Parents know the dreaded fact that most kids hate to brush their teeth. They also know how important it is for healthy teeth and gums. Here are five fun ways to get your child to brush their teeth, and actually enjoy it!
Flavored Toothpastes and Character Toothbrushes
The store shelves are full of toothpastes for children flavored with popular tastes preferred by kids. Try a blueberry, bubble-gum, or strawberry-flavored paste to capture their attention. Sometimes just a change in flavor is all they need to renew interest in brushing.
Not only are manufacturers producing flavored pastes for kids, they are also packaging the pastes and the toothbrushes with characters from popular TV shows and kids’ movies. Spongebob Squarepants, Disney Princesses, and Toy Story characters are just a few examples. Kids can hardly resist heading to the bathroom sink to open the packages and start brushing!
One game that can get kids focused on brushing for longer periods of time is a reverse race, one in which the winner is the one who can brush the longest. To play, simply set a stopwatch at the beginning and track the time until someone gives up. Parents can give awards for the longest brusher and track the high score of all time as a prestige symbol among family members.
In another version of this game, you can play Race To Brush, where parents race the kids to the bathroom through an obstacle course to reach the bathroom first. First one there with toothpaste on toothbrush and toothbrush in mouth brushing the teeth wins!
Smile Makeover on Social Media
With the popularity of the smartphone and social media, what a perfect pairing to post makeover smile pics. When you notice your child truly needs to brush (think Cheetos stuck in between the teeth) tell them you’re doing a smile makeover for your Facebook (or other social media). Whip out your smartphone and have them say, “Cheese!” really loud while you take their pic. Then head to the bathroom to brush. Be sure to keep checking as they brush and tell them, “You’ve almost got it. No, you still have some stuff on your teeth. Brush right here.” When done brushing, take a moment to fix their hair and pretend to fix their face (as if prepping a model), then say, “You’re ready for your smile makeover photo shoot. Say cheese!” Take the second pic, then post the two photos side-by-side on social media. Ask your friends to comment on your child’s smile makeover. Read the positive comments to your kid. They’ll love it and want to do it over and over!
Tell a Story or Sing a Song
There may be no better or easier way to get kids to brush than simply telling a story or singing a song. Kids love parental interaction and telling toothbrush tales can capture any kid’s attention, engaging them to brush longer while listening to the story. Go one step further and make the story be about their toothbrush, paste, floss, and mouthwash. Give names to these items (Timmy the Toothbrush, Chaste the Paste, Boss the Floss, Josh the Wash) and spin a fantastical tale that takes your child’s imagination to outer space, a dense jungle, or deep in the ocean. You could even have the characters go on a germ busting “bug” hunt inside a giant’s mouth! Make sure each item has its own voice to make the story more interesting. And although your child may beg to continue the story at bedtime, only tell the toothbrush tales while they are actually brushing their teeth.
Making up a silly song can be a great motivator (works for bathing, too) to kids who are resistant to brushing. As the parent, pick out a song your child likes, then sing it and start changing the lyrics. Soon enough, your child will join in creating rhymes and helping you remake the song into the perfect tune to inspire brushing. Sing this song for a week or so, then create a new one to keep the inspiration fresh for your child.
If you are brushing your teeth with your child, you can take turns humming songs while brushing and the other person has to guess what song it is. This is a version of Name That Tune that can keep kids engaged and brushing for a long time.
Enlist the Help of a Favorite Stuffed Animal
Stuffed animals can be of tremendous value when it comes to getting your child to brush their teeth (or do anything for that matter). When you see your child is resistant, and possibly holding their favorite stuffed animal against their mouth saying that they don’t want to brush, grab a clean toothbrush and ask their stuffed animal directly if they would like to brush instead. At first, pick up the stuffed animal and have it pretend to not want to brush (swat the brush away, kick it across the room, pretend to spit it out, etc.) Then, gently encourage the stuffed animal to brush and tell it all the good things that come about from keeping their teeth healthy. The next step is to have your child help you to try to get the stuffed animal to brush. Hand them the brush and stuffed animal and say, “Can you show so-and-so how to brush? You’re really good at brushing.” Once the child engages with the stuffed animal in a dry environment, suggest that you go to the bathroom to really show the stuffed animal how to brush. Be as silly as needed to keep your child engaged. The next time they need to brush, have the stuffed animal recruit one of their other stuffed animal friends to tag along. This is a great way to validate your child’s feelings about not wanting to brush while empowering them to actually do it.
The more fun you make toothbrushing, the more often and longer your child will brush. Make some of these suggestions part of your daily dental care routine and soon your child will beg to brush their teeth!