Your child still needs help in the bath or shower, but it’s not too early to teach her how to clean herself effectively and which parts of her body to focus on during bathtime.
Your child should be able to use the toilet on her own. Make certain that she knows how to wipe herself effectively and emphasize how important it is that she does so. Young girls especially can be prone to infections if they do not wipe well after urinating.
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 well with soap and water. Teach her to wash her hands for about 15 seconds, or about as long as it takes to sing the ABC song fairly quickly. 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.
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.
Teach your child to brush her teeth at least twice a day: when she wakes up, before she goes to bed and, if possible, after eating.
Although your child should be able to brush 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 before bedtime to ensure that teeth are cleaned thoroughly.
If your child's teeth are close enough together for food to get caught between them, then she should be flossing regularly. She will need help holding and manipulating the floss as her manual dexterity develops, but it is important for her to develop the habit.
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.
Although she probably still has most or all of her baby teeth, developing good dental hygiene habits as early as possible will help determine the health of your child's adult teeth when they come in. If she loses baby teeth early to tooth decay, for example, then her adult teeth can grow in prematurely and misaligned because there is not enough room in her mouth.
Find out if the water where you live has added fluoride and, if it does 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. Gummy, sticky, or chewy snacks, even if nutritious, can be detrimental for the teeth. Serve a limited amount of food at snacktime and limit grazing, which can allow harmful build-up on the teeth. 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.
Most pre-kindergarteners get enough physical activity from simply doing the things they enjoy most, such as playing, running around, and dancing to music. If you are concerned that your child is not active enough, seek out ways to make physical activity more fun. Children love playing with other kids, so invite a friend for a playdate at home or at the local playground. Or get into the action yourself, by kicking a ball or playing catch with your child.
Encourage your child to walk distances and not to rely too much on being carried or even using a stroller. Try to set good examples of active behavior for your child, for example by opting to use the stairs and walking as much as possible.
Try to 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.
Model active behavior for your child. Try to organize family activities around being active so that your child understands that being active is fun.
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.
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.
Children are the most rested when they have a consistent sleep schedule. Try to keep her bed time and wake time the same on weekdays and weekends.
Your child may try to delay bedtime by extending her nightly routine. Experts say you can incorporate some flexibility into her routine by allowing her to pick the bedtime story or 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.
Some children will express resistance to going to bed. To help avoid 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 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.
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 her eyes when she is lying down.
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.