Teaching toddlers how to brush and floss their teeth is one of the most important life lessons you can instill upon them. Unfortunately, most parents fail to make brushing a fun and interesting activity. Simply telling your children that brushing their teeth is good or that bacteria is bad is not something they can understand yet.
As such, many parents struggle to convince their kids of the importance of good oral hygiene. Rather than appealing to logic, it is better to appeal to emotion, and in this case the primary emotion should be happiness.
One day your kids will understand the reason why brushing is so important, but for now it is more important simply to get them started. The secret to how to make tooth brushing fun for toddlers is by incentivizing daily brushing through small rewards or doing fun activities that makes them happy.
In this article, we will show you some fun strategies you can try with your toddler that can convince them to brush and floss everyday. But first, we will discuss why kids might not want to brush their teeth in the first place. Understanding the various reasons why your child dislikes brushing can inform you on how you can remove these barriers and improve your chances of success.
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Common Reasons Why Children Resist Brushing Teeth
First of all, be patient with your child when they resist. By listening closely to their complaints and showing empathy to their perspective, it will go a long way in making them feel better.
Sometimes your child may not be able to articulate why they don’t want to do something, and it is up to you to figure out the problem AND the solution. If your child constantly fights against brushing, here are some of the most likely causes.
They Aren’t Used to It
Brushing may be second nature for many adults because we’ve been doing it for years. But for a young child, establishing a habit of brushing can be a daunting experience and may also feel like a chore.
It is only through daily brushing that they can get used to the sensation, so giving them a pass every once in a while is not an option otherwise they will never get used to it.
Pain from Growing and Losing Teeth
Depending on whether you told your child about the tooth fairy, this may or not be a rough time for them.
As children are growing their baby teeth or in the process of losing some of them, their mouth will become a highly sensitive area. The sensation of brushing may be uncomfortable for children with sensitive teeth or gums.
Avoiding pain and discomfort is natural. If your child suddenly decides they don’t want to brush anymore, they may be experiencing a raw or painful sensation with each stroke of the brush. It may be necessary to get them a toothbrush with soft-bristles and non-abrasive toothpaste to reduce any discomfort.
As children get older they tend to become rebellious. They will try to assert their independence, and the telltale signs are temper tantrums, emotional outbursts, or clamping their mouth shut when you try to get them to brush their teeth.
Your child may be experiencing any combination of these factors during their development, or perhaps all of them at the same time. It may seem tempting to let them do what they want lest they throw another tantrum, but good oral hygiene is too important to be lenient on.
By following the advice in the next section, you won’t have to force them to brush their teeth while they are kicking and screaming. These fun strategies will hopefully make the experience fun and engaging enough that they look forward to it each day.
Fun Ways to Encourage Teeth Brushing for Toddlers
Get A New Toothbrush
This may seem trivial, but the excitement of getting a new toothbrush may be just the thing to make brushing fun. Many companies create toothbrushes specifically for children. There will be designs based on popular kids TV shows or movies. Perhaps there’s a cool pattern or texture to a brush that makes it stand out from the others.
You can check out some cool brushes with characters and designs from the latest movies and pop culture by clicking here.
With that said, some children would love it if they could pick their own brush. They would feel more invested in the brush since they chose it themselves. And if they feel an attachment to it, then they are more likely to use it. Consider getting a new toothbrush every month as a fun ritual, even if they do not need one.
Having a selection of toothbrushes to choose from may reduce the monotony of brushing if they can use a different brush each night. Maybe one night can be the brush with the Disney princess, and the next night the My Little Pony brush.
Alternate Toothpaste Flavors
In the same vein as above, having your child select their preferred toothpaste can bring excitement back to brushing. Many adults are already used to the taste of toothpaste and have found the flavor they prefer.
Let your toddler have a chance to find out which flavor they like. This requires experimentation, and they may need to try out a variety until they are satisfied. Keep in mind that the same flavor can differ in taste between brands, so you have lots to choose from.
Join In on the Suffering (Brush Together)
It’s not fair that your child is suffering alone, they need to see that you go through the same torture as well!
In all seriousness, children look to their parents for guidance and if they see you are brushing, they will imitate you. Similarly, if they see that you also have a poor oral care routine, they are just as likely to follow.
We can use this to our advantage in a positive way. By not only brushing with them, but wearing a big smile and showing enjoyment, you can teach your child to learn from that positive behavior.
You can even make brushing a family activity. If you have other children, then watching their older siblings brushing effortlessly may motivate them to do better as well. Once your toddler sees everybody in the family brushing together and having a good time, they may begin to accept it.
Make a Game Out of It
We’ve already brought up how children are not likely to be motivated to brush if you try to explain to them about cavities or gum disease. Rather, they’d prefer to have fun and not be worried about the necessity of daily brushing. One easy way to incentivize brushing is to make a game out of it.
Now what does every great game need? Why, a points system of course! You can make each brushing session worth 100 points. Let your child accumulate points to spend at the shop. You can be the shopkeeper, and you have lots of wares to sell! For example, you can make a sticker worth 100 points. So each time your child brushes, they can immediately trade their points for a sticker.
You can have bigger rewards too. What if there is a grand prize worth 6,000 points? That means if they brush twice a day and saved points for a month straight, then they can get a larger reward, like a new toy. You can even keep a scoreboard for who has the highest accumulated score if they have siblings. This can make brushing much more interesting for them, and at the same time teach them the value of saving.
Of course, you can go about it in a completely different way. Let your creativity run wild. What works for one child may not work for another, so you have to tailor the experience to your toddler’s unique likes and dislikes. One thing is for certain, cool prizes definitely make brushing fun.
Brush While Watching a Show
This can also be incentivized as a reward from our previous tip. Let your child watch their favorite bedtime show but only if they brush their teeth first. If that’s not enough, how about letting them brush their teeth as they are watching? In this case, the show serves as a distraction so that they are not focused on any discomfort caused by brushing.
If you don’t know how to make tooth brushing fun for toddlers, then getting them to brush is fighting an uphill battle everyday. It is important that you understand why they might not like brushing so that you can remove all barriers that are holding them back.
Furthermore, it is very effective to offer your child incentives for brushing, such as a new toothbrush, different flavored toothpaste, or prizes like stickers. Brushing alongside them while saying encouraging words can drastically boost their morale.
If your child is being unruly, punishment may not lead to the desired outcome and will cause resentment towards you and brushing. Even if your child gives you a hard time, it is important to remain patient and encouraging. By following the tips provided above, it should be a lot easier to get your child to brush!