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Clean and Neat

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Reprinted with permission from Vicki Lansky

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From Practical Parenting Tips – Hygiene and Health – For the First Five Years
By Vicki Lansky

With babies and toddlers, the “finer points” of grooming are your responsibility and you don’t want to encourage self-help with such tools as scissors and cotton swabs. As children grow, they often begin to take pleasure in looking nice and smelling good. If they start out with serviceable habits, they’ll be apt to stick with them.

Encouraging good habits

  • Keep a sturdy stepstool next to the sink to encourage self-help.
  • Hang a small medicine cabinet on the bathroom wall at child’s eye level to hold grooming necessities. If the small cabinet is mirrored, so much the better.
  • Or buy mirror tiles you can stick on the wall at child height so your child won’t have to climb. If possible, position the tiles where you can add additional ones above them as the child grows.
  • Give your child a personal hygiene kit, an inexpensive plastic carrying case with his or her name on it. Equip it with a travel-size tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush, a small cake of soap and other necessities.
  • A liquid soap dispenser is probably NOT a good idea until children are about five and will not use it as a plaything.

Using Hand Towels

The best way to get really dirty hands clean is to have a child wash something in the sink – a toy, a doll, some plastic cups. Remember that you really like a wet, dirty towel better than a neatly hung, unused one.

  • Consider assigning each member of he family towels of different colors.
  • Or buy washcloths and hand towels printed with pictures of favorite storybook characters for the kids.
  • Place press-on hooks at your child’s level so that towels can be hung up more easily.
  • Attach a hand towel to a towel bar with a shower curtain hook or blanket clip. It will hang securely for hand drying.
  • Give a bath mitt to a child who hates to wash up. Make it out of an old sock tied up with soap inside, or sew two washcloths together and put soap chips inside.

Cutting Nails

  • Cut an infant’s nails at nursing time, with his or her head propped on a pillow so that you have both hands free.
  • Cut nails while the infant or child is asleep.
  • Use-round-ended scissors, for safety’s sake. Or try a nail clipper; some say it’s easier to use than scissors (try keeping one on your key ring for quick clips when the baby sleeps while you’re away from home.)
  • Put talcum powder in your palm and scrape your child’s nails over it. Enough will stick under the nails to show you how far to cut without causing hurt.
  • Put a squirmy toddler in the highchair and give him or her something to eat. Or cut nails right after a meal, when the child is sleepy and content.
  • Let your child watch television, as a distraction, while you cut his or her nails.
  • Or try filing a child’s nails
  • When nail-cutting is finished, clean under little nails with a flat wooden toothpick
Ask Dr. Susan