Help Children to Stop Touching Their Face
Everyone can learn to touch their face less, even young children!
Children receiving certain treatments for retinoblastoma have a weakened immune system that makes it harder for their body to fight off infections. So it is important for these children and their families to protect themselves as much as possible.
Infection control measures include
- frequent handwashing with soap and water, and
- avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
However, retinoblastoma primarily affects children under five years old, and both these measures can be hard to achieve in this age group.
We hope the following guide will help parents support your children in learning these important skills.
Face Touching Is Understandable
It is understandable and age appropriate for babies, toddlers and young children to touch their eyes and face often, especially after treatments. If you are at home in isolation and all hands are clean, it is OK for a child to touch their face and eyes, and may even be necessary to help them soothe themselves post treatment.
However, it is important to have plans in place to limit exposure as much as possible, including helping your child to reduce touching around the face and eyes.
First and foremost, even while taking precautions by self-isolating, you must increase handwashing. Follow our guide to help children learn good handwashing skills.
f possible, try to do any shopping or public trips without your children. But if necessary outings must take place, like treatment at the hospital, keep antibacterial wipes handy for quick hand cleaning, and ensure you bring an adequate supply.
Bring along a few motivating manipulative toys and fun handheld toys to keep little hands busy and away from faces. Tangles are a great manipulative toy to keep little hands busy. Tangles can be found here and in many stores.
Try these fun strategies to help kids reduce touching their faces:
Make up fun and silly songs that encourage them to use their hands in different ways. Try this fun action song – “Hands up, baby hands up…”
Another fun age-appropriate song is “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.” Children can extend the fun by creating their own actions to show their happiness, that also take their hands away from their face!
These classic “follow the leader” games are great for encouraging listening and simple directions – “Simon Says, put your hands on your knees! Simon Says put your hands on your toes! Simon Says put your hands on your back! Etc. Be careful to ensure “Simon” does not instruct players to touch their face.
Use a Funny Voice
Giving directions and reminders – such as handwashing or not touching the face – in a new silly voice, changes the interaction into something fun. Try a funny accent or an impression of your child’s favourite character. It can make your direction more memorable and help the child remember the action.
When you notice your child reaching for their face, use quick distraction actions to help encourage hands off faces. Ask for help to hold something (a toy/ball/phone/small book), or offer gentle tickles on their toes/tummy/knees to draw their hands away from their face.
Predict and Prepare
If you can predict that your child will touch their face and eyes post-treatment, take steps BEFORE treatment to prevent that situation by providing some preparation through songs and action-based play, as well as lots of distracting manipulative toys and activities. This will help your child remember the steps and actions in each song, and look forward to the manipulative toys they know they can enjoy after treatment.
As a parent, you may feel frustrated having to ask/tell your child not to do something over and over again. But when you approach the problem with humor, a song, and a whole lot of patience, you may just save your sanity. Remember, it takes time for any child to learn a new skill or action. Babies, toddlers and pre-school age children greatly benefit from repeatedly doing activities in order to learn and master the skill.