For my family, germs are bad, very bad. Our two-year-old daughter has cystic fibrosis and getting just a cold can send her to the hospital on IV antibiotics for two weeks. Good health today translates to a healthy tomorrow and a longer life. Only half of those with CF will live to age 37. Because of this, it is vital that we keep her free of germs while still allowing her to live the most normal life possible.
That means preparing her to take care of herself when she heads off to school at the tender age of five. But every child, special health need or not, should be taught good hand hygiene from an early age in order to stay healthy, especially during cold and flu season.
Stick with a Routine
We have a routine in place and it’s been that way since she was a baby. We wash hands whenever we get home and always after using the potty. We always have hand sanitizer with us and we use it in the car, at church, in restaurants, and at the park. Sometimes she puts up a fight, but overall she accepts that washing hands frequently is just something we all do. Hopefully over the next three years it will become even more ingrained.
The best way to get kids to do anything is to get them excited. One of the best ways to do that is with fun games and products. Sing the ABCs while washing her hands. It’s not only fun, but also keeps you washing for the full 20 seconds that’s suggested.
Pampers Kandoo, which I recently saw featured on The Balancing Act, has a new line of products that make hand washing and hygiene fun for kids. The hand soap has brightly colored foam that lets your child know exactly where the soap is to ensure she thoroughly cleans her hands. And the sanitizer comes in a travel size so my daughter now has her very own to carry proudly with her. Plus, the regular-sized bottle is shaped to fit in the car cup holder, which means no more lost bottles under the seats. But the best part for me is that the products are kid friendly. They’re made with natural ingredients are free of sulfates, parabens and phthalates.
Celebrate Her Independence
Just as we celebrate when our child learns to use the potty or ties her shoes for the first time, we need to celebrate good hygiene. Taking good care of ourselves is important and is a big step in becoming a “big kid.” While I am still constantly telling my daughter to wash her hands, at some point it will become her responsibility and we will slowly ease into that.
By age four, you should be reminding your child to wash her hands and she should be able to do it on her own, with supervision if necessary. Each time she does, you should make a big deal out of it. She’ll feel good about herself, and you’ll feel good knowing you can trust her to keep herself as healthy as possible.