Young children so often dislike cleaning rituals. At that age, who can blame them? Running around giggling is so much more fun than washing your hair or trimming your nails – or, heaven forbid, cleaning your teeth.
It can seem so tricky to instil good habits into your kids where their teeth are concerned. Even though you know how much it’ll help them throughout their lives, it’s not an easy concept to explain.
Fortunately, kids tend to like one thing: having fun! If you can make this essential part of the day into an enjoyable process, the battle is almost won. Check out our top tips for helping your kids brush their teeth effectively below.
1) Use an Egg Timer
The first and easiest step. Make sure you use a real egg timer and not a stopwatch; the sand trickling through from chamber to chamber is hypnotic. That’s a big part of the appeal for kids.
Rewards are a good idea, but forfeits are equally useful – even if you don’t enforce them too strongly. If you have a two-minute egg timer, suggest that there will be a light-hearted forfeit if they haven’t appropriately brushed by the time the sand trickles through. For example, no chocolate in their lunchbox!
Realistically, if your child brushes for the whole two minutes, their teeth will likely be clean, and there’ll never be a need to enforce this.
You can also take the opposite approach, depending on how your kids respond to rewards or forfeits. If it works better to frame the chocolate as a treat, assure them they’ll be rewarded for their hard work! Either way, the results are similar: they’re likely to brush enough to make a difference.
Just remember to keep an eye on how they’re brushing, and gently remind them that you can’t scrub the same tooth for two minutes! Being thorough is important.
3) Make it a Contest
If you have more than one child, a little healthy competition goes a long way. Suggesting that the best “brusher” that evening gets a reward will motivate them to do their best.
Of course, you can rig it to make sure nobody gets left behind. If they’re all brushing enthusiastically, then everybody is a winner! Make sure all your kids have their day, and they’ll take good care of their teeth.
4) Treat Them to a Low-Level Spa Day
Some children like when their parents brush their teeth for them. The attention is a big part of the appeal, which is understandable. It can’t go on forever, though.
With younger children who don’t like to do it themselves, you can encourage them by making this a treat. If they brush their teeth efficiently all week, say you’ll do it for them on the seventh day. Give them something to look forward to until they’re old enough to know the routine.
5) Sing a Song
Do your children ever plead to hear you sing a lullaby or any other song? Kids love being sung to by their parents, and it provides a perfect way to subtly count time. Find a short song – 2-3 minutes – that your kids love to hear you sing, and make it part of the ritual.
Of course, they might learn to recognize the ‘last part’ and start slacking off. In that case, draw out long notes and smile! Make it clear that they have to keep brushing for the song to end.
6) If That Doesn’t Work – Play a Song!
If you don’t like to sing, it can be just as effective to find a children’s’ song that your kids are fond of and play that. It adds a sense of occasion to the process and provides a pleasant distraction to brushing their teeth.
Just like kids’ shows often have a ‘goodbye’ song at the end of each episode, this helps to round things off. Whether they’re about to leave for school or go to bed, kids love a pleasant feeling within a routine. Music is always a good idea.
7) Tell a Story
Everyone has a creative side, and this can be as rewarding for you as it is good for your kids’ teeth. If your children are stubborn brushers, make up a story – any story – that makes it clear why they need to clean their teeth.
Gremlins hiding in the gaps between teeth? The Tooth Fairy bringing extra rewards to children who brush properly? You can pick any story you want – tell the tale as your child brushes. They’ll be wide-eyed and focusing on brushing the whole way through. It’s also a great way to learn how to tell stories to your children.
8) Teach by Example
This may seem like a strange idea, but it works exceptionally well on young children. If your child is very nervous about brushing their teeth, it can be a good idea to allow them to ‘practice’ on you.
Often, a major source of anxiety for nervous brushers has the toothbrush in their mouth. It’s a foreign object, and children are still learning to take care of their own space. Allowing your child to brush your teeth for you is a great way to teach them that brushing isn’t harmful or intrusive; it’s a pleasant and healthy experience.
You can give them pointers on areas they missed this way, too. And if they did a lousy job, you can always go back and brush yourself later!
9) Let Them Find Their Flavour
Presenting your child with only one choice of toothpaste isn’t always wise. If you find they dislike brushing, it may be because they don’t like the toothpaste.
Gradually introducing a range of different flavoured kinds of toothpaste will help your child find a ‘favourite’ that they trust. This is a big step towards independent brushing.
Try any or all of these tips – just think of which would suit your child best. Also, don’t forget to schedule regular dentist appointments for them, to ensure everything is in order. Happy brushing!