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How music, creativity and practice at home can help kids form good hygiene habits

Parents should lead by example, says developmental-behavioral specialist

School districts across Central Florida are about a month away from the first day of school and for many parents and their children, that means going back to traditional face-to-face learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

The big concern now is how to make sure your kids are going to maintain social distancing guidelines, wash their hands and avoid touching their faces.

Dr. Lisa Spector, the division chief or developmental-behavioral pediatrics at Nemours Children’s Hospital said parents need to lead by example for their children.

“The best way to start as grown-ups is role modeling, right? Kids do what we do. So, if we’re wearing our mask, they’re gonna feel more comfortable wearing their mask,” Spector said.

Spector said practicing health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at home will help them when school resumes.

“Having kids practice what us wearing a mask or face covering look ... and what are the important parts to make sure we’re covering when we wear a mask,” Spector said. She added offering a reward incentive if they do it properly will help them stay on track and using creativity gives them a better understanding.

"Coming up with songs, coming up with different rhyming patterns to help them remember," Spector said.

Margie Bounds, an occupational therapist, and mother of two uses the Happy Birthday song to sing with her daughters while they wash their hands.

"We used a lot of tangible kinds of activities so they could really see why we needed to wash our hands," Bounds said.

In terms of helping them understand what germs are, she used glitter.

“I just put it on my hand and said, ‘Give me a high five’ and then ‚‘Oh no,’ the glitter was now on their hands so I said, ‘See that’s how germs spread when we touch other people,‘” Bounds said. “Then we went to the sink to really show how they can wash those germs off of their hands and how the glitter disappears and that’s what happens when we use soap and water.”

And when it came to wearing a mask, Bounds explained how they could be part of the solution.

"Since they're very empathetic they were really into helping other people, and I was like: That's your superpower, you can wear this mask and you can help other people not get the germs that are coming out your mouth," she said.

Bounds also suggested sewing themed face masks for the kids.

“Getting them something that they’re interested in. If you could go to a web page where they’re selling masks and have them pick it out the mask that they want to wear that’s really helpful in getting them involved,” she said.

Spector recommends parents teach their children how to greet their friends at school with either an elbow bump or an air hug. Spector also said their temperature should be taken each day prior to leaving for school and make sure they are getting enough fruits and vegetables for vitamins.


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