At what age can your child brush their teeth unassisted? Or take a bath alone? When should mom and dad be ready for a conversation about shaving — or the dreaded issue of body odor? Read on for these answers and more basic hygiene tips for kids.
Building healthy habits starts early. As parents, you will be largely in charge of every part of your child’s personal hygiene until they are school-age. Older toddlers can begin to learn the actions they will eventually need to take, such as brushing their teeth and washing their hands, but will still require parent assistance.
- Bathing: While it goes without saying that infants need to be given a bath, children should remain supervised in the tub until at least the age of 3, and the American Academy of Pediatrics specifies age 5. You can, however, begin laying the foundation for when your child will be old enough to bathe alone and have them learn the different steps of the bathing process with you.
- Brushing Teeth: Once your child has begun to cut their first teeth, oral hygiene will be one of the most important parts of their personal care. Brush your toddler’s teeth at least 2 times a day for 2 minutes each time. Taking turns (first they brush, then you follow up) can be a great way for your child to learn how to brush their own teeth.
- Potty Training: As soon as your child begins showing an interest, you can have them observe and mimic all the stages of the toileting process, from sitting on their own toilet to flushing and washing their hands like mom and dad.
- Hand-Washing: Kids at this age will need help applying soap and scrubbing their hands together under the water. But this is a good time to teach basic principles such as when to wash your hands and for how long, while using songs or games will make it fun.
At this age, your kids will still need help with most aspects of their personal hygiene. However, your main focus should be on training them to eventually care for themselves.
- Bathing: Once your child is old enough to take a bath unsupervised, parents get a bit of a break — as long as you are within earshot and check on them often. At this age, bath time is still playtime for many kids, and they could stay in there all night if you let them. They may need prompts and reminders to take the next step (i.e., “Time to add shampoo to your hair!” “Don’t forget to wash behind your ears.”), and they may still need help with some steps, such as rinsing all the suds out of their hair.
- Toileting: Some kids may still need help with wiping until they reach school-age. It can also be a good idea to continue to have baby wipes accessible for those who need them or just prefer to be extra clean.
- Hand-Washing: Kids at this age may still need help reaching the sink, working the soap pump, and turning on the faucet, especially in unfamiliar public restrooms. They may also need reminders on when to wash their hands, such as before and after meals.
- Oral Hygiene: Although your children will be able to brush their own teeth around the age of 4 or 5, most dentists recommend they still be guided or supervised until the age of 9 or 10. At this age, toothbrushes with built-in audio or visual cues are a good way to show kids just how long they need to be brushing for. Parents should do a quick spot-check and consider helping kids learn to floss their teeth after brushing.
Pre-Teen and Teen Years
With the onset of puberty comes new challenges. Mom and dad now function primarily as consultants, available when a child has questions or needs assistance with a new habit such as shaving or dealing with period care.
- Bathing: Older kids may start to prefer showers over baths and generally express a desire for more privacy in the bathroom. Follow your child’s lead, and don’t be surprised when this transition occurs.
- Oral Hygiene: Many children at this age are now dealing with dental appliances such as braces or retainers that require specialized care and cleaning. Dental care extras like dental floss, electric toothbrushes, and mouthwash can now begin to be a part of your tween or teen’s daily routine and will give them a real sense of ownership over their oral health.
- Shaving: Although the age at which shaving can begin is largely a personal family choice, most teens will begin expressing an interest in shaving sometime during middle school or high school. Your child should be taught proper razor technique and should be supervised the first few times, if possible. Alternatives such as safety razors, waxing, and other hair removal products can be an option as well.
- Body Odor: Body odor may begin as early as age 8 or 9 for kids approaching puberty. At this age, you can begin to teach your child how to utilize deodorant as a part of their daily routine. Kids especially love the convenience of spray-on deodorant.
- Menstruation: A good time to have the conversation about tampons, pads, and other aspects of period care is before the onset of their first period. Make sure your daughter knows she can come to you and not be embarrassed about any questions. Girls should be informed of their choices for period care and taught how to use these products. As the time approaches, be sure to send them to school with extra materials available in case it starts unexpectedly.
- Skincare: During puberty, acne may begin to rear its ugly head. Kids who have never given a second thought to skincare may suddenly find themselves in a world of facial cleansers and anti-bacterial soap bars. A general rule of thumb is to wash any acne-prone areas 2 times a day (morning and night) and after any heavy sweating or physical activity.