'Family Litter Secrets': Mum-of-three Shares How to Teach Kids About Good Hygiene and Cleanliness

'Family Litter Secrets': Mum-of-three Shares How to Teach Kids About Good Hygiene and Cleanliness

A handy guide every family needs. Helping kids learn about hygiene and cleanliness can be fairly simple, and fun!

Children learn best by example—and good habits start at home. There is no better time than now to demonstrate and cultivate good hygiene and cleanliness habits with this list of good hygiene habits.

Hygiene Education Begins at Home

As a mother of three, and Deputy Director of the Public Hygiene Council, Ms Gloria Tan shares with theAsianparent readers some insights on how parents can make the most of #StayHome and teach children about good hygiene and anti-littering habits. 

Ms Tan addresses the top concerns that parents might have, dishes out resources, tips and even activities that can help kids get involved in the process. 

1. How do you explain good hygiene and cleanliness to children?

According to Ms Tan, children must learn the basics of how germs, bacteria and viruses are present everywhere—even if they cannot see them.

Whether or not it is a pandemic that we are currently facing, the key takeaway is the important habit of washing our hands properly to maintain good hygiene. 

And parents play an important role to helping their children cultivate this good habit. 

Here, Ms Tan shares a video that she likes that has recently gone viral. It involves a mother-of-two from Boston, USA, showing her child on how soap keeps viruses away in a very visual and experiential way. 

Parents can try this simple experiment at home with their kids. 

You will need:

  • A plate filled with about an inch (height) of water

  • A sprinkling of black pepper across the surface (Tell your child this represents the virus)

  • Liquid hand soap

First, encourage your child to dip his/her finger in the plate of water and pepper concoction. Remove it and observe the pepper stuck on the finger.

Then, dip another finger in the soap, and dip the soap-covered fingertip into the water and pepper concoction. The pepper bits will “spring” away from the finger. In one moment, your child will see and understand how soap keeps viruses away. I think it’s a brilliant home experiment!

The science behind the experiment

The surface tension that kept the pepper bits afloat changes as soap is introduced into the water. In trying to keep the surface tension going as before, the water molecules, therefore, repel from the soap, thus carrying the pepper along with them.

This lesson can be extended further with toothpaste. Children also need to keep their teeth and mouth clean by brushing twice a day. This way, it keeps illnesses and bad breath away!

list of good hygiene habits

List of good hygiene habits: parents can help to remind and reinforce its importance. | Photo: iStock

With consistent messaging, your child will pick up these good personal hygiene habits.

2. How can parents be a good example for their children?

Children learn best by example, and good habits start at home said Ms Tan. 

Do we clear our own dishes and make our own beds? Do we bin our used tissues or leave them lying about?

It helps when parents become good role models for their children when visiting hawker centres, fast food restaurants, food courts, coffee shops and the list goes on. We have the ability to clear our tables after eating, and bin our trash properly.

'Family Litter Secrets': Mum-of-three Shares How to Teach Kids About Good Hygiene and Cleanliness

Ms Gloria Tan and her children; hygiene education begins at home. | Photo: Gloria Tan

Apart from that, parents can also start conversations about the immediate impact of inconsiderate and unhygienic actions. An example would be leaving plates in the room after eating which could attract scary roommates – pests like cockroaches and flies! They carry germs and viruses that can make us ill. 

3. What are some simple tasks that children can do to remind them of cleanliness and hygiene habits?

It is important to remind our children to wash their hands with soap frequently, especially before and after meals, and after using the toilet.

Here are some ways parents can get their children to clean up after themselves:

  • Clearing the play area – and putting toys back where they belong
  • Families to establish a routine for household chores
    • Children to tidy their own bed
    • Sweep the floor
    • Wash the dishes 

4. How can we make it exciting for children to learn about hygiene habits?

Ms Tan recommends turning household chores into fun games. A list of good hygiene habits with fun games include:

Sort out the trash:

Create different “recycling bins” for plastic, cans and paper. Then, race to see who can sort the “trash” fastest.

Tidy up the room:

Have a race between you and your kids to put the toys back in their place as fast as you can!

Clean up the house:

Pair a cleaning activity with your child’s favourite songs. Pause the music intermittently. When the music stops, they need to freeze in place. They will be eager to resume immediately once the music comes back on. Another way is to play cleaning-themed songs such as this one

Reading them stories will also help. Here are some useful and educational titles you can start with:

  • Germs are not for sharing by Elizabeth Verdick (For pre-schoolers)

  • Oh, the things you can do that are good for you: All about staying healthy by Tish Rabe (For Children who enjoy Dr Seuss)

  • The tale of Georgie Grub by Jeanne Willis (For those who enjoy cautionary tales)

  • What a waste by Jess French (The good and bad things we do that impact the environment)

  • I Can Save the Ocean! The Little Green Monster Cleans Up the Beach by Alison Inches (How to care for the environment)

  • Cutie Sue Fights the Germs by Kate Melton (Proactive way for primary school children)

You can find the titles here.

If your child prefers videos, here are some useful channels that list of good hygiene habits:

Personal Hygiene by Turtlediary

Dental Hygiene by Kids Learning Videos

Wash your hands songs by The Singing Walrus – English Songs for kids

5. What other activities can children participate in?

Your children can participate in litter-picking or recycling activities in their school and the community. They will experience first-hand the amount of litter strewn around and the effort that goes behind cleaning up. They will also learn about the types and amount of waste generated daily.

Ultimately, good values and habits start at home. When children practise good hygiene habits and clean up after themselves at home, they are more likely to apply these habits wherever they go—in schools or at other public spaces like hawker centres.

Look out for more tips and stories here

For more information on how to engage your children, watch this video “Family Litter Secrets” by the Public Hygiene Council below:

This article is contributed by Ms Gloria Tan, Deputy Director of the Public Hygiene Council.

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