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Grooming for Kids: Looking Good!

Potty training is just one of the bathroom skills kids have to master; there’s also washing and brushing. Here’s how to show them the way.

Deal with the dawdling. Your toddler is more interested in playing with the water than actually scrubbing his hands. He’d rather eat the toothpaste than brush with it. This is totally normal. "Kids typically dawdle because they have no concept of time or your desire to get to the latest episode of ‘Mad Men’ on your DVR," says Jen Singer, author of the Stop Second-Guessing Yourself series of parenting books. "Some kids love to hold Mommy and Daddy ‘hostage.’ For them, it’s about control." She recommends using a timer. "Once it rings, you can step in and finish up," she says. "Chances are that your little one will learn how to clean up before that bell rings."

Do it together. Every morning, Jennifer Berg of Cape Coral, Florida, plays a game she made up for her toddler called "Get Ready with Mommy." "We brush our teeth together, and he loves it," she says. To get him started, she roars like a lion. Then he roars back, opening his mouth wide so Berg can start the brushing. When she’s done, she hands the toothbrush to him, and he brushes alongside mom—top, sides, back, and don’t forget the tongue.

Let them watch. A spray bottle of water and a mirror help Leslie Perlman, a mom of three in New York City, get the knots out of her little girl’s hair. "She loves to stand on a stool and look in the mirror as she sprays her hair and watches me brush or braid it," Perlman says. Watching with fascination what her mom is doing helps stop the fidgeting that had made hair brushing such a chore before.

Have a theme song. Music helps Kirsten Seckler, a mom in Springfield, Virginia, motivate her son to be a thorough hand washer. To the tune "Frere Jacques" he sings, "Tops and bottoms, tops and bottoms, in between, in between. Scrubba-scrubba-scrubba, scrubba-scrubba-scrubba. Now they’re clean. Now they’re clean." Create your own song for tooth brushing to whatever music you like, be it the Beatles or Black Eyed Peas.

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