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.
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.
Many girls start puberty by 10 or even earlier. Talk to your daughter about what to expect when she begins menstruating and teach her the importance of good menstrual hygiene.
By the end of 6th grade your child will have lost all or most of her 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 her teeth at least twice a day, and after eating, if possible.
Children should be flossing independently every day by around the age of 10, when their manual dexterity is sufficiently developed.
If a child’s permanent tooth becomes dislodges due to an injury, place the tooth in a container of milk and seek dental advice as soon as possible. Permanent teeth can sometimes be re-implanted successfully.
If your child plays a contact sport, he should wear a mouth guard to protect against dental injury and concussion.
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 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.
Explore lessons and organized sports for your 6th grader. These might include gymnastics or ballet classes or soccer or little league. As he grows and his physical abilities progress, your child may express an interest in sports that even a year ago were too difficult for her. Expose his to as many options for physical activities and sports as possible. Community organizations like the local YMCA often offer affordable and kid-friendly yoga or Tae Kwon Do classes, for example.
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 suggesting that you exercise or do yoga together might spark his interest.
One reason that children are less physically active than in previous generations is that fewer and fewer children walk or bike to school. If doing so is a safe alternative for your child, encourage the practice.
It is around this age that some children start to demonstrate natural athletic ability and inclination, while others resist physical activity and start 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 her. 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 her. Reward and encourage persistence, so that even if your child is not a “natural athlete” he learns to enjoy participating and pushing herself to improve.
With some children starting puberty and beginning to grow more quickly and become stronger than their peers, physical differences among children at different stages of development become more pronounced at around this age. Take this into account when selecting a sport or activity for your child and encourage her to be patient if he feels he isn’t as strong or as fast as others. Assure her that her growth spurt is coming soon!
Exercise and regular activity help children feel comfortable with their bodies, which becomes especially important with the advent of puberty and its accompanying changes. Make sure your child knows about the changes that will take place in her body when he goes through puberty—things like sweating more, developing stronger body odor, growing pubic hair, and having acne.
The link between physical activity and improved academic performance is becoming increasingly clear. According to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, children perform cognitive tasks better after participating in a session of physical activity. The report also notes that “frequent bouts of physical activity throughout the day yield short-term benefits for mental and cognitive health.” Encourage your child to take play actively or exercise before doing her homework or studying and to take short active breaks from sedentary activities. For example, if he is getting bogged down on some especially homework difficult problems, suggest that he clear her head by walking the dog or kicking a ball outside.
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.
Children are the most rested when they have a consistent sleep schedule. Experts caution that a change to his 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.
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 own cell phone and other technological devices.
Experts recommend sitting down with your child to create a sleep budget for the week. Map out your child’s priorities and activities, including time set aside for homework, meals, and extracurricular commitments. If you notice that his schedule starts to upend his bedtime and cuts into his restful evening of sleep, your child is most likely overscheduled. Encourage him to cut back on his number of activities and establish realistic expectations for the amount of sleep he should be getting each night.
Caffeine is a stimulant that can prevent your child from falling asleep. Try not to serve soda, iced tea, or other caffeinated beverages any time after he gets home from school.
Your child may ask to invite friends over for a sleepover throughout the school year. Despite their name, sleepovers seldom include a lot of restful sleep. To help counteract the drowsiness that he may feel after a sleepover, experts recommend hosting these events on Friday evenings. This allows for two days of recovery and enables him to go to school refreshed on Monday. If that is not feasible, allow your son to sleep in past his normal wake time the next day 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 of sleep and avoid using an early bed time as a punishment or a late bed time as a reward.