Help Kids Start Healthy Hygiene Habits

Healthy Habit: Post-Potty Cleanup

Like hand washing, wiping is one of those things you want to be sure is done right, but don't be surprised if it takes a little longer for your child to master.

Help it happen: Your daughter may have no problem taking a swipe with the TP after urinating, but at this age both boys and girls still need assistance after a bowel movement -- and that's okay. Teach your child to tear off an appropriate amount of paper and wipe from front to back, showing her how you repeat the process until the paper's clean. Flushable wipes may help her do a better job, since they're damp and softer. Take an additional swipe after she's finished to make sure she did a thorough job. You'll know you can step out of the picture when your follow-up is consistently unsoiled. And be sure to be matter-of-fact about the process. If you act grossed out when it's messy, she'll think wiping is a nasty job and be more inclined to skip it.

Healthy Habit: Taking Baths

While you shouldn't leave your child alone in the tub until he's about 7 years old, you can get him involved in the soapy steps.

Help it happen: Make bathtime fun by turning the rub-a-dub-dubbing into a "Simon says" game. Get a washcloth soapy and give him cues on what body part to scrub down. Not only will it be entertaining, but it will help cement the idea that he needs to wash from head to toe. Step in when it comes to rinsing to avoid suds from sliding into his eyes, but don't insist on a particular method, such as pouring water over his head. You'll just end up with a battle on your hands. Instead, lather up bubbles on his hair for him to play with. Then tell him you're going to make them disappear like magic, and find a way that works for both of you, whether it's putting a washcloth over his face as you pour, or letting him lean back for you to rinse out.

Originally published in the September 2010 issue of Parents magazine.

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