Reinforcing good hygiene practices from an early age is important for several reasons. Firstly, because it is deemed essentially as half of our faith, as the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
"Cleanliness is half of faith."
And, secondly because it helps preserve our health and protect us and others around us from the spread of infections causing potential illnesses and health problems.
Habits are usually borne subconsciously, and so it is very important that we attune ourselves to modeling good ones for our children. Especially, when our children are younger, so that there is a greater chance of developing positive habits that they can carry with them into adulthood. That said, it is likely that our children also adopt certain habits through external influences such as through friends and peers, and hence as parents we must try and reinforce the good ones on a continuous basis.
Developing Good Hygiene Habits
When we talk about hygiene, there are a few specific areas that can be covered with respect to promoting good hygiene practices. However, It is essential to be mindful and approach the topic in a child-friendly and age-appropriate manner, and to make it a positive and engaging experience, especially for our younger children.
Here are four areas to concentrate on when addressing good hygiene practices for children.
1. Take care of our bodies.
- Hand washing: When it comes to hand washing, it is important to highlight proper hand washing techniques as well as the frequency for hand washing. For instance, washing hands before eating, after coming back home, and after using the toilet, in order to prevent the spread of contamination.
Here is a fun experimental video that will help young children see why it is important for us to wash our hands properly.
- Tooth brushing: Brushing and flossing are essential parts of routine dental care. The proper use of a toothbrush is necessary for the prevention of tooth decay, cavities and other problems such as gum diseases. In addition to this, it is useful for keeping our teeth clean from plaque buildup as well as maintaining our breath. In order to help foster the importance of regular brushing, here are some kid-friendly app suggestions to make tooth brushing a fun part of a kid's daily routine.
Parents can also help use the opportunity to teach children about the health benefits of using a Miswaak (the traditional toothbrush) and the blessings that it helps bring forth as a means of continuing a Sunnah tradition.
- Baths and showers: Baths can be fun for some kids but a daunting experience for others. And usually, the latter is the case when there is an element of fear in the child's mind. This could be due to a past incident that turned into a phobia, and so it is very important to address the issue because regular bathing is essential for a child's hygiene as well as growth.
Here is a video highlighting the need to shower, to encourage kids to develop the habit.
- Nail hygiene: Until our kids grow older, it is important to help them keep their nails clean and trimmed, and help avoid developing habits such as nail biting. This includes toenails which are often neglected and overlooked.
- Hair hygiene: Hair is as much part of our body as the rest of the body parts. Combing and trimming hair is an essential part of hygiene and reflects neatness, so it must be encouraged. Moreover, taking care of our hair is also important to avoid infestation of hair nits and lice, which can become problematic for ourselves as well as others. As part of a healthy hair care regimen, oiling of the air is also a good way to ensure and maintain hair hygiene.
As our children grow older, as parents we must also educate them on shaving of pubic hair and keeping those areas clean.
2. Pay attention to toilet hygiene.
When it comes to toilet hygiene, it is crucial to teach our children the importance of regular toilet use and proper clean-up techniques. Up until the age of 5 or 6, children need assistance and supervision when it comes to toileting needs. And, this is the time to help them understand why it is important to keep those areas clean and how it should be done. For younger children, it can be overwhelming at first, but gradually by allowing them to become independent under your supervision, parents can help them feel more confident about it.
It is also important to highlight good toilet hygiene practices, such as doing istinjah - using water to clean up, and removing any filth that may be present around the toilet seat prior to sitting and after getting up (using toilet paper - as this will help keep us stay clean, too). Other important things to mention are the etiquettes for using the toilet, such as avoiding standing up to urinate, as it is discouraged in Islam, flushing the toilet after use, and washing hands with soap. Special care should also be taken to ensure that older children understand ways to maintain Islamic practices while in various environments.
Be sure to also teach children the duas or prayers associated with entering and exiting the bathroom. The graphics below are nice to copy about post where they can be referenced often. You can also find additional resources at Islamic toilet manners for kids | Primary Ilm.
3. Limit the spread of germs.
Part of practicing good hygiene is ensuring that we do not promote the spread of germs. This is why it is imperative to encourage developing good habits and manners in our children and teach them to be mindful of their actions. For instance, when coughing and sneezing we must cover our mouth and nose, using our elbow and also remember to say Alhumdulillah - all Praise be to Allah.
Abu Huraira reported that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
"When one of you sneezes, he should say, 'Praise be to Allah,' and his brother or companion should say to him, 'May Allah have mercy on you.' Then he should say, 'May Allah guide you and put your affairs in order.'"
With regards to yawning, we must cover our mouth. Abu Huraira narrated that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
"Allah loves sneezing and hates yawning. When one of you sneezes and praises Allah Almighty, it is a duty for every Muslim who hears him to say to him, 'May Allah have mercy on you.' Yawning comes from Shaytan. When one of you yawns, he should control it as much as possible. When a man says, 'Aawh!,' Shaytan laughs at him."
4. Keep the environment clean.
The importance of keeping one's surroundings clean, and free from filth and dirt is not only an essential part of our civic duty but also a means of promoting cleanliness and good environmental hygiene.
When we teach our children to act responsibly, it helps to improve their social skills, too, as good hygiene can also play a role in building positive social interactions. Children learn to respect others by keeping their surroundings clean and hygienic.
Some Important Things to Remember
It is important that parents are mindful of what they associate good hygiene practices with. Instilling a fear should never be the objective, rather explaining through rationale will always help children be more receptive to the benefits of maintaining good hygiene. You may even want to use positive reinforcement such as a sticker chart, to help reward your children for keeping up.
Moreover, keeping it simple, fun, and engaging for the children is absolutely vital. Using simple language and concrete examples, can help reinforce the idea of why certain practices like toilet hygiene and hand washing are important for our health.
In the end, it is more about encouraging our children to take ownership of their own hygiene routines and develop them into lifelong habits.
Umm Ahmed is an early childhood educator and mother of three boys. Always on the quest to learn, she is passionate about seeking knowledge and passing it on to others. A writer in the making, she draws inspiration through deep conversations, laws of nature, and her own children. She and her family are currently living in Abu Dhabi, UAE.