When the CDC issued its COVID-19 guidelines to avoid touching our faces, most of us woke up to just how often we do it (about 23 times per hour!) and how little control we seem to have. For three decades, the doctors and therapists working with The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors have been developing effective therapies for curbing behaviors like skin picking and hair pulling. The good news is that the behavioral tools that treat these disorders can help you – and your young child (including toddlers) – reduce face touching.
Even with hard work, some face touching is going to happen. So be forgiving of yourself and your child as you learn these tips to stay healthy.
How to help toddlers and young children
Helping young children to not touch their faces is tough. Many of the ideas that help adults can be adapted for even your youngest one. Aim for reduction, not perfection.
Use a calm voice and child-friendly terms to describe the situation. You might say, "It's always a good idea to keep our hands away from our face, but right now there are some extra bad-guy germs, and they try to get inside of us through our eyes, nose, and mouth to make us feel sick. Let's see if we can work together to keep the bad-guy germs out."
Children can't avoid touching their face completely, so try to keep your little one's hands extra clean. Make washing hands enjoyable by creating a funny song together, give a rubber ducky a sink bath, or see how many bubbles can pile up on his palm.
What to Do
If your child enjoys baths, have several a day. It's an opportunity to get clean and have fun at the same time. Consider some new bath toys and bedding such as a clean turkey baster, a new crib sheet, blankets, or other safe, recently cleaned kitchen items.
Throughout the day set up activities for your child that include messy fun such as finger painting, clean sleep sack, gardening, playing with sand, or finger painting with whipped cream!
What not to do
Don't try to frighten your child with horrible consequences that will happen if she touches her face. Positive systems or reinforcement always outperforms negative ones.
Don't spend time trying to reason with a toddler. Long explanations will not increase compliance. Be short and matter of fact: "It's time to wash our hands! Then you can get a new sticker!"