Getting your kids to brush their teeth can be a pain. They often don't like it, and many youngsters would rather cry, scream or otherwise complain instead of scrubbing their pearly whites. In fact, the process can be so problematic some parents of young children might be tempted to sidestep teeth-brushing altogether. After all, kids' baby teeth are just going to fall out, right?
It's true that children's baby, or primary, teeth will eventually head to Tooth Fairy territory, but in the meantime, they can still develop painful and expensive cavities. Plus, children's primary teeth need to be as healthy as possible, as they hold the spots open for the permanent, secondary teeth. If the baby teeth aren't in good shape, the spaces won't be preserved well, which could potentially alter the alignment of the child's future choppers.
Most seasoned parents know that the best way to turn kids off of a particular activity is by turning it into a struggle. Instead, channel your inner clown, songstress or whatever it takes to make brushing your kids' teeth fun and effective! Since younger children don't have the necessary motor skills to do a bang-up job, you'll be helping until they're at least 5 or 6 years old, so you might as well find a way for everyone to have fun, right?
Read the next page to find out how use an old-school Atari to teach your kid about the importance of brushing his teeth.
Kids today watch a lot of television, so it's not surprising that the majority of tot-focused programming features educational information. Shows often include storylines about the importance of proper dental care. Networks like Nickelodeon and PBS sometimes supplement their teachings with Web-based games or activities to provide kids with an interactive learning experience. In a world where even Spongebob has a cavity-fighting game, you're sure to find something online that will amp up your kid's enthusiasm about brushing his teeth. Of course, many of these games are supported or funded by dental hygiene companies, who are looking to promote both healthy smiles and their products.
It's a well-known fact that children respond to music. The quality of kids' tunes is questionable for most adults (we've never caught anyone older than age 5 rocking out to the Wiggles), but that's beside the point. If you're having a tough time getting your tot to brush, consider channeling your inner Katy Perry to get the job done. Many parents either make up their own teeth-brushing tunes or edit the lyrics to well-known songs to entice their kids to scrub their choppers. So, if your child is obsessed with Dora the Explorer, try re-working her theme song to focus on proper dental care. Of course, if you can't handle any more kids' music, inventing your own ditty or reworking a more parent-friendly tune will work as well. "Smells Like Clean Spirit," anyone?
Maybe your child doesn't want to brush under normal circumstances, but perhaps a Superman cape will change his mind. Or, he can help Luke Skywalker (or another favorite character) battle evil by destroying tooth monsters using his toothbrush-shaped lightsaber.
You know your kid better than anyone, so venture away from reality and use your imagination to create stories and scenarios that will inspire him to tackle those teeth. Cavity monsters are a real threat, even if they're not as exciting as the stories you'll create about them. If storytelling isn't your forte, you can find plenty of free, interactive tooth-brushing tales online, and books on the subject are available at your local bookstore and library.
Everyone needs to brush for two minutes -- a minute each for the top and bottom teeth. In Kid World, a minute is equivalent to about 10 seconds, which makes children less than effective at cleaning their choppers. Of course, parents of younger kids have to help anyway, so they can ensure that the time requirements are being met.
Older kids, however, may benefit from a little extra gadgetry. Pick up a kitchen timer, a stopwatch or anything else that will do the job. Set your chosen device for one minute while your child brushes the top of his teeth, then set it again while he scrubs the bottom. If you're looking for something a little more high-tech, there are toothbrushes available that play a popular song or flash bright colors for two minutes or so.
Turn your kids' bathroom into a happy battleground of sorts the next time they need to brush their teeth. Siblings can compete with each other or a parent in the ultimate cavity-fighting competition. Tiffany Gore in Atlanta encourages her twin 3-year-old boys to engage in a little bit of healthy competition every morning and night.
"They love to find and combat the sugar bugs," explains Gore." They compete with each other over how many sugar bugs they destroyed. Whatever works, right?"
To employ this method in your own home, encourage the "battle" and announce the winner at the end of each session. You might even give out a sticker, hand stamp or other small treat to the victor, or simply dispense bragging rights until the next competition. Just make sure that everyone wins sometimes, or the losing player won't find it very fun.
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- Ask Dr. Sears. "Teaching Toothbrushing." 2010. (Aug. 22, 2011) http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/child-rearing-and-development/caring-little-teeth/teaching-toothbrushing
- Atari Guide. "Tooth Protectors for the Atari 2600 by DSD/Camelot." 2010. (Aug. 22, 2011) http://www.atariguide.com/2/247.php
- Gore, Tiffany. Personal interview conducted by Alia Hoyt. Aug. 21, 2011.
- Kids Health. "Keeping Your Child's Teeth Healthy." 2011. (Aug. 22, 2011) http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/teeth/healthy.html#
- Parenting magazine. "Dental Care.". 2010. (Aug. 22, 2011) http://www.parenting.com/article/dental-care?cid=searchresult