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Children and Chores: Part 2 - Good Hygiene Comes First

What's adorable at one is disgusting at twenty-one!

Baby David with his grubby face and hands is absolutely adorable! Fast forward a decade or two... Adorable at one is disgusting at twenty-one.

A person must have good hygiene to be taken seriously in the adult world. Personal cleanliness is imperative. Begin your child's "chore training" with good hygiene habits. Here is a system we used with our nine youngest children.

Hi, I’m Madia. I have eleven children and one of the greatest privileges of my life was to know Dr. Leila Denmark. She practiced pediatrics for over 75 years and was my mentor for 32 years.

I can hardly express how much she helped me, both with the children’s medical issues and family life challenges. I would love to share what she taught me with you.


Ten Happy Fingers for Good Hygiene

We typically began our Ten Fingers training at age three. Up to that point, hygiene training was spontaneous and less structured. Mom, Dad or an older sibling helped with the basics (washing hands, wiping faces, combing hair etc.).

When you are ready for a more structured approach to hygiene, decide which habits you want to work on and help your little one make his ten fingers chart. Draw the shape of his or her hands on a piece of clear paper and cut out illustrative pictures from magazines or sales brochures. Have him glue the pictures on the ends of his "fingers".

Post the Ten Fingers chart on a wall which is convenient for your child to refer to. Ours was next to the bathroom sink. Make sure that you have a stool available for little one to stand on so he has easy access to the sink and supplies he needs.


A Sample Chart

1. (left thumb) wash your face 6. (right thumb) pick up your room

2. brush your teeth 7. wash your face

3. comb your hair 8. brush your teeth

4. get dressed 9. put on your pajamas

5. make your bed 10. say your prayers


Explain: Take your child into the bathroom after breakfast. Explain the importance of each hygiene habit. Add encouragements such as, "David, you are such a big boy now. It's time to start doing these things by yourself!"

Demonstrate: Take him by the left hand, starting with the thumb and grasping each finger at a time, indicating the corresponding action on the chart for morning , e.g., "Let me see your thumb. See the thumb on the chart? What is the first thing you are supposed to do? Oh, it looks like you are supposed to wash your face. Can you show me how you can wash your face? Good boy!... Now what comes next?"

Repeat: Before bedtime repeat the same routine for the evening regiment. Continue morning and evening training (or have an older sibling do so) until your little one is able to perform independently. They will usually need to be reminded for quite a while, e.g., "David, it's time for bed. Have you done your five fingers?'

Be consistent and patient: Some children latch on to schedules and routine quicker than others. Be patient but firm. Sometimes rewarding with a small treat is helpful after each set is completed, e.g., "You finished your five fingers? Good boy! Now you can play with your cars." or "Now Mommy will read you a bedtime story."

From Madia:

"None of my hygiene and chore charts are original. I wish I could give credit to whom credit is due, but these are ideas that I picked up from a variety of sources and tweaked for our family. Every family is different. I would encourage you to take what has worked for ours and tweak it for yours."

Cleanliness and Order Can Change Your Life!

From Dr. Denmark:

"A woman came into my office one day at the Central Presbyterian Clinic where I used to volunteer. She lived in the slums, was ragged, dirty with tobacco stains at the corners of her mouth. Her two little girls looked like she did except for the tobacco. She told me, 'Dr. Denmark, I’m so worried. My man isn’t coming home regularly anymore. I’m sure he’s drinking and misbehaving.' After one good look at her I could see why he didn’t want to come home! Instead of giving her supplies (the clinic had those available), it seemed best to help her change her lifestyle. 'Mrs. Jones,' I said. 'Let’s try a plan for two months. You go home and get some soap. Clean the house, and you and your daughters bathe. Curl your and your little girl’s hair. Put a nice clean cloth or even some clean paper (whatever is available) on the table. Then serve whatever you have and make it as tasty as you can. Serve three meals a day and clean up after each one. Let’s try this plan for two months and see what happens.' After two months she came back elated with good news. 'Dr. Denmark, I’ve never seen a man change so much in all my life!'"


For more of Dr. Denmark's insights, read Dr. Denmark Said It!

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