By: Andrea Updyke
Young children still learning about hygiene and daily routines might need a little coaxing to stay on top of good habits. As parents, it’s our job to help them transition from completely dependent to capable, confident little humans. Of course some lessons are easier to teach than others. And some lessons, like the importance of brushing your teeth, seem like they will never sink in.
With a few easy tricks, you can make brushing teeth fun for your kids and teach them great habits that will hopefully lead to a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.
Get the Kids Involved from the Beginning
When it’s time to transition your child from having his teeth brushed (by you) to brushing them on his own, let him be a part of the process. Bring your child with you to the store so he can choose his own toothbrush and toothpaste right down to the characters on the packaging. This will reinforce the rule that brushing is here to stay while also giving your child a chance to make a few choices.
Set a Timer
Timers are a great way to communicate with young children because they cannot be reasoned with. Time does not negotiate.
When you are teaching your child to brush his teeth, set a timer for 20 seconds and challenge him to brush constantly until the timer goes off. Gradually increase the time they are brushing until your child can successfully brush for two whole minutes — the amount of brushing time recommended by the American Dental Association.
Brush to the Beat
If two minutes sounds like a long time, try letting your child choose a favourite song to listen to in the bathroom. He could choose something different each day or week and try to brush along with the music. Pre-schoolers will love to hear the rhythm of the toothbrush as they bop along to the music!
Follow the Leader
Get your own habits in check by brushing right alongside your little one. You can set the tone by brushing and your child can look to you for cues and practical tips, like how to hold the toothbrush. Then you can play follow the leader by taking turns leading the other in the brushing process, whether you brush the top first, the bottom first or the sides. Make sure to give your kids a chance to be the leader too!
Forming good habits aren’t always about doing the right thing. Sometimes the biggest barrier is simply remembering to do something on a daily basis. This is where incentives come in handy.
As your child is learning to brush his teeth, you can create rewards to help him along the way. For instance, when he remembers to brush his teeth without being told, or meet a new milestone like brushing for two minutes, he gets a point or a sticker. Then, once he accumulates a few points he can trade them for a small prize.
You can work with your child by creating a chart with his daily responsibilities and remind him to check the chart daily. If your child is too young to read, use simple pictures to describe each task on the list.
Children may not understand the importance of a healthy dental routine, but they do understand fun. With this fun bag of tricks, they’ll have clean teeth in no time.