Self-Care (& Hygiene!) Skills for Toddlers & Preschoolers

It’s never to early to start teaching some valuable lessons on self-care and hygiene to young children. Check out these ten skills and how to teach them:


I have too many kids to do everything for them.

Hard fact.

When they were younger, of course, I did what needed to be done. But I’m amazed how quickly my precious ones wanted to learn how to do things. And when kids are eager to do things on their own, what should we do?

Teach them how!

Yes, you’ll still have to supervise and inspect what you expect, of course, but when kids are able to carry out a lot of their own self-care and hygiene tasks, they feel good and competent

Why is Self-Care & Hygiene Important to Teach Toddlers and Preschoolers?

It’s simple. Good hygiene skills are important to keep kids healthy and safe. It’s ok to start early in training small children how to have sanitary habits.

Here are 10 self-care & hygiene skills that you can teach toddlers and preschoolers:

50+ Life Skills Checklists (By Age!)

Kids (toddlers through elementary school) will learn everything from life management, social, survival, and hygiene skills PLUS MORE!

Washing Hands

According to the some, hand-washing is one of the best ways to prevent getting sick. For toddlers and preschoolers, this makes it a good hygiene skill to have.

Here are the steps for proper hand-washing:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water.
  2. Apply soap.
  3. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Don’t forget the backs of your hands and between your fingers.
  4. Scrub while you hum through “happy birthday to you” twice. This should be about 20 seconds.
  5. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  6. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Children should be taught when to wash their handsas part of good hygiene.

  • Before & after eating food
  • Before & after seeing someone who is sick
  • After going to the bathroom
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • When you are done petting an animal
  • When you are visiting a new baby or an elderly person

Of course, they don’t do all these all the time and we don’t want to get obsessed about it all, but these are good times to keep in mind.

Dental Care

For toddlers and preschoolers, it’s time to start taking some independence with dental care… although in my opinion, kids (even older) should be monitored for proper brushing.

At this age, however children can start to learn how to properly brush their teeth.

Here is a good way to begin teaching this skill:

  1. Model good technic
  2. Allow them to do their best
  3. Follow up with you getting the spots they missed
  4. Praise them for their efforts
  5. Stay consistent

Dental hygiene is very important and begins at a young age. Teach these specific skills:

  • As soon as teeth start to come in, start brushing
  • Use a soft bristle brush and pea sized amount of toothpaste
  • Make short round motions and over all areas of the teeth
  • Rise (don’t swallow)
  • Clean toothbrush and place back in sanitary location

Children’s Oral Health Basics/CDC Guidelines

Bathing & Drying Off

Bath-time can be a super fun time. Or sometimes it’s not, ha, but anyway you can minimize the bath time battles.

Some kids love to be in the water, and others don’t like it at all. Either way, learning good bathing skills is important.

Here are a few skills that you can begin to teach to your toddler & preschooler:

  • When to bathe
  • How much time to spend in the bath
  • Appropriate bath-time behaviors
  • How much soap to use & where to put it
  • Rinsing clean
  • How to dry off & where to put the towel

Blowing Nose & Covering Sneezes

My kids all prefer to let their snot drip out and then sniff. Drip and sniff. REPEAT.

Other day at church someone near us handed my son a tissue.

Take a hint, sin: BLOW!

But, blowing, wiping, and covering sneezes are important hygiene skills to teach kids. Think of it this way, the sooner they learn how, the sooner they can do it themselves.

Here’s where to start:

  • Have tissues handy
  • Show them how to fold and hold the tissue (not all sides are clean once you use it once)
  • Allow them to keep a tissue in pocket or bag once they are ready

Travel size tissue packs even come in Dinosaur or Barbie designs for kids to enjoy.

Toiletry Habits

Many preschools or early learning centers require children to come prepared to use the bathroom independently.

Even if they don’t, how much better is it to have properly trained your young child on good toilet habits.

It’s never to early to begin training cleanliness and sanitary safety.

Training tips for toddlers & preschoolers:

  • Train situational awareness. Using the restroom in a public room is different than at home. We don’t lay on floor or touch toilet seat, etc.
  • Always wash hands thoroughly after using the restroom.
  • Using the restroom is a private matter. Don’t look at or watch anyone else while they are doing their business. The same applies to them.
  • For boys, wipe the seat clean if you made a mess. Throw tissue in and flush.
  • For girls, check to make sure seat is clean before sitting down. Always wipe from front to back.

Wearing Clean Clothes

Clean clothes are necessary to have clean bodies. I remember one of my boys would take a bath and then throw his clothes back on.

My response: why did you even bathe?

Toddlers and preschoolers can be taught to recognize when clothes are too dirty to wear. They can also be great helpers when it comes to putting clothes away into their dirty hamper.

In my opinion, it’s never to early to start training them on this skill.

Toddler and self-care and hygiene.

Knowing What Not to Touch

Germs… yes, they are everywhere.

But some places are way more nasty. Training young children on what things they should not touch is an important self-care skill.

Here are some “no touch areas” to consider:

  • The floors of public restaurants & restrooms
  • Other people’s open wounds
  • Any type of chemical or abrasive substance
  • Trash
  • Curious objects on the ground at parks/walkways/etc.
  • Sharp objects
  • Unfamiliar animals
  • Body fluids

50+ Life Skills Checklists (By Age!)

Kids (toddlers through elementary school) will learn everything from life management, social, survival, and hygiene skills PLUS MORE!

Wound Care

Everyone get’s “boo-boos” from time to time. For some kids, this is fascinating.

An important self-care skill for toddlers and preschoolers is how to handle their wounds. Teach safety by cleaning, covering, and keeping clean their bug bites and scrapes.

Picking scabs is a hard habit to breakso it’s important to teach this skill early.

Also, teach cleanliness and safety when it comes to any wounds. Teach young children never to touch other people’s wounds or blood. Don’t pick up bandaids or other personal hygiene items, etc.

After Meals/Snack Habits

You can’t talk about self-care and hygiene for toddlers and preschoolers without talking about food. My kids aren’t the neatest eaters, but we are working on it.

I once observed a young child who insisted on inserting his entire finder in his mouth with each bite. Ha. And not when he was eating cheese puffs, which I feel warrants an exception.

Here are some tips on teaching table hygiene:

  • Wash hands before and after sitting down to eat.
  • Teach use of table napkin to wipe face and hands. This will help them avoid wiping their hands and face on their clothes, or not at all.
  • Certain toys or games may not be sanity for play at the table. I had a no toys rule at the table, but I know some parents really don’t mind. Interesting, if you kid was just pushing the toy truck across the bathroom floor, it may not need to be on his plate.
  • Clean up habits- it’s never too early to establish some healthy clean up routines. Pick up plate and put in sink, wipe down table/floor, etc.

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How to Handle Animals

Pet’s are a wonderful way to teach responsibility and compassion. But, they can be messy from time to time. For toddlers and preschoolers, a good self-care lesson to teach is how to handle them.

Obviously, they shouldn’t handle animal waste or pet their animals if they are in desperate need of a bath. But there are some other things too:

  • Wash hands after handling pet’s food, supplies, or cages
  • Keep your pet’s kennel/bed clean and tidy
  • Teach children to keep pet supplies and food away from the place where we handle our food
  • Never allow your children to rough house or handle animals with force
  • Teach children to observe wildlife from a distance/never approach a wild animal

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