Kids’ Hygiene – Is smelly normal?

Puzzled I am …  (Yoda would love my style).

Actually, not so much puzzled, as increasingly troubled on the subject of children’s hygiene;

I have an overly-sensitive sense of smell. This, for the most part, is a wonderful attribute, particularly living in the country (albeit can be somewhat overpowering just before rain when all the tractors come out with their silage trailors!) but it also means I can pick up on people’s ‘odours’ a mile-off, be it a beautiful perfume or indeed the need to wash. I am therefore constantly amazed and, honestly, somewhat disgusted at the state of cleanliness (read un-cleanliness) of a huge number of young children out and about.

One example: I have a new group of kids who come to me on a Saturday morning for Structured English Play. One set of twins goes to the same Kindergarten as my son and the family lives in a very “respectable” village nearby. I say this to set the scene of potential, rather than to attribute the level of cleanliness and hygiene (in this case) to a particular social class.

The boys have been to me twice now and both times I was forced to open all the windows in the room to avoid a very quick onset of nausea. Not only were they filthy (hands, clothes, mouth) but they reeked of urine, their socks were on inside out and stank and their hair – well, I would not like to guess what was living in it. They are not the only children I know whose general cleanliness leaves a lot to be desired, although the standard of living around me is relatively high.

I don’t get it. Am I in a minority for thinking there is something horribly wrong with this scenario?

Surely, however much we earn / don’t earn, most of us have access to water, a cloth and some soap? It cannot be attributed to poverty that a child is allowed to leave the house dirty and smelling. Can it??

Perhaps it’s just a matter of priorities: Some Mums throw up their hands in horror if I mention that L. had a shower that morning, exclaiming (translated of course): “Oh my Goodness! oof, I work / have two kids / am so busy with such a big house, you know? /(…) that I just don’t have the time to be putting the kid/s in the shower in the morning!” well, I’m sorry but just don’t go there with me: there’s an awful lot that I cannot / do not make the time for these days but my child’s cleanliness is something I would readily sacrifice other things for. Even on the days where I oversleep after a long night-shift, I might give in and concede that we don’t have time to shower, but I still subject L.  to what we laughingly call a ‘flic-flac’ wash, which constitutes hands, face, neck, underarms and the nether regions. It really does only take five minutes. He no longer smells of bed and of, well, little boy’s nether-regions! and he, himself, enjoys the feeling of ‘being clean’. “I don’t have time for that” doesn’t equate to really not having time, but rather “I can’t be bothered”.

With regard to clothes, how difficult is it, as a parent / guardian, to take a quick look at our kids’ clothes in the evening and chuck the dirty stuff on the washing pile. Answer: not at all. I appreciate that people have more children than me plus a partner – the sum of whose attire probably creates a heck of a lot more washing than I have to deal with, but then I juggle mine with my work, my son, my house and my ever decreasing sleep allowance too; To me, it is completely ridiculous to have a child running around in 65 Euros worth of labeled hoody, if it is covered in last night’s dinner and reeks of sweat from the football game last Sunday. But I guess it’s just about what is important to us as parents.

One final aspect to this which is, perhaps, secondary, but which should possibly also be considered by us all as parents: is it really ok to send a child who does not smell particularly fresh, into an environment with a potentially large number of other children, the sum of whose ‘unpleasant odeurs’ could actually make for a really miserable day for those having to look after them (nursery nurses / teachers / child-minders etc.). I think not. For me it is enough to have to deal with three boys in my lounge for an hour, so what it must be like in the middle of winter (windows closed) in a school-room of 35 I cannot imagine.

It’s too easy to say ‘Ah, but they’re boys. Boys are always smelly!’ – wrong: My boy doesn’t and I know others who don’t either, irrespective of night-time accidents or little leakages during the day. L now tells me if he didn’t quite make it to the toilet in time and even if he just spotted a little in his shorts, he now goes and helps himself to a clean pair.

I believe it’s simply about leading by example; however late we are in the morning, however annoying it is to have to send a child back inside to put on clean socks /  change  his/her underpants or to wash its face, if we did it regularly enough, wouldn’t the child grow up to learn that personal hygiene just ‘goes without saying’ and would start to do these things automatically at some point – saving us all time and effort? Maybe the child would even grow up to respect it – making the whole ‘washing’ and respectability thing a little less dramatic into the teenage years.

I’ll tell you something else, the teachers would love us all the more for it too!

Perhaps I am just a little neurotic on the subject – I’d love to hear your thoughts.


