Help Kids Start Healthy Hygiene Habits

Healthy Habit: Hair Brushing

This usually isn't an issue for boys because they've got short hair. But if you have a little girl with long or curly hair, you're probably familiar with the tangles and tears.

Help it happen: Getting your own hair up into a perfect ponytail can be a challenge some days, so it's unlikely that your preschooler will be able to do her 'do quite yet. But she can help with the prep work. "By age 4, her hands and arms are strong enough to tackle brushing her own hair," says Frances P. Walfish, Psy.D., a child and family psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent. Show her how to spritz on a detangler and help stop snarls by starting at the bottom of her hair and working up. She'll soon realize that well-brushed hair means fewer "owies." Once she's nixed the knots, you can assist with barrettes and trickier styles such as braids.

Healthy Habit: Hand Washing

Washing hands is a non-negotiable habit and kids need to learn to do it well, especially since school's back in session and bugs are being swapped like Silly Bandz.

Help it happen: Fortunately, sudsing up at the sink is an easy task for kids to master, but you do need to focus on two things at this age: length of time and use of soap. A quick swipe under the faucet isn't going to cut it. "Three- and 4-year-olds are old enough to talk to about germs," says Dr. Markham. "Explain the basics: how germs can make you sick even though you can't see them and scrubbing your hands gets rid of them." Also, kids are focused on rules at this age, and that's in your favor. Give your child steps to follow, and post an illustrated version of these wash rules by every sink in your home. You can say, "First step is water. Then get a squirt of soap. Now sing the alphabet song (so he scrubs long enough). Fourth step is rinsing away the soap, and finally, dry your hands. Done!" Until he's got the drill down, remind him that hand washing is a must after every bathroom visit, as well as before meals and after playing outside.

Parents Are Talking

Add a Comment