Let's All Sing: Blow, Blow, Blow Your Nose. Gently Now, Don't Scream
Teaching your toddler or preschooler how to blow his nose may have developed into your greatest challenge as a parent thus far! Don't despair. Recent studies show that 98% of all high school students can successfully blow their own nose. But seriously, we all get tired of seeing goopy-nosed little ones running around, and wish there was an easy way to teach them to just blow all that junk out, with or without our help. Alas, it is not easy. But I do have some ideas to help you help them learn.
Remember that while breathing in and out is a natural, instinctive ability, blowing in and out either through the mouth or the nose is a learned behavior. It is also a rather abstract idea, and while young children are good at concrete concepts, most of them flounder when it comes to abstract thinking. So, if your kid gets this quickly, consider him or her a genius!
First, let's practice blowing air through the mouth. Buy a large bottle of bubble toy and wand and teach your child to blow bubbles. Emphasize gentle pursing of the lips as well as puffing the air as you enjoy watching the bubbles form. (Be aware that the dripping bubble mix makes a slippery mess so be mindful and careful.)
An alternate game is "Paper Chase" Let your child tear up some little pieces of colored paper. On a non-carpeted floor, mark a start and finish line with masking tape, and "time" your child blowing pieces of paper from one line to the other while lying on his belly. This game is ideal just before nap time!
Once the idea of blowing through the mouth is established, then the task is to move on to blowing through the nose. Only baby elephants are born thinking that this particular skill makes any sense.
One of the best game is "Blow the Hankie". Get a tissue. Have your child take a deep breath and clamp her teeth together. Gently hold your index finger up and down across her lips as though you are telling her to shush. Hold the tissue about an inch from her face and see if she can move it by blowing the air from her nose. If she does, SHE WINS! It may help to have her gently close off one nostril and blow through just one side at a time. This seems to help some children feel the air move through their nose while keeping their mouth closed, which is the key - and the hardest concept for children to grasp.
Be prepared to provide lots of clapping and cheering and encouragement during these games, as well as reminders about keeping lips sealed shut, breathing in and out through the nose only, etc.
For adults, practicing over and over is what makes us succeed, and children are no different. The difference for children is that they learn by play, so think imaginatively and creatively with your particular child in mind.
Be Well, Dr. Hana
Hana R. Solomon, M.D. Share your experiences or ask a question firstname.lastname@example.org
Author of Clearing the Air, One Nose at a Time: Caring for Your Personal Filter