How to: Encourage Basic Personal Hygiene
Did you know?
Early years settings are common sites for the transmission of infections as children are particularly susceptible.
This can be due to:
- Their still developing immune systems.
- Close contact with other children.
- Sometimes incomplete vaccinations, or not having had the opportunity to be vaccinated at all.
- Poor understanding of hygiene practices.
Encouraging good, healthy habits from a young age sets children up to be more hygienic (and therefore healthy) in later life. Learning self-hygiene tasks not only gives children more independence and agency over their own self-care, but also makes your setting a healthier place, too!
Of course we should also remain mindful that good hygiene does not mean obsessive hygiene deleterious to children’s health either. Being hygienic does not mean that they cannot play normally and explore the small worlds and nooks of their environment, for example, and it is important for children to develop their immune systems too.
Good hygiene doesn’t just help children with physical health, however. If a child has poor personal hygiene this can be a source of bad reactions from their peers and cause emotional damage as their learning experience is complicated by their negative social interactions.
To promote good hygiene to your early years:
- Model good habits yourself, e.g. washing your hands thoroughly (and visibly) before snack time or after blowing your nose and covering your mouth when coughing.
- Encourage discussions with children about why we need to keep our bodies clean and healthy, and what steps we can take to do that (having regular baths or showers, properly brushing our teeth, etc.)
- Enable children to consider what situations may be hotspots for germs, such as going to the toilet or playing in mud, and what they need to do after this, such as hand-washing and making sure their clothes are clean/changed.
- Teach them how to blow their nose into a tissue, rather than wiping it on their arm or sleeve. Encourage children to throw away their tissues as soon as they’ve been used and wash their hands immediately.
- Show children how to cough into the crook of their arm.
For a handy way to teach your early years how to blow their nose, take a look at this simple video!
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