Many years ago, before we identified ourselves as screen-free parents, we fell into the trap of using a screen to “solve” a parenting challenge. Our daughter (two-years-old at the time) hated brushing her teeth and it was a big challenge at bedtime when we were all tired. We ended up showing her short videos to enlist her compliance (and open her mouth) before bedtime. It lasted a few months before we decided it made no sense to basically zonk her out in order to brush her teeth. We wanted her to learn about brushing her teeth, not be basically unaware it was happening.
So, we nixed the videos and found that with some creativity, teeth brushing can be a nice time to connect screen-free before bed. Like us, I have heard from many parents who fall into the trap of using screens to “get through” the evening routine. This disrupts the connection and gives kids screen-time right before bed, which we know can be disruptive to their sleep.
Therefore I was thrilled to enlist a guest poster to share all the creative ways you can enlist your child’s cooperation to brush teeth. We’ve tried many of these tactics at different times and now we have a screen-free five-year-old who is in the process of losing her first tooth and is a proud card-carrying member of the no-cavity club.
Without further ado, the ideas…
Special contribution by R&R Dental
11 Screen-Free Ways To Encourage Children To Brush Their Teeth
Go Shopping For A New Toothbrush
If you let your kids choose their own toothbrushes, they’ll feel more in control of the task and more likely to be excited to do it. You can even choose your own toothbrush at the same time to encourage them. Show them different toothbrushes and all the fun colors they come in.
Screen-Free Mom: We found that for our two-year-old, an electric toothbrush gave him the independence he desired to (mostly) brush his teeth independently. He went from hating brushing his teeth to doing it happily (most of the time).
2. Show, Don’t Tell!
If you nag your kids to brush their teeth, they’re not going to want to do it. But if they see you brushing your teeth, they’ll follow your example. You could even turn teeth-brushing time into fun time – hum songs while you brush your teeth or make funny faces in the mirror.
3. Teach Them Why It’s Important
If kids know why they have to do something, they’ll be more likely to do it. Why do you have to brush your teeth twice a day? Why do you need toothpaste? Why do toothbrushes look funny? Talk to your kids about why teeth are so important to look after in ways kids will understand, such as that teeth give them a gorgeous smile or help them eat all their favorite foods.
4. Reward Them
You could also treat brushing teeth like a household chore and reward your kids for doing it. This is especially helpful if your kids love working for rewards. You could even reward them for how they approach brushing their teeth, such as by giving them a reward when they don’t have a temper tantrum.
5. Count Them Down
It’s important to brush your teeth for two minutes at a time. Yikes, this can feel like a year to really young kids! Make the time go quicker by setting a timer so that they can feel like they’re in a race to finish and it’s a great way to give them a distraction while encouraging healthy oral habits that they’ll continue as they get older.
6. Play A Song
Many songs are around two minutes in length – just perfect for brushing teeth! Let your kids choose a song they want to listen to that day and let them hum along or dance while brushing their teeth. It’s a great way to decrease stress and get your kids to see brushing teeth can be fun.
7. Read To Them
Find a great kids’ story about brushing teeth and read it to them to show them the benefits of brushing. A wonderful book to try is Brush Your Teeth, Please by Leslie Mcguire and Jean Pidgeon. It’s a pop-up book filled with animals brushing their teeth and contains moveable items that will entertain your kids, such as paper toothbrushes that they can use to brush the teeth of animals in the book.
Screen-Free Mom: My daughter used to play with books with moveable parts while we brushed her teeth. It took some awkward positions on my part but it helped us through some tough teeth-brushing times.
Make Up Your Own Flash Fiction Stories
Another great idea is to tell your kids stories while they brush their teeth. Make them interesting to keep them hooked, and make sure you end the day’s episode on a cliffhanger so they’ll be keen to hear the rest of it the next day when they brush and floss. This is also a great way to inspire their creativity.
Screen-Free Mom: This is one of my favorite ideas on the list. I know it requires creativity on the parent’s part but don’t forget all the benefits of oral story-telling.
9. Set A Routine
Sometimes all that’s needed to get kids to brush their teeth is to set a daily routine: at a certain time, they need to brush their teeth. Stick to this schedule during school holidays and when you’re on a family vacation to get them used to it. It takes three weeks to create a new habit, so it will soon become second nature to them.
10. Let Them Practice
Sometimes kids resist brushing their teeth because they think it’s going to hurt. If they see that it’s gentle, they’ll get over their fears. You could let them practice on your teeth so that they see it’s not scary, or they could try it out on a stuffed animal with a toothbrush dedicated to that specific toy. They’ll realize it’s no biggie!
11. Catch Up!
It’s not always easy to get quality time to chat with your kids on a daily basis because of your busy schedule, so the few minutes you have together in the bathroom when you brush your teeth can be really valuable. Ask them about their day at school, their friends, and so on. It’s a great way to connect!
It’s not always easy to get kids to brush and floss their teeth, but there are many creative ways in which to get them to stick to oral hygiene habits from an early age. By doing so, you encourage them to grow into healthy adults with gorgeous pearly whites!
Share Your Wisdom
I am always impressed by the wisdom of parents who have been there before. How have you been successful in helping your child learn to brush their teeth? Add your helpful hints and success stories to the comment section!