Hygiene and personal care - Better Lives Healthy Futures

Hygiene and personal care

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Teaching your children about hygiene and personal care when they are young can create good habits for a lifetime.

Learning about hygiene and personal care helps children begin to understand and make sense of different bodily functions and live a healthier, happier life. A child with poor personal hygiene may be ostracised by other children leading to a loss of confidence. It can also make them more susceptible to illnesses such as stomach bugs.

Top tips for hygiene and personal care

Handwashing – teach your child to wash their hands properly with soap and water (see the further information section for a video about this) before and after meals, after playing outside or with pets and after being in contact with someone who is sick.

Washing hair – washing hair too often can dry out young scalps, making them more prone to dandruff, two of three times a week is enough until kids begin puberty which can make hair greasy, so washing with shampoo may be necessary every other day.

Bathing – if your child hates bathing, try making a thorough bath into a fun game as you teach them to put a washcloth into soapy water before scrubbing a body part and then rinsing.

Skin care – skin blemishes such as rashes, bumps and scabs are common in young children. After a bath, help your child check they don’t have any areas that need care. As children reach puberty, skin becomes oilier. Simply washing with water and mild soap two or three times a day and avoiding picking pimples will help.

Oral hygiene – clean teeth and gums can prevent health issues in later life, including bad breath, cavities, and heart disease. See our Oral Health section for advice on tooth brushing.

Underarm care – sweat starts to become body odour usually around the age of 9-10. Talk to your child about the importance of washing under their arms, especially after sports practice and encourage them to wear deodorant.

Nails – keep nails trimmed and help your child scrub out any dirt from under them as germs from nails can easily transfer to their eyes, nose, and mouth.

Toileting – once young children are toilet trained, it’s important to focus on habits to keep little parts clean. Teach them to wipe thoroughly from front to back and to wash their hands when they have finished. These healthy habits will help minimize irritation and keep infections at bay.

Menstrual cycle – puberty in girls generally starts aged 8-13. Periods may be irregular for the first two years, so encourage your daughter to keep a chart so she’ll know when to have feminine hygiene products ready.

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Further information

How to wash your hands

Step by step NHS instructions on how to wash your hands including a video of handwashing to the tune of Happy Birthday.

Kids handwashing song

This NHS video makes the hand washing technique more memorable for younger children.