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How to build fundamental health and social habits in children

Good habits formed at youth make all the difference – Aristotle

Do you find that getting children into basic good habits like cleaning teeth, hand washing, being respectful, being positive or making healthy choices can be quite challenging at times?

The fundamental habits in health, hygiene and social behaviour such as hand washing, picking up after themselves or coughing with their hand over their mouth that our children benefit from practicing daily, can often be a frustrating part of childcare!

We understand it’s not always easy to get children to habitually do these things or be something they will naturally learn quickly. Different circumstances can make it challenging for some children to practice these as part of a daily routine, becoming very frustrating and potentially causing upset (not just with the children either!) As a result, statistics have shown that several missed days from school are directly linked to children not regularly carrying out regular practices, in this case, brushing their teeth. This figure is only on the increase, with many children missing up to 15 days of school.

Did you know habits are formed through repetition?

This enables children to build new and strong neural pathways that form these behaviours and they can be triggered through recognition and familiarity. No one is born knowing when to say, ‘please and thank you’, how to hold cutlery or use a toothbrush. These are all behaviours learnt through trial and error, perseverance, imitation and practice until they finally become an automatic behaviour. We can help children build good habits through example, explanation and education, so a child sees us demonstrating the habit and then understands why this daily practice is important to do. Don’t forget to make it fun so it doesn’t appear so much of a chore and try to keep to a regular routine to get them used to the right times to carry out the practice. In your setting, this might be part of your regular daily routine, having a sign by the toilet to encourage hand washing and reminding the children before eating their lunch or snack about washing their hands.

You could even think about introducing reward charts and fun related activities such as my books ‘Little Life Bugs’ that aims to encourage and support young children in the practice of fundamental daily habits to help their development into mindful, health, confident and caring young adults. With these methods, they will soon be more willing to put the work into mastering the techniques and to understand when it is important to use it. Because children imitate behaviour, they will then inspire each other to practice these habits, helping to strengthen the behaviour either within a setting environment or at home. Practicing these behaviours from a young age will only benefit further.

Before long the good habit is built and being practiced as a subconscious action like tying shoelaces or riding a bike!

Find out more about Life's Little Bugs

Our award-winning books are a good support aid for anyone encouraging these habits.

We have also utilized this knowledge with added expert input and other researched learning methods to develop a series of workshops making it fun and simple to teach the cause, effect and how to action each fundamental habit.

Our colourful Life’s Little Bugs characters help to engage children and can be used as the trigger mechanism for each habit they represent. So rather than a poster full of words on ‘how to’ children will be reminded of the habit and practice by just the character image alone.

For more information on Life’s Little Bugs look us up on or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We have printable activities and charts free to download.

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