One of the many struggles that face parents today is getting their child to brush their teeth. Tantrums happen, people. There are ways to get little ones to embrace this healthy habit.
Toddlers don’t understand why they need to brush their teeth, no matter what stories and tricks we have up our sleeves. Having someone brush your teeth is uncomfortable, no wonder they run from us when we bring the toothbrush out! Holding them down in order to brush their teeth often just makes it worse. This doesn’t mean that you should give up on brushing. Start small, and keep with it even if it doesn’t work right away.
Ways to get your child to love brushing
1. Make it routine. Try it BEFORE the bath so they’re not so tired. Or even during the bath. More awkward for you, but they will be more playful and relaxed. Right after dinner works, as well.
2. Consider skipping toothpaste. Experiment to see if that makes her more open to brushing. Try different flavors. Maybe she will love one and that will give her incentive.
3. “Play” toothbrushing
- Let her brush the stuffed animals’ or dolls’ “teeth”
- Brush all over her body (arms, ears) and say, “Is this where I should brush?”
- Let her brush your teeth to reverse the power dynamic.
4. Use sound to start good habits. Encourage her to say “Teeee” (for the front teeth) and “Ahhhh” (for the back teeth) and roar like an animal so her mouth is open wide while brushing.
5. Sing! “This is the way we brush our teeth, after we eat our dinner” or “The toothbrush in the mouth goes round and round” can be very helpful because singing increases the fun level and reinforces the routine. Maybe most important, it assures the child that the brushing is time limited, because they can count on it ending when the song ends…
6. Play “copycat”. Since most kids this age enjoy learning by copying us but want to “do it themselves,” brush together looking into the mirror. Have her copy you in the mirror as you brush.
7. Check their work! Most children will not do a thorough job and parents need to “help” them a bit.
8. Take turns. Toddlers are beginning to understand “My turn!” so you can say “Baby’s turn to brush Mommy!” and then “Now it’s dolly’s turn!” and “Now it’s Mommy’s turn to brush Baby!”
Be consistent. Be patient. Don’t forget how important this is to their overall health!