Hygiene Habits

How To Teach Your Preschooler Good Hygiene Habits

"Wash your hands."

"Brush your teeth."

"Please use your napkin instead of your shirt."

Sometimes parenting can feel like one big nag. But before you get too frustrated with your child's inability to keep himself clean, realize that until they're about 4 years old, most children don't have the fine-motor skills or the attention span required to brush their own teeth and hair, or clean themselves adequately after using the bathroom.

Here are some ways you can help:

  • When it comes to hand-washing, be a good role model. Wash your own hands when you return home from, say, the grocery store, and before every meal, and then remind your kids to do the same. It will make hand-washing a healthy habit for everyone in the house. To help remind them in the bathroom, try using a visual cue. Trace your child's hands on a piece of paper, draw lots of soapy-looking bubbles on the paper, and post it near the bathroom door, or on the mirror. If they see the "sign" on their way out, it will prompt them to wash up. Another tip: Let your child pick out a colorful step stool for the bathroom faucet she uses most often.
  • After she uses the bathroom, double-check. You can teach your child to wipe her own bottom as soon as she starts using the toilet, but until she's about kindergarten age, you will need to help. This is especially important for girls, since insufficient wiping can cause bladder infections. If your child seems to have trouble, try using flushable wet wipes until she gets the hang of it.
  • Let them brush their teeth first, then you do it. "Until children are at least four years old, they need help brushing their teeth, twice a day, for two minutes each," says Warren Brill, DMD, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. He advises parents to monitor tooth-brushing until children are 8 years old. Dr. Brill also suggests that parents use teeth-staining "disclosing tablets" that temporarily stain the spots kids miss when they brush. The red or purple stains on their teeth highlight plaque to show the areas you both need to pay extra attention to.
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