Teaching children how to blow their nose in a way that is socially acceptable in New Zealand is pretty important. Adults can take blowing their nose for granted, but for a child it can be difficult.
People from different cultures blow their noses in different ways. Some use handkerchiefs, some use tissues and some blow straight onto the ground. Most children will use their sleeves or somebody else’s. Some parents and whānau may use their own mouths to suck the mucus out of their children’s noses until they learn to blow their own nose. This technique is often used with younger babies.
Whichever way a whānau does it, children will need help to learn how to blow their own nose. Taking it in stages and making it a playful experience can help greatly. ‘Doing with’ rather than ‘doing to’ can make it easier on the child.
Letting a child choose their ‘own’ box of tissues and even naming it for them can encourage them to use the tissues, and heighten their awareness of when they need a tissue. As always, having fun and being gentle with any tissues, handkerchiefs and nose wipes helps. Little noses can be tender, especially when the child has a cold and their nose needs frequent wiping.
When they have a cold or a really runny nose, letting them see themselves blow mucus from their nose in front of the mirror can help encourage nose blowing. Actually seeing the mucus come out shows them what is in their nose that needs to come out. Parents support this by showing a positive reaction rather than one of disgust. Encouraging their child and giving them positive feedback about the new skill they are developing works well.
Making up games involving inhaling and exhaling through their noses is a good place to begin teaching. This can be done by laying a feather, a piece of tissue or paper in their palm and seeing if they can blow it off using air from their nostrils. This can turn into a competition to see how high or far they can blow them.
Another opportunity to practise nose blowing is at bath time. Play a game of bubble blowing using air through their nose just under the water. See if they can blow bubbles while keeping their mouth closed.
Most children who are taught and given opportunities to practise will learn to successfully blow their own nose. As always, practice makes progress.
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