When your toddler still was a baby’s, his first tooth probably felt like a true milestone. But the first tooth also meant the first toothbrush and the first tooth brushing experience. It is recommended to start brushing when the first tooth is in sight. The perfect time is before bedtime, after your child’s last bottle, brushing the inside, outside, upside and downside of their gum. Use a special brush and special toothpaste for 0-5 years old, a drop of paste the size of a pea will do. Children up to two years need to have their teeth brushed once daily and from two years onward two times a day, two minutes each time.
Sounds simple, right?
In the perfect tooth brushing world
In the perfect world lives a perfect mom with her perfect toddler boy named Non-Existing. This perfect mom feeds her cute boy the last bottle of that day. Then she heads off to her beautiful and clean bathroom to get the toothpaste and toothbrush. When she returns, she smiles at the sight of her obedient toddler sitting in bed. He smiles and opens his mouth, giving his mom the perfect view she needs to brush his little teeth. The perfect mom gently brushes his teeth, singing a song that lasts exactly two minutes. When the song is over, Non-Existing’s teeth are clean and he is ready for bed.
The world I live in:
After the last bottle, I head off to the bathroom, tripping over a stray toy. When I get back to my daughter’s room, she is hiding behind the curtains. Her legs and feet are clearly visible beneath the curtains, but in her mind, she’s perfectly hidden. After negotiating for 5 minutes, I manage to ‘brush’ (move the brush uncontrollably) my daughter’s teeth for 15 seconds before she runs off and hides in the closet. When I get her out of the closet and sit her on my lap, she turns her head away so that I can’t possibly reach her mouth. Then she runs away and when I get her, she screams as if I were pinching her. Which I use to my advantage by sticking the tooth brush in her mouth quickly, now that she had her mouth open anyway. Sigh…
Obviously, chasing my daughter around with a tooth brush like a tooth brushing gestapo and trying to persuade her rationally to co-operate didn’t exactly work out. The thing is, children (obviously) don’t see the point of tooth brushing and they resist it because it gets in their way of playing or doing something more fun, like making a mess of their room.
So, I switched strategies. What has worked better for me (and many other parents that are close to me as well), is playing tooth brushing game. I’ve developed a whole repertoire of role plays, songs and games to help me get my daughter into tooth brushing. I believe making tooth brushing fun will get your toddler to at least get started. And once the habit of tooth brushing has been formed, things will get much easier.
Examples of fun games to play
Here are three of my favorite ways to make tooth brushing more fun (for your toddler, that is. It will never be fun for you 😉 )
- You can have them recall everything they ate that day and say you must brush each food item away.
- You can challenge them to open their mouth wider than you.
- Another fun game I read in Elaine Addison’s book ‘Miss Poppy’s guide to raising perfectly happy children’ is to tell your toddler you need to clean their little house (mouth). Ring the doorbell (gently press their nose) and start cleaning all the rooms in the house. You clean the kitchen first, then the living room and so on.
So, there you go – a few ideas to leave the tooth brushing hell behind forever. Would you like more inspiration to get your toddler to co-operate with tooth brushing? I’ve created a downloadable cheat sheet with my best tooth brushing games that work like crazy. To download the guide, simply enter your name and e-mail address and you will get access to the pdf cheat sheet along with other cool bonuses which are not availably publicly.