With so many tips for brushing your preschooler’s teeth, and still so many tears shed over teeth brushing time, it’s hard to know what else to do some days. Been there, done that. Actually, it’s still a battle some days. But, with some helpful tips and a rotation of different methods, I’ve found a way to make brushing teeth fun! Read on to learn how.
Does your preschooler throw a fit at teeth brushing time every day? Ever since toddlerhood, my son has fought me over this. I’ve had to get creative over the years. My daughter, no problem! She’ll gladly open up wide and allow me to brush every nook and cranny until her teeth are practically sparkling!
I’ve tried everything under the sun, and while some techniques work for a short period of time, they quickly lose their effectiveness. So, here is the key takeaway: Use a variety of different methods, and cycle through them! Like everything else in parenthood, our kids will love one thing, and hate it the next week. So, we’ve got to stay on our toes to keep up.
Ways to Make Brushing Teeth Fun for your Preschooler
1. Get your Child a Special Toothbrush
This is likely the first thing you do when trying to do a massive shift on teeth brushing time for your kids. You think, “My kid loves the Trolls movie! I’ll buy this Poppy toothbrush, and BAM! He’ll be excited to brush his teeth tonight!”
Then, you get home, unpack the toothbrush, they get excited for a moment, and put up a fight for a good brushing that same day, or completely lose interest in the music their fancy new electric toothbrush plays.
That’s how it goes, isn’t it?
Here’s the thing – it might not be “the one!” Just because it has their current favorite character on it, doesn’t mean it’s going to magically make teeth brushing a breeze. Try out different brands, bristles, electric varieties, musical varieties, and more. And remember, this is just the first thing we can do to try to make teeth brushing fun for our kids.
2. Offer Freedom
In my article, 12 Things Your 2-Year-Old Should Do on Their Own, I often get a lot of flack for including “brushing teeth” on that list. This is nothing more than a misunderstanding. (Actually, that entire article is often widely misunderstood).
Our preschoolers and toddlers are obviously far too young to allow them to brush their teeth completely alone. But I’m a huge advocate for allowing plenty of autonomy and freedom of choice and exploration. After all, the best way to learn is by doing, right?
Plus, our children are little people, nothing more, nothing less. They crave independence and freedom of choice just like any adult would, and I believe we should offer this wherever possible.
My point is this – if you’re usually trying to rush through teeth brushing time by scrubbing them down by yourself, perhaps you switch things up and allow them to start the process, with you finishing it! Or vice versa.
I’m guilty of this as well. Far too often, I find myself trying to control the entire process and “just get it over with” in anticipation of bedtime. Instead, I’ve found it extremely beneficial to simply accept that teeth brushing is going to take twice as long, and I allow my son to take his turn as well. This gets him involved and excited to practice a skill he sees his parents doing all the time!
3. Sing Songs about Brushing Teeth
There are tons of songs about brushing teeth out there, so take your pic! We don’t have a favorite. In fact, I usually just make it up on the spot. It’s the former pre-k teacher in me!
You can choose to sing them while your child brushes their teeth, or play them randomly during your day-to-day activities so they start to understand the importance of brushing their teeth. Some songs are created to show you how long you should brush your teeth, as well. (P.S. – It’s 2 minutes).
4. Use my Free Chart!
Similar to my printable chore chart for preschoolers, I created a free teeth brushing chart for your little ones as well! It’s just a fun way to track your child’s oral hygiene, and gives them some incentive to do it twice daily! My son loves the little tooth stickers I created with it. I used sticky velcro dots and laminated everything so it’s reusable, but you can also just print a copy off weekly and use regular stickers or checkmarks to mark off when they brush their teeth.
5. Try some Brushing Teeth Activities
Those of you that have follow my Free Natural Learning Play-Based Unit Study know that I greatly value play-based early education. And, while we as parents may view dental hygiene as nothing more than a habit to instill in our children, it is still technically “teaching” just like anything else.
Our children want to learn why we do the things we do, and what better way for a preschooler to learn why brushing their teeth is important, than through playing! Try your hand at some teeth brushing activities, and your child might start to get excited about it. My son always talks about the “germs” in his mouth that he needs to get out. Super cute!
6. Brush Your Teeth Together!
For all the parent-obsessed children out there (like mine), you should try brushing your teeth together! Make it a family affair. For the time being, I’m still my kids best friend, so doing anything together makes it much more enjoyable. Your preschooler might love the experience, and watching how you brush your teeth might give them a different perspective.
7. Get the Tooth Fairy Involved
I haven’t personally tried this method, because I haven’t figured out if we’re going to do the tooth fairy or not. But, I have seen people suggest that you can tell your child that the tooth fairy pays top dollar for clean, well-taken-care-of teeth. Totally your call! But it’s something to consider.
8. Teach Your Preschooler Why We Brush Our Teeth
Teaching teeth brushing to preschoolers is actually one of the best things you can do to encourage good oral hygiene. As mentioned above, preschoolers largely learn through play and deep observation. However, everyone learns differently! You could also try showing a teeth brushing episode of a show, a Youtube video, a worksheet, or a number of other educational tools that will help your child understand WHY we brush our teeth.
9. Try Changing the Toothpaste and Water Temperature
Something we tend to overlook as parents, is our kids potential sensitivity to certain sensory inputs. Something as simple as the water being too cold might be a turn off when trying to encourage our kids to brush their teeth. Try warm water vs cool water, and different toothpastes as well! Your preschooler might not have the vocabulary or understanding to express that they don’t like a certain flavor or feeling while brushing their teeth. They’ll simply try to avoid doing it.
10. Pretend to Brush their Favorite Toy’s Teeth
Pretend play is always a good idea. Try grabbing their favorite stuffed animal, lovey, or doll, and pretend to brush their teeth! It might not work every time, but it’s worth a shot.
11. Play Music During the 2 Minutes of Brush Time
There have been times where I’ve changed the entire mood and tone of the situation just by being silly! Have a mini dance party (nothing too crazy since you have toothbrushes in your mouths) or hum along to your favorite song together during teeth brushing time.
12. Consider Using a Reward System
I say this with hesitation, as there is some evidence that reward systems can do more harm than good, but I’ll be the first to admit that I have used them, and they can work wonders. The real question remains, however – is it beneficial in the long-term? Does giving our child a treat at the end of the week of brushing teeth consistently put a band-aid on the situation, or does it help them get consistent with their routine?
That’s for you to decide, as the parent. I know some weeks I’ll do just about anything for a little cooperation, so no judgement here, whatsoever. In my attempt to avoid reward systems, I try my best to shift the focus from “do x and I’ll reward you with x,” and more education on why I want my kids to complete a task. Why is it important to brush our teeth?
I don’t particularly like the idea of my son associating “treats” with doing “good things” when said “good things” are actually just normal human things, like eating vegetables and brushing teeth. However, I have found myself in positions where it worked for us, and I was able to make breakthroughs with my son. You be the judge!
13. Be Consistent
The key to any sort of success is consistency, is it not? The more you brush your child’s teeth, the more normal it will become. It might not be a fun and thrilling activity every day, but it should stop being such a big deal over time. All you can do is try your best and do your part. Some brushes will be a fight, and others will be a breeze. Stay strong, and stay calm! You got this.
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