February 15, 2018 — By Wendy Sachs

We have all heard of children who hate brushing their teeth — and we may have even once been them ourselves. Fortunately, there are some great strategies a parent or nanny can try to make brushing a fun time for young ones. Parents and nannies alike can use these tips to build good habits from a young age.

Start Early: Babies Need Dental Care Too

Dental hygiene begins years before your young child picks out their own toothbrush. You can begin the habit of dental care by cleaning a baby’s mouth with a clean damp cloth. Once a baby’s teeth show, you or your nanny may incorporate an infant toothbrush and begin taking them to the dentist twice a year. Even from infancy, this develops the habit of maintaining a clean mouth.

Once they are able, consider allowing toddlers participate by brushing their own teeth — even if they do not brush thoroughly, you can brush their teeth a second time, once they have finished. Getting them to learn the motions is an important early step to forming good habits down the road.

Show Children Your Tooth Care Routine

Young children will notice and emulate a variety of your habits. Tooth care is no exception, so remember to brush at least twice a day and floss. You can help to further develop enthusiasm by telling children, “I’m going to brush my teeth now! It’s going to be so fun!” Even if the child isn’t old enough to brush alone, you can set expectations for ways they can maintain dental hygiene when they become a big kid.

If they are old enough, one way to set an example is to brush your teeth together, making it a silly bonding activity. Completing this routine together also allows you to ensure the child brushes properly.

Fun Toothbrushes and Kid Toothpastes

Fun dental supplies can make a noticeable difference in a young child’s attitude about brushing their teeth. Child toothbrushes come in different bright colors with a variety of characters that appeal to children. If convenient, allow children to choose their own toothbrush.

Children may prefer kid-friendly toothpaste flavors, such as strawberry or bubblegum, which can be more child-appropriate than stronger adult flavors like mint. Consider experimenting with what flavors your child prefers.

Educational Dental Hygiene Activities

Songs, crafts, and games about tooth and gum care can educate young children on dental hygiene and make the activity more important in their minds. You can also incorporate other educational materials such as children’s books [1] about brushing your teeth, videos [2] and movies about dental hygiene characters, and mobile applications [3] to impress these important skills onto toddlers and preschoolers.

Visible Progress with Motivational Charts and Rewards

For a toddler or preschooler, visibly seeing their progress can be motivational and help them learn consistency. A chart with stickers can track a child’s brushing success. Consider offering a reward for reaching certain goals, like a week of brushing twice a day. Instead of sugary rewards like candy, consider printing out an award certificate or allowing the child to pick out their favorite movie to watch that evening.

It is important to help children develop healthy dental habits from a young age. By completing these steps, parents and nannies can help their babies, toddlers, and preschoolers develop strong teeth and gums — and have a great time doing it.