The precise age at which children are ready to bathe or shower on their own varies from child to child. Often, children will indicate that they are ready for more privacy and would prefer to start washing themselves, but the transition is usually gradual and parents will still need to weigh in with advice or to check that everything has been properly cleansed. Some children, especially girls with long hair, might still require help with shampooing or rinsing out conditioner even after they have mastered washing the rest of their body. As children start bathing on their own, be patient as they learn the ropes and allocate extra time if necessary for bath time.
Most children do not need to wash their hair every day. How often your child's hair needs to be washed will depend on a number of factors, including hair length, your child’s activity level, and whether the hair is curly or straight.
Make sure that your child understands the importance of washing hands and the connection between cleanliness and staying healthy. Don't rely too much on hand sanitizers and instead make sure your child knows how to wash his hands effectively with soap and water. Teach your child to wash hands:
Teach your child to sneeze or cough, not into his hand, but into the crook of his arm.
Teach your child not to pick his nose or bite his nails.
Make sure your child understands the connection between good hygiene and good health. Explain the importance of not sharing drinking containers and straws, for example, with other kids at school.
Developing good oral hygiene habits is important, even if your child still has only baby teeth. Tooth decay and cavities are entirely preventable yet remain widespread and affect children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated dental problems can become infected, causing pain and causing problems with eating, speaking, and learning.
By kindergarten children should be brushing their teeth at least twice a day, and after eating, if possible.
Although your child should be able to brush his teeth on his own by now, he will still need help to make sure that his teeth are thoroughly cleaned. Parents should continue to be responsible for overseeing brushing and flossing before bedtime.
Children should start flossing on a daily basis once their teeth fit closely together. They will usually need some help with this until then are 7 years old or even older.
See a dentist immediately if your child injures a tooth. Dental injuries are common among children ages 5-14, affecting 1 in 14, and left untreated can result in severe complications.
Find out if the water where you live has added fluoride and, if it is not, ask your dentist about strategies for protecting your child's teeth. Use a fluoride toothpaste but only in small, pea-sized amounts.
Limit your child's consumption of sugary or sticky foods, which are the main culprits in tooth decay. Teach your child to use his tongue to clean off his teeth immediately after he has eaten foods that stick to his teeth.
Limit juice consumption to mealtimes and dilute sweet juices with water to cut down on their sugar content.
Avoid or severely restrict consumption of soft drinks and sodas.
School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer in the curriculum, so it's especially important for parents to encourage physical activity and model good behavior. Try to organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as after-dinner walks or raking leaves.
Explore age-appropriate lessons and sports for your kindergartener. These might include gymnastics or ballet classes or soccer lessons.
Limit the amount of time your child spends in front of the television or computer monitor. Children who spend a majority of their time engaged in sedentary activities have been found to have poor motor coordination skills. Limit the amount of time that your child remains inactive to no more than an hour at a time.
Make sure that your child has plenty of opportunities to play outside. Take advantage of local parks and playgrounds as much as possible. Outdoor play allows children to participate in a variety of healthy physical activities and also offers valuable non-physical benefits. It can foster cognitive and emotional development, by encouraging children to test their limits and explore unfamiliar pieces of equipment. Interacting with other children at parks and playgrounds also helps develop important social skills.
Emphasize safety to your child. Teach him to be vigilant when crossing the street and to play safely around cars. Show him how important it is to play safely with other children and on playground equipment, for example by avoiding falling on his neck and head.
Children are the most rested when they have a steady sleep schedule. Try to keep his bed time and wake time consistent throughout the week and the weekend.
Establish a relaxing nightly routine for your child before bed. This could include tidying up his toys, reading bedtime stories, taking a warm bath, and brushing his teeth.
Your child may try to delay bedtime by extending his nightly routine. Experts say you can incorporate some flexibility into his routine by allowing him to pick the bedtime story or a cheery song, but it is important to establish boundaries by limiting the number of choices. To be effective, this routine should last no longer than 30 minutes. Try to leave his bedroom prior to him falling asleep.
Some children will express resistance to going to bed. To help alleviate this confrontation, use a neutral timekeeper, like a clock or a timer. This will not only establish clear expectations in an impartial and positive way, but also helps to expose your child to numbers and telling time.
Encourage your child to play with his toys on the floor of his bedroom or in another room, reserving her bed solely for sleeping. By limiting the other activities that take place on his bed, your son will begin to associate the bed with sleep time.
Make a family rule to turn off the television and other electronic devices at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. Extended screen usage, especially right before bed, is often associated with bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep, and nightmares. Experts recommend removing the television from your child’s bedroom to ensure that it is a quiet and dark environment.
To help lessen the fear of the dark, parents have long relied on nightlights. Experts caution that some of the lights currently available on the market are actually too bright for a restful environment and end up inhibiting sleep. They suggest using a low-illumination nightlight and putting it in a place far away from your child’s head, so that it is not directly shining into his eyes when he is lying down.
It is important to send consistent messages about the importance of sleep. Try praising your child after a good night's sleep. Avoid using an early bed time as a punishment or a late bed time as a reward. To create a positive message around sleep, you can make a sticker board and reward him with a star for every night he gets to bed on time.