The nightly battle of teeth brushing is something a lot of parents suffer through. By using your child’s dominant sense to either entertain or distract your child, you will make this routine job done with a lot less anxiety.
Tactile children respond well to when they’re able to do what everyone else is doing, especially mom, dad or an older sibling. By brushing your teeth together or allowing them to brush your teeth in the same way you brush theirs, you will cater to their desire to participate. Tactile children will at first prefer nonelectric toothbrushes, as they like to be able to control the physical feeling in their mouths. However, if you want them to use an electric toothbrush, try changing their focus on the feeling, by talking about “tickling their teeth” and following it up with the odd tickle of the arm or leg.
Auditory children respond to sound, so creating sing-a-long brushing songs help make the process easier. Play their favorite song on the DVD player or tell stories of teeth-brushing tooth fairies. The idea is to make the process fun and inclusive in an auditory way. You can also use sound to distract them, so you can stick the toothbrush in yourself and do a quick scrub. Keep a container of bells, cups, clickers etc., that they can play with while you are cleaning their teeth. As children get older, a musical tooth brush works wonders, especially if you find one with their favorite song. It also helps them to know how long to brush — one song for the top teeth and one for the bottom.
Visual children respond to what they see. So, making sure they see you brush your own teeth will go a long way. Try making a picture book together of nice smiles (those who brush) and if that doesn’t work, add in a few yucky smiles of people who haven’t brushed. It may work wonders. Keep a chart with smiley faces near the toothbrush, with a possible reward at the end of the week, if they have done a good job. Visual children are very clear about which colors they like and don’t, so allow them to pick out their own toothbrush, and even the cup to keep it in. Some visual children respond to a very clear routine, in which they will associate brushing their teeth as a required part of the ritual of getting into their pajamas.
Taste and smell children like to care for others, so bring in their favorite doll or duck and have them brush their teeth before they brush their own. They will like toothbrushes that remind them of their favorite things or TV shows like Dora, princesses or Blue’s Clues.
Create a photo book with all their favorite people, like grandpa, their aunty or best friend, all brushing their teeth, and bring it into the bathroom at night. Your child can look at the book while brushing, making it feel like an inclusive type of activity. They will prefer to have Mom on hand to watch and be proud, so reminding them how lovely and clean their teeth are, will remind them to keep brushing. Try to find toothpaste on the milder taste side, as these children are sensitive to taste.
Brushing kids’ teeth can be a problem; it can be a source of distress for both parents and child, especially given the consequences of not brushing. By constructing a positive teeth-brushing experience with your children, encouraging them to want to brush their teeth, you will be saved from an unpleasant battle, and set your kids up with a most important, lifelong, good habit.