Are you wondering, How to get your toddler to brush teeth without a struggle?
What if I told you its possible. Yes, you heard me right!
I talk a lot about Gentle Parenting on this blog and its social media pages. But sometimes everyday tasks like brushing toddler teeth are a challenge no matter what parenting strategy you use. Many of you have asked me in the past, how do you brush your toddler’s teeth without using force or pinning him down.
Well, today I am going to share with you our toddler teeth brushing tips and tricks. These are simple things we do in our home that make brushing teeth easier.
GET THE TOOTH BRUSHING ESSENTIALS RIGHT
Make sure to buy a brush with soft bristles. For babies, you may want to start out with a baby finger brush and then move to a brush with soft bristles as the baby grows more teeth.
I usually go with the recommended age on the toothbrush package since I find that the manufacturers have done their research right and make age-appropriate toothbrushes that are easy for toddlers to hold.
Our favorite toothbrushes
TIPS ON TODDLER TEETH BRUSHING: HOW TO BRUSH A TODDLERS TEETH WITHOUT A STRUGGLE
Introduce the concept of tooth brushing
Start talking about brushing teeth as early as possible, don’t wait to talk about brushing and its importance until when they are older. An easy way to introduce the concept of brushing teeth is through children’s books and nursery rhymes.
Children quickly pick up catchy rhymes like, “this is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth”.
I also noticed my son will do a daily task better when he reads about it in a book. When he sees the characters in the book performing these daily tasks he is more inclined to try for himself.
Books on tooth brushing for children
Tiger’s toothbrush – Ladybird series
Monkey Bandit and the funny toothbrush – Maria Ellis
Let the child have a go at it
Children love to copy adults. Hand your toddler a brush and let him copy you as you brush your teeth. Brush together in the morning’s so that a routine is set.
Do not expect children under 6-7 years of age to be able to brush their teeth clean. At best most of them are just chewing on the bristles and cleaning a tooth or two. But this act of showing confidence in them when they are doing it themselves helps maintain the motivation to do it every day.
Help him finish the routine
I always let my toddler have a go first and then follow up with the real teeth cleaning process.
For this part, I like to use a little bit of storytelling. Read the next point to know more about how we incorporate storytelling and make tooth brushing fun for the toddler.
Makeup stories with the child’s favorite characters
Between the ages, 1-2 our son was learning about different animals so we made stories using animals as characters. First I would hand him the toothbrush and tell him how all the jungle animals are having a grand party in his mouth. He needs to get them out of there so his teeth can also go night-night (go to sleep)
He would brush his teeth, while I cheered him on saying, “oh look, I just saw you catch a little bear in your brush”. This would excite him and he would continue brushing his teeth.
Once I felt that he is done trying on his own I would say, “give me the toothbrush, let me have a look and see if you caught them all” this is when I would start the actual brushing process.
When brushing I use a steady and gentle hand making sure not to brush too hard.
In between the brushing teeth process, I always add in a line or two more to my story so that he will sit through the process longer. I will exclaim loudly and say; “Hey! a giraffe was hiding here, wait let me get him out” This way both of us would be laughing and giggling while we brushed his teeth.
Now that he is older ( 2 and a half years plus) and obsessed with cars I have changed the storyline to that including cars.
Recently I also introduced the concept of “germs” and what they do to our teeth if they are not removed each night and we pretend that the toothbrush is his favorite vehicle who goes in each night to kill all the germs from his teeth.
So, one night we have a ‘big digger’ in action getting rid of germs from his mouth and another night there is a ‘police car’ doing the cleanup work. I make all the sounds these vehicles each night, trying my best to add a little fun to our daily routine.
More toddler life-related blog posts:
Praise their efforts and reinforce the good habits
This is a very important point that most of us forget in the rush of our daily routines. Do not forget to praise your child’s efforts. It’s not easy for a 1-2-year-old to have someone bring in a foreign object that’s rubbing at their teeth and tender gums. You wouldn’t enjoy anyone else poking around your mouth either. So praise them when they try on their own and when they allow you to have a good go at cleaning their teeth.
Even with all these efforts, there may be days or nights when the toddler won’t comply. We really can’t tell, he may be having a bad swelling on some teeth going through the teething phase.
When my toddler is having a particularly bad day like this I let it go and request him to gargle his teeth and get the germs out. This helps him relax and also reinforces the concept that we must clean our teeth before we start the day and before bed. It also shows him that I trust him and I am understanding of any discomfort he may be feeling in his gums or teeth that moment.
Believe me, it’s not often that we skip brushing teeth. Once set into such a routine the child enjoys brushing his teeth, its more fun than a routine.
As he grows I will modify the story or my approach altogether to suit his developmental needs. Whatever new method I use, it will be one that will gain his cooperation over forceful compliance.
What is the tooth brushing routine in your home? Do you use storytelling as a way to gain your toddler’s cooperation? Leave me a comment below.