This entry was posted in Kids, Life Stuff, Parenting, Single parenthood and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Kids’ Hygiene – Is smelly normal?

  1. Red Ted Art says:

    Rushes off to stick Red Ted in the shower…

    Only joking! You are quite right… the routine we instill in them now, will stay with them with adults.. and it applies to washing, brushing teeth & hair and clean clothes… I would hate for my children to look “not looked after”.

    Very interesting post, especially, as I am in a German community here in the UK and I am used to pristine houses (exactly… pristine HOUSES)… whilst my house is a tip!

    Maggy x

    • Oh God Maggy, my place is anything but pristine, don’t worry. I think there is a huge difference between chaos and filth and it’s really the ‘filth’ that I’m against.
      My place is never tidy for more than 5 minutes even after a whole day of cleaning, but I am meticulous about the bathroom sink and the toilet. They get cleaned every couple of days if not each day. The shelves in the lounge with all my travel trinkets on them get dusted once a month if they’re lucky. I guess somewhere in there is the point I’m trying to make.
      Thanks for reading x

      • Red Ted Art says:

        Totally agree ;-) we are messy.. but I didn’t mean that – I meant, it is interesting that some people can put all the effort into getting the house to look perfect, but to”neglect” their child’s cleanliness. I would rather have a clean child (and toilet of course) than a pristine house. And I know your house isn’t pristine… you tell us often enough on your blog!! ;-)


        Maggy x

  2. P says:

    I think I put hygiene in one camp and dirt in another. Poor hygiene which may have a knock on effect and smelly is undesirable. A bit of mud, paint, or the look of being pulled through a hedge backwards (our school uniform look) is acceptable for day to day. Dressing up when required, of course.


    • :-) You are quite right, of course … there can be a difference – but for me the difference is how a child walks out of the door in the morning. L returns home in the afternoon after a day of creative stuff and playing out, looking like he’s done ten rounds with an elephant, but at least I know he started out clean and the dirt is only “surface”. What I also know is, that he won’t be going back to KiGa in those clothes again tomorrow and he won’t still have sand in his ears! ;-)

  3. onlydads says:

    Good post MJM

    My only comment on this is that it must be so hard on those children who get sent off to school a bit smelly…

    …kids themselves spot this a mile off and can quite easily let their feelings known to those around them.

    It makes me smile too. These days I can’t get my D’s out of the bloomin shower!

    Bob x

  4. fleetwoodboy says:

    Oh my god. I hope I’d had a good shower and scrub when we met up lol. I’m with. At that age it’s parental responsibility . As with discipline it’s parents who set the example. Wish this blog could go international and wake some folks up. #justsaying

  5. Simonngae says:

    You just wait till he starts school and your ‘the buggers’ as they are known in this house (aka head lice) .. Lots used to have a friend when we were still down south .. and she would come over for ‘bath night’ so Ness could give her hair a good comb, because her mother never bothered

    And dont getme started on teenage boys !! .. I pick up Lots’ mates after gigs and the car windows is straght open !!

    all this to come my love xx

  6. Simonngae says:

    how the hell did I just become ‘simon-gae ?!’ . bloody word press !!

  7. Nickie says:

    We constantly send our two boys up for *another* wash because they seem to have a “boy smell” but it’s only really when they have been energetic. They are at different stages of their development (teens) and do pong a bit from time to time but they do know how to keep themselves clean.

    As Maggy said, the routine that we instill into them when they are little is more than likely the one that they will follow when they are older as it becomes part of the routine. Our “routine” is stand-up-wash in the morning and bath/shower at night.

    • I hate routine … I’m usually far too chaotic for ‘norms’ but I’m hoping if I can instill the idea of washing into my boy as an automated process, maybe he’ll just continue to do it – especially later when puberty kicks in! Am I dreaming?!

  8. dadwhowrites says:

    I have to confess I packed little elf off to bed with bits of air-drying clay still adhering to her arms after 10 minutes of scrubbing. I mean, it’s definitely clean clay…

    • hehe … you’re just taking the Mick now :-)
      Love ‘clean clay’ though … so onomatopoeic … almost as good as ‘clayey’, an impossible word I found yesterday in a geology translation …

  9. Andrea376 says:

    I guess cleanliness has to be a part of family’s value and attitude. They are kids I mean, they don’t understand the importance but I think at least parents need to make it a point. What values are they surpassing to their kids? And what are the child’s immunity? Do they have any idea about the consequences??

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s