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 bathtime.
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 her hands effectively with soap and water. Teach your child to wash hands:
Teach your child to sneeze or cough, not into her hand, but into the crook of her arm
Teach your child not to pick her nose or bite her nails.
Teach your child not to scratch her private parts in public.
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.
Maintaining good oral hygiene habits is important at this age, 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. Good dental hygiene is more essential than ever now that your child’s permanent teeth will soon be coming in.
Your child should be brushing her teeth at least twice a day, and after eating, if possible.
Although your child should be brushing her teeth on her own by now, she will still need help to make sure that her 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 through age 14, affecting 1 in 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 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 her tongue to clean off her teeth immediately after she has eaten foods that stick to her 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 she is doing in gym class or at recess. This will give you a better understanding of her 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. Even outdoor activities such as raking leaves count.
Explore age-appropriate lessons and sports for your 1st grader. These might include gymnastics or ballet classes or soccer lessons.
If you are concerned that your child is not active enough, try to find ways to make physical activity more enjoyable for her. For example, inviting friends over to play outside might motivate her. Or having you offer to kick a ball or play catch with her might spark her interest.
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 her to be vigilant when crossing the street and to play safely around cars. Show her how important it is to play safely with other children and on playground equipment, for example by avoiding falling on her neck and head.
Consistency is the key to your child’s sleep success. Ensure that she gets to bed and wakes up around the same time on weekdays and weekends. Your child may try to sleep in on the weekends, which is likely a sign that she is not getting enough sleep. Experts recommend that her bedtime on the weekends be within an hour of her weekday bedtime and that she should sleep for about the same amount of total time.
Establish a relaxing nightly routine for your child before bed. This could include tidying up her toys, reading bedtime stories, taking a warm bath, and brushing her teeth.
Your child may try to extend her nightly routine in order to delay bedtime. Experts say you can incorporate some flexibility into her routine by allowing her to pick a 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 her bedroom prior to her falling asleep.
Encourage your child to play with her toys on the floor of her bedroom or in another room, reserving her bed solely for sleeping. By limiting the other activities that take place on her bed, your daughter 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.
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 her with a star for every night she gets to bed on time.
Caffeine is a stimulant that can prevent your child from falling asleep. Five hours before her bedtime, avoid feeding your child soda, tea, or other caffeinated beverages. Caffeine has also been found to stimulate urination and can contribute to bedwetting.