Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

August 18, 2021

Teens & Hygiene

By: Danielle Peets, OTR/L

We know it can be difficult to talk to your teens and motivate them to participate in non-preferred, hygiene tasks. Taking a fun and silly approach to these topics can be helpful in making these important conversations, not so hard to talk about. Mastering hygiene tasks involves elements of sensory processing, strength, executive functioning (sequencing the task), and behavior skills. To promote success, parents may want to consider using positive reward systems or charts, visual schedules, and social stories. It’s important to provide the tools that allow your child to modify the task, in order for them to do it independently. Be consistent and remember, don’t do the task for them. Consider the following ideas for making hygiene tasks simple, fun, and motivating.


  • Adding a shower speaker
  • Changing lighting
  • Changing flow of water or replace showerhead for softer flow
  • Use a schedule to assist with organizing hair-wash days vs. body-washing days
  • Adding mirrors in the shower for visual feedback (i.e. sides or ceiling)
  • Use of timers
  • Try wearing googles if afraid of getting water in eyes
  • Use swimmers earplugs to help prevent water from getting in the ears
  • Use soft washcloth if tactile defensiveness is an issue
  • Do not insist on a shower if a bath is available

Deodorant & Body Odor

  • Make it a rule of the house (turning 11 we start wearing deodorant)
  • Trying different types of deodorant and having child pick out several different kinds
  • Using a visual schedule with a check-off system to organize and remember the new task

Stinky Feet

  • Discuss changing socks regularly and wearing clean clothes
  • Use wipes to clean off feet, then discuss the before & after
  • If active in sports, discuss stinky feet following sports activities
  • If not tolerating wearing socks, try deep pressure to feet prior to wearing, seamless socks, or turning socks inside out


  • Covering objects (i.e. balloon) in shaving cream and using a Popsicle stick to “shave off” for simulation of shaving without child using an actual razor
  • Incorporate activities to address force modulation and figure out how much pressure to use
  • Incorporate messy play to address tactile system in order to accept shaving cream/soap
  • Trying out different types of razors (i.e. Billie, soap built into razor)

Washing Face

  • Try wipes or cloth to avoid splashing water all over face
  • Use baby wipes or makeup remover wipes for sensitive skin
  • Provide deep pressure touch to face prior to washing
  • Encourage tactile based play with various textures, both wet and dry
  • Make sure soaps are a pleasing and acceptable scent for child
  • Use tactile mediums (i.e. shaving cream) to simulate soap – work on wiping off to practice how much force to use and how many times to wipe for thoroughness


  • Wiping requires appropriate trunk rotation and in-hand manipulation skills (in order to grasp and fold the toilet paper), which might be difficult for some kids. Tactile processing difficulties may also affect wiping as some kids are afraid of potentially getting their hands messy. Playing games at home or in therapy to address these areas of weakness may include:
    • medicine ball twists
    • playing Twister
    • setting up games/activities on a therapy ball or chair without support
    • making origami, crumpling paper, card flipping, and practicing finger to palm and palm to finger translations with beads/pennies.
    • incorporating opportunities for messy play each day
    • offer an option to wear gloves
    • try flushable wipes instead of toilet paper.

Nail trimming

  • Cutting nails following bath/shower when nails are soft or try soaking hands
  • Modified nail clippers with built-up handles for improved grasp and independence
  • Try wrapping nail clipper handles in Coban wrap or gauze
  • Incorporate tactile activities throughout the day to address tactile system
  • Dislikes sound: try playing music, noise-canceling headphones or a listening program
  • Dirty nails: add to visual schedule to use a fingernail brush and get in habit of doing regularly

Hair Brushing

  • Use a soft-bristled brush
  • Provide deep pressure touch to head prior to hair brushing
  • Use essential oils as a de-tangler and for calming input

Using Sunscreen or Lotion

  • Encourage tactile based play with various textures, both wet and dry
  • Provide deep pressure to the body prior to application
  • When applying the lotion, use firm pressure
  • Have child wear mitts or gloves as a barrier when applying themselves
  • Experiment with different options, such as sprays, gels, mists, lotions & scented vs. non-scented
  • Deep pressure brushing protocol: work with occupational therapist regarding brushing