Teaching children proper dental hygiene from a young age and making sure that they brush their teeth twice a day is the best way of preventing plaque build-up and cavities. The habit they develop now can have a big effect on their teeth later in life.
Unfortunately, getting your children to brush their teeth, and to do it consistently morning and evening, can sometimes be a struggle.
Read about a couple of tricks that will make daily brushing and flossing fun and help your kids develop this important habit.
If you’ve ever found yourself chasing your child around the house and pleading with them to brush their teeth, then you’re not alone. Kids not wanting to brush their teeth is a common problem.
A recent study revealed that 1 in 10 parents reported being so fed up and demoralised by the daily brush-time battle and the tantrums, that they end up giving in completely and send their children to bed without cleaning their teeth at all.
So how can you make your children brush their teeth without turning a bathroom routine into a battle zone?
1. Let them pick up their own toothbrush and toothpaste
Take them to the store and let them choose their own toothbrushes and toothpaste. Go for the gimmicks. A colourful character on the brush’s handle may not inspire you, but it might make all the difference in coaxing your child into brushing his teeth. Try a brush that plays music until it’s time to stop or a model that lights up.
For example – Aquafresh Little Teeth Kids toothbrush is specially designed by dental experts for children 3-5 years and comes in a range of colourful characters to help engage kids and encourage them to brush.
Crocodile, bunny, shark and tiger are here to help make brush time fun! Flexible neck bends to absorb excess pressure from brushing. Soft bristles clean teeth to help keep gums healthy. A non-slip handle provides grip for better control.
Let them pick the toothpaste too, so that they are sure to like the flavour. Until your child is 2 years old, use non-fluoride toothpaste and apply a grain of rice-sized amount. Once your little one turns 3, apply a pea-sized amount and make sure your child spits after brushing.
2. Monkey see monkey do
Children learn by observation and imitation so the simple act of letting your child watch you brush and floss your teeth will encourage him/her to try it out for themselves.Let them brush your teeth too. If you are consistent with your brushing habit, so will they.
3. Make a Flossing Alligator or Practice on a Teddy
Teach them how to floss on a Flossing Alligator. You can make a Flossing Alligator by using mini marshmallows and some green cardboard.
Use their favourite toy to “practice teeth brushing” on first. Explain and show them how to brush in a gentle, circular “train wheels” motion.
Set up a dentist’s office, enlisting dolls and stuffed animals as patients waiting for a thorough cleaning. Let your little ones brush their furry friends, then do a dry run (with a dry toothbrush). Then tell them they’ve “graduated” and can now brush their own teeth.
4. Turn your bedtime routine into a sing-along
For a toddler or pre-schooler who is rarely sitting still, distraction is your best bet. Introduce this ditty, crooned to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”: “Brush, brush, brush your teeth, brush them left to right. Brush them up and brush them down to keep them clean and white.” To make this tooth brushing game more fun, sing it faster and faster until you finish the job (before your little one even realizes it!).
Here are 2 links to age-appropriate YouTube videos to get you started:
5. Keep them engaged
Don’t make teeth brushing another chore or they will refuse to do it. Make it fun.
Have them pretend they are a crocodile with a big mouth full of teeth. Ask if their brush is scaring away all the plaque bullies. Chase the “sugar bugs” out of your kiddie’s mouth: “Ooh, they’re hiding in your molars! Now they’re on top of your tongue!” (Add descriptive details about what they look like.
Or pretend that you cannot control the brush. Have it zoom and flip all over the place. Pretend you cannot get it near your child’s face and try and force it. Have it skim a nose or inch past an ear. Challenge your child to catch the toothbrush and help it do its job. Encourage lots of bubbles and funny faces in the mirror. Playful brushing can break down resistance and keep kids more interested.
6. Create a chart and set up a reward system
Involve kids in making a special brushing chart in advance, so they can get excited about being able to earn stickers each morning and night. Try using a reward chart as a powerful motivator to get through brush times.
Kids will do almost anything for the reward of a shiny sticker. When they have got a certain number of stickers they could earn a small prize.
You would be motivating them in a positive way and rewarding their toothbrushing efforts.
Put that brushing chart to good use and involve kids in choosing a reward for a sticker-filled week, like staying up an extra half hour on the weekend.
7. Lower your expectations
Your child probably won’t be cleaning the gum lines or reaching into tiny crevices just yet. Don’t worry and don’t correct them too much. These early lessons are as much about instilling the habit and making it fun, as they are about technique. The more practice they get, the faster they will improve.