How to teach kids to brush their teeth
It’s been a long, arduous day and you’re both making the slow crawl from lounge to bedroom, helping each other raise arms high enough to flick off light switches as you go.
You reach the bed, assist each other in like soldiers over a boot camp wall and collapse with relieved sighs. In the dark, one of you says “We forgot to brush our teeth,” and the other says “So we did,” before snoring fills the air.
If we can’t regiment ourselves to brush our own teeth, how can we expect to teach our kids? Well, here’s the first rule.
Practice what you preach
Sure, the kids are asleep already; they don’t know you’ve gone to bed with a mouth full of tooth goo. But you do, and the example starts with you. Before you start the brushing discipline process with your kids, make sure it’s a non-negotiable part of your own routine. Basically, if you’re lax with your own dental hygiene, you’ll be lax with theirs and you’ll be just as tired some nights at their bedtime.
So be annoyingly anal about tooth brushing, if you’ll excuse the unfortunate word association. Become a Sergeant Major with your own brushing routine and, soon enough, you’ll have them falling in line too.
Start brushing before they even have teeth
Yes, even before the delightful teething phase of childhood, you can mimic the tooth brushing process with a clean, wet flannel. That way kids get used to the concept of tooth brushing before they even know what a concept is. Then progress to a training brush with no bristles or a brush with soft rubber bristles. Do this after each feed so it becomes part of their routine even if they haven’t the foggiest idea why. That doesn’t matter; something is being rubbed over their gums and early teeth and if they cotton on to the fact that this is happening after every feed, a habit is in the making.
Start explaining before they can talk
Well, before they can talk properly. By now they will be able to hold the brush themselves and brush their own teeth in a fairly inefficient and violent way, but let them do it. While they do, start talking about clean teeth and healthy teeth in simple terms and why they need good, strong teeth to eat yummy foods. Show them a few fun teeth brushing videos on YouTube. And avoid any reference to all their teeth falling out by the time they’re thirty if they don’t brush. Kids don’t respond well to fear, so stick to positive motivation.
Make tooth brushing a family event
Yes, just what you need when you’re running late for work, but brushing your teeth takes just a few minutes. Why not do it together? By the time they’re able to brush their teeth themselves, they’ll delight in mimicking your brushing technique and learn from it, especially if you make it fun. That’s a nice little family bonding session morning and night right there.