Preschool is the ideal time to present ideas on health and hygiene to children. When children learn at a young age and implement hygiene on a daily basis, hygiene becomes a healthy lifetime habit. By bringing the concept of hygiene down to the learning level of a 3- or 4-year-old child, you can make hygiene an enjoyable and even desirable lesson. A few props can help a preschooler learn the difference between clean and dirty hands and all about the right way to brush his teeth.
The concept of germs --- tiny, invisible organisms that can make children sick --- can be difficult for children to grasp. Using visual aids can help children understand how germs spread and how to get rid of them. Pour a small amount of glitter into the hands of each child. Show how, when they touch other objects and people, the glitter "germs" come off and can remain on the object or person touched. Explain that just like the glitter, germs spread from person to person. Then, demonstrate how to get rid of the germs through proper hand-washing techniques.
The dentist's office can be a frightening place for small children. Take away from the fear and talk about proper tooth hygiene by inviting a dentist or dental hygienist to come and visit your classroom. Have her display some of her tools and talk about each one and how it helps keep the mouth healthy, and talk about proper brushing techniques. Let children choose a new toothbrush and practice brushing techniques in the classroom, if possible.
Washing the entire body in the bathtub can be a challenge for some preschoolers. Talking about the importance of thoughtful washing is easier done with a plastic baby. Bring a small tub, washcloth and soap to the front of the class and demonstrate proper bathing technique on the plastic baby. Then, offer each child a small, plastic item like a doll or rubber duck and allow them to try for themselves. Talk about the importance of keeping their bodies clean and healthy.
Preschool children may be overwhelmed by the number of hygiene-related tasks that they need to tackle on a daily basis. Simply remembering to brush their hair, brush their teeth, bathe and wash their hands can be difficult. Create a small cutout of a body with die-cut hair, teeth and accessories. Laminate the doll and give to each child. They can use a dry erase marker to place a check mark on each of the areas of hygiene they accomplished throughout the day, aiming for a complete body check for complete hygiene.
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.