FUN, PRACTICAL TIPS ON TEACHING YOUR CHILD TO LOVE BRUSHING THEIR TEETH
Like tidying toys and eating broccoli, getting your child excited about oral hygiene can feel like you’re pulling proverbial teeth. But with a little patience, positivity, and creativity, you can help your child shift their perspective and learn to love taking care of their teeth.
Here are five fun, practical tips to get your child excited about brushing their teeth.
1. LET THEM CHOOSE THEIR TOOTHBRUSH.
When a child chooses a new toy, it often inspires a sense of pride and curiosity. And thanks to some savvy designs, children’s toothbrushes can look just as fun as their new favorite toy.
To spark your child’s interest in brushing their teeth, try bringing them to the store with you and letting them choose their next toothbrush. If you’re concerned your child may insist on a toothbrush that’s not ideal for their age, give them the choice between three or four age-appropriate toothbrushes instead.
2. PLAY MAKE-BELIEVE.
Imaginative play, such as playing house or doctor, stimulates your child’s creativity and helps them understand the world around them. To give your child the opportunity to explore and make sense of oral hygiene habits, provide them with a play toothbrush and make-believe toothpaste that they can use to play dentist and pretend to brush their toys’ teeth.
3. TAP INTO TECHNOLOGY.
Why yes, there’s an app for that (and many of them are free). If your child responds well to technology, or if you’re looking to pull a new trick out of your hat, a toothbrushing app may be the ticket to getting your child interested in brushing their teeth. While award-winning BrushDJ can play your child’s favorite tunes for two minutes, Brusheez Little Monster characters guide your child through two minutes of proper tooth brushing techniques. Does your child like The Wiggles? Try Brush Teeth with The Wiggles. Does your child love games and selfies? Check out the toothbrush training game and Selfie Assessment™ with Brush Up.
4. TRY POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT.
It’s normal to feel irritated when your best efforts to help your child brush their teeth keep turning on their head. Frustrated, we may try to rationally explain the consequences of poor oral hygiene, or punish our kids for not following directions. If you’re experiencing the above, you may consider deploying positive reinforcement instead.
A positive reinforcement strategy, which has been found to be especially effective for school-aged children, aims to ignore undesirable behavior in favor of rewarding good behavior. Neuroscientists speculate that, for younger children, positive messages are just easier to process than negative feedback. As a Leiden University study noted, “Learning from mistakes is more complex than carrying on in the same way as before. You have to ask yourself what precisely went wrong and how it was possible.”
Learning from our mistakes is a lifelong journey. If your child is having trouble viewing not brushing as a mistake, try developing a reward system, such as hugs, high fives, stickers, a second book at bedtime, or another simple activity that sparks joy.
5. SHOW AND TELL.
Children learn so much about their world through observation. From watching a choo-choo train to being around older siblings, children absorb and often imitate the actions, words, and sounds of the human, animal, and inanimate objects around them. Whether or not those modeled behaviors stick partially depends on the type of reinforcement the behavior begets.
When it comes to brushing teeth, you could let your child see you and other family members routinely brushing their teeth—maybe even the dog needs his teeth cleaned! At the end of a long stressful day, how excited are you really to brush your own teeth? Even if you’re not feeling it, you can try putting on a happy face during family brushing. And if you’re still brushing your child’s teeth, you may even invite them to take a turn at brushing your teeth (we advise brushing on your own afterward).
Anytime you come across a real-life or dramatized representation of brushing teeth, try giving your child the opportunity to observe, learn, and act out what they see.
Though it may take a little time (and multiple reminders) before your child gets excited about brushing their teeth, know that your conscious efforts do positively influence how your child feels about cleaning their teeth. If you’re concerned about your child’s teeth or are seeking age-appropriate dental care and education, Bela Family Dentistry of Wagener is here to help. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact our office.