Getting a toddler to do anything you want them to do is always a challenge. The same goes when it comes to brushing teeth. Here are some tactics for getting toddlers to brush their teeth.
1. Let Your Toddler Pick His (or Her) Own Brush and Paste
Toddlers are going through a phase where they are struggling for autonomy. Being given the chance to select their own toothbrush and toothpaste can help them feel empowered and "grown up". Sometimes being the ones to choose their own toothbrush and toothpaste is enough to encourage them to brush their teeth because they were actively involved from the outset.
These days, there is a large variety of toothpastes and toothbrushes for children available. To help facilitate your toddler's decision-making, select two brushes and two tubes of toothpaste before presenting it to your toddler to make the final choice, otherwise you might find yourself in the shop for the rest of the day while your toddler tries to make up his (or her) mind.
2. Offer Toothbrushes with Your Toddler's Favourite Characters
With the large variety of toothbrushes for children available these days, it is almost impossible not to find one with a character that appeals to your toddler. Sometimes the idea of being able to brush with a Pooh toothbrush or a Mickey toothbrush can be enough to entice a toddler to brush his (or her) teeth.
3. Interesting Toothpastes
These days, children's toothpastes also come in a variety of "favourite" flavours. Let your child pick the flavour he (or she) likes best and you will find greater cooperation when it comes to brushing time. The unfortunate downside to this is that it also encourages toddlers to eat the paste rather than simply brush with it. For this reason, it is important to screen your toddler's toothpastes to make sure they are fluoride free or have low fluoride content. Fluoride, though excellent for preventing tooth decay, is not intended for regular consumption through toothpastes.
Alternatively, toothpastes that come in different colours might be more exciting to your toddler than the standard "white" toothpaste. Gel pastes are usually a hit - although you should first make sure that the mint is not too hot for your toddler.
4. Give Your Toddler a Free Reign
Although toddlers have poor manual dexterity and probably will not do a good job of brushing their teeth, sometimes it helps to hand over the brush and let them attempt to clean their teeth on their own. You can always take over towards the end to make sure the job is done well.
Offering a sticker or reward for each brushing experience can sometimes produce results. With an older toddler you can create a sticker chart where your toddler earns a sticker every time he (or she) brushes. Once x number of stickers have been collected, you can reward your toddler with a bigger prize.
6. Brush Together
Some toddlers like to mimic their parents' actions. If Daddy is brushing his teeth, your toddler may also be willing to do the same.
7. Positive Reinforcement
There are lots of children's programs and books showing favourite characters cleaning their teeth. If your toddler is particularly stubborn about cleaning his (or her) teeth, make sure you watch some of these programs or read these books together. Then when it comes to brushing time, you can remind your toddler how his (or her) favourite characters brush their teeth to keep them clean and healthy.
Toddlers, though often challenging to handle, are not completely unreasonable. When given the right motivation, they can be encouraged to do most of the things you want them to.
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Shen-Li is a stay-at-home-mum dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in parenting. She has a formal educational background and former work experience in healthcare. If you enjoyed this article, visit her blog Babylicious and follow her as she learns how to raise a happy, confident and successful person.
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