While you may have been brushing your baby’s teeth for a while already, it isn’t until they reach the toddler years that it becomes a challenge. Well, challenge is an understatement in some cases. Some folks are luckier than others, their toddlers smile, sing, and gleefully get into the spirit of brushing with ease. Others can’t be convinced and cry and contort as though the toothbrush was a torture device. It’s a trauma for everyone involved.
The toddler’s perspective on tooth-brushing
From a toddler’s perspective, tooth brushing is a pointless activity. They are too young to understand why it needs to be done.Try to imagine it from their perspective, visiting the oral hygienist isn’t particularly fun for grown-ups and we know how important it is and why.
Luckily, the average toddler is eager to please, to be independent, to be like the grown-ups and to be praised. Use this to your advantage.
The key piece of advice that all veteran moms swear by? Start early! A baby is far easier to convince than a headstrong toddler.
If you’re tired of tooth brushing trauma with your toddler, here are some ideas you can try tonight.
Tips for tear-free tooth brushing:
- Set a good example: If you have to bribe siblings or other adults in the house to join in then so be it. Have family members gleefully brush their teeth and heap praise upon them. Within toddler earshot. Hopefully your little one will want to join in on the fun.
- Experiment with times and locations: Some parents have more success with bath time brushing, or brushing outside, or brushing when their toddler is exhausted. Mix it up as much as possible and you might just find a sweet spot when your toddler won’t put up such a dramatic fight.
- Distraction: Try keeping a favourite toy or story for tooth brushing time. If your child is absorbed in the distraction, it is hard to put up a fight.
- Give your toddler a little mirror: For some reason, being able to watch the proceedings is comforting to some children. You never know if it might work for you but it’s worth a try.
- Try turning it into a game: There are endless tried and tested tooth brushing games that parents of toddlers have come up with. Some common ones are; to let the child brush your teeth, brush the child’s stuffed animals teeth or to make tooth brushing into a hunt for the day’s food items.
- Laughter = an open mouth: If you have any standby tricks that never fail to amuse (like a good old-fashioned tickle fest), try to save them up for tooth brushing time. Instead of your partner or helper pinning your toddler down, have them tickle the child while you brush those teeth or hang the toddler over their shoulder upside down while you sneak the brush in there.
- Sing-alongs: There are plenty of songs about brushing teeth. Your own mother probably used some of them on you, for good reason. Toddlers love a good old singing session. If you don’t know any, browse YouTube for an extensive list.
- Upgrade the tools: For some folks, the electric toothbrush is a total game changer. For others, a different flavour toothpaste. Take your toddler to the shop with you and have them choose their own special brush or toothpaste.
- Involve stuffed animals, bath toys, even the dog: Let your toddler see you brushing the toys teeth (and having a great time). If you put up enough of an act, it is possible he or she will not be so wary of it.
- Make tooth-brushing time associated with a special video: If your toddler loves watching videos then you are in luck, there are plenty of toddler video’s about brushing teeth. The Sesame street song is especially good.
We all know just how difficult a resolute toddler can be about tooth brushing. If none of these tips work for you, you’ll have to resort to the two-man knee lock position and just suffer through it. It’s so unfortunate that good dental care is so important at this stage of life. But the consequences are far worse than a bit of daily wrestling.
The good news is that once you have broken through the traumatic associations, it is smooth sailing. And you never know what simple or silly little thing might be the game changer for you.
What worked for you? Please share in the comments section below!