Teaching your children to blow their noses is a lesson in hygiene and etiquette. Children as young as two years old can start to learn this skill by imitating their parents and older siblings. The easiest way to teach your child to blow his nose is to teach it in its two component parts, with lots of praise. Making the new skill fun, rather than a chore, will help both parent and child to stick with it.
Learning to Intentionally Blow Air
Practice first by blowing with the mouth. Blowing bubbles, using a soapy bubble mixture and a plastic bubble wand, is a very satisfying way to learn to control breath by blowing.
- The tradition of blowing out birthday candles offers another perfect opportunity to practice this skill in a fun way. You can pretend to blow out the candle, while allowing your child to actually blow it out.
- You can also hold a piece of tissue paper about six inches from your child’s face, and show him how to make the tissue move by blowing on it. Other things your child can blow with his mouth include pinwheels and balloons.
Teach your child how to blow air out of his nose. Have him put his hand below your nostrils so he can feel the air as you blow. Show him how you can cover one nostril, then the other, to blow through each nostril individually.
- When you’re first teaching your child to blow through his nose, remind him to keep his mouth closed. It can help to cover one nostril, then the other, to reinforce the feeling of air blowing through the nose. This will be easier to do when he’s well, both because he’ll likely feel better and be more interested in learning new things, and because he’ll have more of a sense of air moving through the nostrils.
- Make a game out of blowing air through the nose. Children often are motivated by races. You can create a “race” for two extremely lightweight objects (a sequin or a feather works well) and see who can blow it from one end of a table to the other the quickest.
Explain what is happening with blowing. Have fun taking air inside the body quickly, and blowing air outside the body quickly. This is a process of teaching your child to control the air that goes through his nose.
- Explain the purpose of blowing the nose. Show your child what mucus is. Use pictures, or hold a mirror up to your child’s nose so that he can see what’s inside.
- By teaching your child to connect excess mucus to colds, allergies, etc., you’ll increase his understanding of why blowing his nose is important. This will help him make sense of why you might ask him to “blow his nose” when he needs to.
Teaching Your Child To Use a Tissue
Practice holding a tissue to your child’s nose. Provide plenty of praise for trying this new thing, even when he’s not sick.
- Try different varieties of tissue paper, and have your child tell you which one he prefers. Some children may be extremely sensitive to texture or scents that you may not even notice. Having a tissue paper that the child doesn’t mind will help this teaching process tremendously.
- Make sure you have plenty of the kind of tissue paper your child prefers ready when he’s sick. When your child is sick, it’s likely that he’ll resist doing anything new. He likely will want to be left alone, or cuddled, so be gentle.
Point out when yourself or other adults use a tissue to blow their noses. When you have a cold, you can use this opportunity to model using a tissue to blow your own nose, encouraging your child to imitate.
- Siblings can also serve as role models for your child as he learns how to blow his nose. Younger siblings might be distinguished by the fact that they aren’t old enough to blow their own nose. Often, this comparison has a good deal of attraction for an older sibling.
- Explicitly point out the steps of blowing the nose, as you do them or as others do. Narrate the process as you go through the steps.
Help your child blow his nose when he’s sick by holding the tissue to his nose and telling him to blow. He might need to be reminded to close his mouth.
- Keep a gentle, light tone of voice when teaching this new skill.
- If your child wants to hold the tissue himself, let him! While it may be easier for the child to learn simply by blowing into a tissue you hold, some children may prefer to be in charge of their own tissue.
Teach your child to throw away the tissue immediately after he finishes blowing. This may mean that you go through more tissues than you’d like, but teaching the routine of throwing the tissue away will benefit you, and your child, in the long run.
- Sometimes the routine of throwing the tissue into the trash can will be a fun incentive for the child in itself. Provide plenty of praise for each tissue that goes from tissue box, to nose, to trash.
- Always have a trash bin close by as you are teaching this process. If you don’t actually have a trash bin so close at hand, improvise by finding another receptacle (such as a plastic container, or an empty bowl) that can function as a temporary trash location until you can move it.