Hygiene and Habits

With the world at a standstill, our young tots might not understand much beyond more time at home with their toys. We all love our kids dearly and hold them close to our hearts, which makes it all the scarier to see the COVID-19 pandemic take the world by storm.

Hygiene, now more than ever, is an important lesson our children need to pick up on. It’s important to build up these habits to keep them as safe as can be.

But building habits is hard, and often a confusing endeavour that can be a bit misleading on how exactly to build up a good habit.

We hope that through insightful and fun activities with your child, we can help you learn more about how habits work, and some hygienic practices you can employ in your own household! Let’s keep their spotless, pearly white smiles just as well as their squeaky clean hands!

What are habits, and how do they form?

But what exactly is a habit? Habits are “a more or less fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience,” according to The American Journal of Psychology (1903).

Habits by their very nature are non-intrusive. You might have some habits of your own that you aren’t really aware of. We don’t notice habits often and that’s by design. Which makes building a good habit all the more effective. It becomes effortless to maintain. Deeply ingrained in the daily routines that we do it without a second thought, and often without any thought to at all!

In fact, as far as 43% of our daily behaviours have been linked to habits according to a 2002 study by Wendy Wood and her colleagues.

How are habits formed? Habits are built on repetition, and over time the connection is strengthened to the point of effortlessness. Think of it as a road, and each time you drive through and clean it of debris, it makes the trip so much easier. Leave the thing to become derelict, letting the rubble pile on, and soon you’ll find yourself traversing through a slog that you will eventually get tired of and go back to a familiar road you are used to.

Selective focus of tap water children washing hands with soap under running water in the bathroom tap

If you rinse and repeat the same habit enough times, it becomes second nature. We become very efficient and elegant, not even aware of how well we are performing this task. Really, it’s a thing of beauty when you stop to consider it.

It’s designed to allow us to devote more of our mental energy towards other things. It’s a miracle of complex behaviours turned automated.

Sometimes these foundations are solid, but as you continue to build upon them as you grow older, it becomes harder for you to pull the rug from out under it, especially with so many boxes now piled on that foundation.

Uprooting our old habits is hard, which is why it’s often much easier to build new habits during your child’s formative years. Start them on the right path early, and give them a running start on the right track.

There are 3 components to forming habits. Context cue, behavioural repetition and the reward you get for executing the behaviour.

Context cue is the circumstances surrounding the behaviour. For example, when your child is feeling nervous, they might engage in some nail-biting to calm themselves. In this case, the circumstance is when your child is feeling nervous!

Behaviour is the habitual action taken. It’s the juicy middle, the habit that we are looking to unpack. It’s what we think about when we think of habits.

The final part is the reward. This often comes in the form of dopamine rush your child experiences when you praise them for cleaning their plate, veggies included! Or maybe the burst of excitement when you finally wrap up a project long in the making!

Here are some hygienic habits to keep your children clean and safe during COVID-19!

  • After using a tissue when sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose, wrap it in another one and bin it. Don’t leave them around for cleaners!
  • Use serving spoons when in group meals. For now, it’s best to avoid sharing food, but if it can’t be helped, serving spoons can minimize contact.
  • Eat on trays to prevent spilling or dripping from food. Keep the cleaners safe from the potential spread.
  • Be mindful when using public toilets, wipe them down before and after use! Let’s keep our toilets clean and dry
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and take your temperature on a regular basis.

As the role model they look to for guidance, remember to lead by example! Emphasizse how you wash your own hands and make sure they know it’s important, even if they don’t yet understand why.

But of course, make sure the entire process is fun every step of the way. Introduce these habits with a song, turn it into a game and let them associate this action with fun and positivity. This makes it easy for them to adopt these habits.

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