At times, it seems like toddlers are just trying to get dirty. They're out playing in the mud, sailing toy boats in the toilet bowl, and feeding themselves but getting food everywhere except in their mouths. How can you possibly get them clean and teach them to keep themselves clean?

You must act as the example, experts say. Germs cling to those tiny hands, which have been everywhere in the dirt and in their mouths. As a result, it's essential that kids get into the habit of hand-washing, as often and as early as possible.

However, that's easier said than done. The only way to get them clean, be it washing their hair, brushing their teeth, or sanitizing their hands, is to keep it consistent, make it fun, and let them express their newfound freedom. Keeping kids neat and clean is tough during the toddler stage, but these are important formative years for teaching proper hygiene.

Hand Washing

Germs are everywhere and, therefore, you need to work handwashing into the schedule. Kristin Mangan says she's become more conscious of helping her 2-year-old son, Jude, wash his hands. You tend to forget because you're so used to them being babies and not touching stuff, she says.

He gets his hands washed every time we come inside, whether it's from a playgroup, the mall, or the supermarket, Mangan says. You just have to be consistent until it becomes a habit to them.

As a result, Jude rarely gets colds. I definitely think the hand-washing regimen is helping, she adds.

Bath Time

Many kids will resist taking a bath, so making the experience fun is really important.

Jude has tub toys that he's only allowed to play with when he's in the bath, says Mangan. Toy boats, plastic fish, different size bowls and buckets or the classic rubber duckies can make taking a bath more like playtime. Bubble baths and special paints or crayons that rinse off are other options.

Let them watch you wash and dry your hair, too, so they can emulate those good habits.

Dental Care

Experts stress that children should have a comprehensive dental exam in the early toddler years. Daily dental cleaning should start as soon as the first tooth appears, and any two teeth that are touching each other should be flossed to prevent a cavity from forming between the teeth.

Let them begin brushing their teeth, so they learn how to do it and get into the habit. Then you can step in and finish the job.

Flossing toddlers' teeth, however, is about as easy as clipping their nails. The best way to get over that conflict is to make it easy, as in, relaxed. Again, demonstrate on yourself first, and then go through a dry-run with them, pretending to floss or clip before actually doing it.