Creating Healthy Habits

Sometimes it seems like your kids are sick all the time—especially if they are in school or daycare. While children’s immature immune systems make them more susceptible to disease, there are some healthy habits you can help your child develop that may help lessen the amount of time your child is sick or gets sick.

It is important for your child to learn the importance of washing their hands. Germs spread easily among children because they are closely interacting with other children, getting dirty and putting dirty or “germy” fingers into their mouths. Teaching children how to wash their hands and when to wash their hands is important for good hygiene.

To help your child learn how to properly wash his or her hands, model the behavior for them. You should teach your child to apply enough soap to create a soapy lather and then to scrub their hands for at least 20 seconds. For younger children, you may teach them to sing a song, like their ABCs, when they wash their hands so they know how long they should scrub for. Hands should be washed before all meals, after playing outside or touching animals.

It is also important to teach children the importance of covering their mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing. Often, it is a good idea to teach your children to “catch” their coughs and sneezes in their arm instead of their hands. Sneezing and coughing into the arm prevents germs from getting on the fingers, which can get on doorknobs and towels and easily infect others in your family.

In addition to good hand washing skills you need to make sure that your child knows how to take care of his or her body. Children should brush their teeth twice a day and should be supervised until they are eight years old as children do not have the fine motor skills necessary to brush their teeth properly. Teeth need to be brushed for a minimum of two minutes. For young children, it is sometimes a good idea to set a timer. Also, when your child is young, you should let them brush their teeth and then you should follow up by brushing their teeth to make sure that all teeth have been brushed sufficiently.

Children should be bathed daily, especially if they have been playing outside and running around a lot. If your child has drier skin, baths may be necessary every one to two days. When bathing, teach your child how to gently wash their skin with a soapy washcloth and shampoo their hair. Washing hair is very important as hair follicles produce oil to keep the hair smooth. This oil can build up and cause the hair to look dirty.

It is important for your child to learn healthy habits from you. Instead of telling your child what they need to do, show them and participate in healthy habits with them. For example, before meals do not simply tell your children to go wash their hands, but go and wash your hands with them. When your children see you actively participate in healthy habits, they will realize that they are important to you and be more likely to incorporate them into their routine when they are away from you.