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.
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, whether your child is taking part in sports, and whether the hair is curly or straight.
Although many children do not need to use deodorant before puberty, some may have a strong enough body odor that they should start applying deodorant sooner. Especially if your child is taking part in sports and sweats a lot he may need to start wearing deodorant regularly. Let your nose be your guide.
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.
Teach your child not to scratch his private parts in public.
By the end of 4th grade your child might have lost most or all of his baby teeth and maintaining good oral hygiene habits is more important than ever. 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 problems with eating, speaking, and learning.
Your child should be brushing his teeth at least twice a day, and after eating, if possible.
Although your child should be brushing his teeth on his own by now, he may still need help to make sure that his teeth are thoroughly cleaned.
Flossing may still be a challenge and should be supervised until your child’s manual dexterity is advanced enough to make sure he is doing a thorough job.
See a dentist immediately if your child injures a tooth. Dental injuries are common among children through age 14, and if 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.
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.
Find out how much physical activity your child is getting each day at school and what sorts of activities he is doing in gym class or at recess. This will give you a better understanding of his overall level of physical activity.
School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer, so it’s especially important for parents to encourage physical activity and model good behavior. Organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as walks and bike rides. Outdoor chores such as raking leaves or shoveling are a good way to squeeze exercise into a busy weekend.
Encourage physical activity by giving your child toys that require movement, such as a kite, scooter, or jump rope.
If you are concerned that your child is not active enough, try to find ways to make physical activity more enjoyable for him. For example, inviting friends over to play outside might motivate him. Or having you offer to kick a ball or play catch with him could spark his interest.
It is around this age that some children start to demonstrate natural athletic ability and inclination, while others begin to resist physical activity and to think of themselves as “not sporty.” Even if he doesn’t seem to take to sports naturally, encourage your child to try out different activities and to find one that suits him. Some children resist team sports but can excel at individual sports like tennis or track. Make sure you let him sample a variety of sports to find his interest, and think of non-traditional sports, like fencing or archery that might appeal to him. Reward and encourage persistence, so that even if your child is not a “natural athlete” he learns to enjoy participating and pushing himself to improve.
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.
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 consistent sleep schedule. Experts caution that a change to a child’s normal sleep schedule on the weekends can actually make it harder for him to get out of bed when Monday rolls back around. To minimize this grogginess, allow your son to go to bed no more than an hour later than his normal weekday bedtime and sleep in no more than two hours past his usual wake time.
Keep the evening household environment as calm as possible. As it gets closer to bedtime, have your child participate in quiet, passive activities, like reading a book, instead of active play, which can overexcite him and make it harder to fall asleep. Also avoid watching television shows or movies that may contain violence right before bedtime since they may frighten your child.
Establish an electronic curfew at least 30 minutes prior to your child’s bedtime. Have him store all electronic devices, like video games and tablets, in places outside of his room and avoid putting a television or computer in his bedroom. This will ensure that he can prepare for sleep without electronic temptations. Model the behavior that you want to see in your child by also turning off your cell phone and other technological devices.
If you notice that your child consistently needs assistance waking up on a daily basis, is tired and grumpy, is regularly falling asleep in the car or at school and/or is constantly misbehaving during the day, he is most likely not getting enough sleep. Consider adjusting his bedtime earlier by incrementally changing it by 15 minutes until you notice improvements in his mood and functioning during the day.
Caffeine is a stimulant that can prevent your child from falling asleep. Five hours before his bedtime, avoid feeding your child soda, tea, or other caffeinated beverages.
Your child may ask to invite friends over for a sleepover. Despite to their name, sleepovers seldom include a lot of restful sleep. To help minimize the disruptive effect of having friends spend the night, experts suggest scheduling these events on Friday evenings. This allows your child two days to recover and enables your him to go to school on Monday refreshed. If that is not feasible, allow your child to sleep in past his normal wake time after a sleepover and encourage him to go to bed earlier the next evening.
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.