When our kids are little, we do everything for them. But eventually, we want them to start taking ownership over their own self-care. Stuff like washing their hands, brushing their teeth, bathing and drying off, and protecting their skin by covering their cute, squishy limbs in lotion. And, if they’ve got time, popping a load of washing on and a Bolognese in the slow-cooker.
If you’re looking at your rambunctious toddler trying to shove a piece of string cheese up their nose, and you’re not sure where to begin – these tips might be the helpful nudge you need to start teaching your kid all about looking after their body. (Just grab that cheese stick first.)
Toddlers will insist ‘I CAN DO IT MYSELF’. It might be wildly frustrating when it’s 8am and they’re on the fifteenth attempt at a shoelace knot – but it can also work in your favour. Between the ages 2-5 is when kids are starting to assert their independence, and it can be the perfect time to start encouraging your little-big kid to take charge of tasks like bathing, brushing teeth, washing hands, and applying lotion. Under close guidance, of course, until their (and your) confidence builds.
Teach by doing.
The best way to teach healthy self-care habits is to model them for your kids. Those little eyes see everything. (Especially that Corn Thin you tried to sneak past them.) They take notice of how you wash your hands, how you care for your skin, and your daily habits. So be open about your own self-care with your child, and talk them through what you’re doing and why.
Make hygiene fun.
Grime and germs aren’t terribly exciting. But, with a little colour and fun, getting rid of them certainly can be! Get your kid excited about washing their hair and body at the end of the day, by giving them ownership over the process and the products they’re using. Involve them in running the bath, pumping in their own suds, and after they’ve scrubbed themselves clean, let them apply their own lotion or oil. (You can always jump in to help, if they’ll let you.)
Practice with play.
Kids learn best by playing! So, take the pressure off and turn it into a game or an activity. You can grab a doll or toy, fill up a little tub and encourage them to give it a bath – it’s a great way for your little splasher to learn about suds, water and using a washcloth. Ready to practice washing hands? Let your kid go wild covering their mitts in water-based paint, then practice washing it all off, getting in between their fingers and giving their hands a good scrub.
Get a little help.
Incorporate some playful prompts, if you need to. Self-care flashcards are an excellent way to guide your kid through their hygiene practices and help establish a consistent routine while also encouraging independence. You can also try playing fun songs, like this Wiggles jam or this teeth-brushing ditty, to make sure they really get the job done.
Stick to routines.
Oh, look, it’s us. Harping on about routines again. But, setting a loose schedule for the morning, bathtime, and evening routines can be really useful. It provides consistency, ensures your child always knows what’s expected of them, and helps to turn their personal hygiene practices into habit. So, eventually, you won’t even have to tell them to brush their teeth. Or here’s hoping.