Let’s face it; some little ones simply do not like brushing their teeth. Can you blame them? The idea of putting a brush in their mouth simply isn’t very appealing, and I get it! Who wants a plastic stick with tinny bristles in their mouth anyway?! Especially when they don’t understand the benefit. It does not matter how much you explain to them the importance of oral hygiene they simply do not understand.
As a Certified Dental Assistant and mom of two, I can say I have tried it all. With my son it was easy. Never a problem! However, my daughter has been the “tough cookie” when it comes to brushing time. Since she was an infant, the idea of having any type of toothbrush in her mouth made her kick and scream.
Through my journey as a Dental Assistant and mom, I have figured out some tricks that work with the little ones that kick and scream when it’s brushing time. First, let’s cover why some little ones aren’t fans of brushing their teeth.
4 Reasons Little Ones Do Not Enjoy Brushing
Reason #1 – They do not understand
One of the main reasons little ones do not enjoy brushing is because they do not understand the importance and benefit of oral health. As mentioned previously, it does not matter how we explain; some children simply might not understand until they are a bit older and able to understand long-term consequences.
Reason #2 – It’s boring!
A child’s day is packed with lots of fun activities. Brushing is just not as fun as playing with their favorite toy or running around. It simply does not beat playing with their Paw Patrol or Shopkins toy. Brushing is boring and takes patience. Even to an adult brushing can be boring, but because we understand the need to do it, we get it done.
Reason #3 – It’s hard!
We may not think so, but to a child, brushing can be hard. How so? Children always end up needing help because they don’t have the dexterity to be thorough. This automatically leads them to think that brushing is hard because they can’t seem to do it right themselves and mom or dad always finish the work.
Reason # 4 – Pride
Reason 3 and four go hand-in-hand. Kids don’t always want help, but when it comes to brushing, mom or dad finish the brushing for them. This help can lead to pride taking over. They want to do it all by themselves. Showing them that it’s okay to accept help is key here.
Now that you know some possible reasons as to why your little one isn’t a fan of brushing, here are some ways you can help them learn to love brushing. Try each of these tips out and see which ones work best for your little one.
10 Tips to Make Brushing Fun
1. Brush with them
Kids love doing and copying what their parents do. Take advantage of this and grab your toothbrush and join them.
2. Let them finish
Remember reasons 3 and 4 of why kids don’t enjoy brushing? As a parent or caregiver, brush your child’s teeth first, then to make your child feel like they are doing a good job, let them finish the brushing. This way you aren’t “finishing the job for them,” and the child can feel successful in their efforts.
3. Make it a game
Some kids feel that brushing is boring so making it a game is key. This is where, we as parents, can get creative. I like to sing. My personal favorite is singing, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” but changing the lyrics to, “Brush, Brush, Brush Your Teeth.” Another example is, “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round,” changed to, “The Toothbrush on the Teeth goes Round and Round.” Sounds silly, but for little ones, it works and its fun!
4. Make it a routine
We as humans are creatures of habit, and no matter how old we are, this will always be true. Try brushing their teeth at the same time every day. Try brushing before bathing, so they aren’t too tired, and after breakfast, so they aren’t cranky because they just woke up or are hungry.
5. Get in front of the mirror
This can be very encouraging because they can see what they are doing, and kids love seeing and feeling that they are doing something right.
6. Keep it positive
No matter how much the child is kicking and screaming, try your best to keep brushing time positive. Never threaten with, “Your teeth will fall out,” or, “The dentist will have to poke you.” Threatening through scare tactics can create bigger problems of being afraid of dental visits.
7. Let them choose their toothbrush
Every time you buy toothbrushes for the family, let the little ones choose the toothbrush they like best. If they choose their toothbrush, they will most likely be excited when brushing time comes around. Of course, give them 2 or 3 options this way you are still in control.
8. Toothbrush size matters
Some little ones find toothbrushes uncomfortable because they might be using the wrong sized brush. Toothbrushes are sized by age so make sure the toothbrush your little one has is appropriate for their age. This information can be found on the toothbrush packaging, usually on the front or back.
9. Reward them for brushing
You’d be surprised to see how excited and encouraged kids feel when they are rewarded for something they did. It’s all about positive reinforcement. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy either. A sticker from their favorite cartoon character will do the trick!
10. Let them play Dentist
This one is one of my favorites! Let your little ones play Dentist with their favorite stuffed animal. This can lead them to open up to the idea of brushing and look at it as something fun.
Encouraging healthy behaviors, and routine with those behaviors can set children up for health into adulthood. A healthy mouth leads to a healthy body, so even though it may be a struggle, positively encouraging oral health care early on, is extremely important.