Do you ever feel like a broken record begging your children to brush their teeth before they head out the door to school or reminding them ad nauseum to brush their teeth before bed? Getting your child accustomed to brushing their teeth early in life is not only important to establishing good life-long routines, but also vital in promoting oral health from a young age. When requests are met with resistance and nagging is met with noncompliance something has to change. So what do you do? Below are five easy ways to bribe – just kidding – incentivize your child to brush their teeth on command.
Let them take the lead
While adults are fine brushing our teeth with boring tooth brushes in whatever color you remember to pick up at the store, children are drawn to products with their favorite things. Take your child to the store and let them pick out their own, age appropriate tooth brush. Thanks to marketing geniuses you can now have anything from princesses to monster trucks adorn your toothbrush. If choosing is just too hard, remind your child that it is important to replace worn out toothbrushes often, so use your toothbrush frequently and you’ll be back to the store in no time. Also, let your child pick out their own toothpaste flavor. Just like adults only like certain flavors (I mean, who actually likes the plain paste?) kids will be naturally drawn to flavors as well. If they choose the bubble gum flavor – go with it. Although it sounds gross to us, it may be all it takes to get them excited about brushing their teeth.
For any parent out there who has potty trained you know the power of the sticker chart. Create a system of rewards that lead into a big prize. For instance, each time the child brushes their teeth without pushback they get a sticker. Ten stickers can be redeemed for a small treat. As the habit begins to form you can slowly add more stickers needed for the price. Remember these prizes don’t have to be elaborate. In fact, it could be as simple as picking out a new toothbrush.
Make it Fun
The American Dental Association recommends children should brush their teeth for two minutes twice a day. In kid world, two minutes can be an eternity. In order to pass the time pick a favorite song that is at least two minutes while encouraging your child to brush through the duration of the song. Or if your child is more visual, use a two minute timer. These can look like hourglasses where you watch the sand fall through or more traditional kitchen timers.
Brush your Teeth Together
If you are out of the toddler years you may have forgotten the “monkey see, monkey do” phase. However, while annoying at the time it is a great way to encourage oral health by proactively showing your child you brushing your teeth. If you have littler ones – and you are brave – let them brush your teeth for you. They will get a kick out of helping you out while also learning how to properly brush their teeth. The two of you can then switch places while you brush their teeth.
Incorporate Oral Health into Story Time
Finding difference times of the day to reinforce the importance of tooth brushing can make a difference when you are rushing around at night or in the morning. For example, pick books out that encourage good oral hygiene and read them together. Obviously, this doesn’t have to be scientific literature you are presenting, but age-appropriate books that discuss going to the dentist or brushing teeth.
Tooth brushing doesn’t have to be a daily fight. Working with your child instead of against them will help establish a good routine and help your child take proactive steps to ensuring a lifetime of good oral health.