If you’re the mum of a toddler who you’ve never had any trouble with in getting them to brush their teeth I think I’m quite happy to stick my neck on the line and say you are in a very small minority.
It’s recommended that you begin brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as they start to emerge and that an ideal position is with them sat on your knee.
Well, that’s all well and good…if your child actually sits still with their mouth open. I’m not sure I’ve met a toddler who sits still with their mouth open for 2 minutes yet.
I’m quite lucky with Biggest now in that she is quite happy to have her teeth brushed twice a day (as long as she gets to have a go too). But it wasn’t always that way. There was a stage when she was probably around 18 months where she downright refused to open her mouth at all and would get quite upset with me even asking. What’s a gentle parent to do in this situation when everyone around them advises pinning down?
Here are the 8 ways they came up with:
1) Involve them
Sounds obvious! How can they not be involved?! It’s their teeth!
Helen explained how she made teeth-brushing special:
Let them brush yours so you can brush theirs.
Get down to their level so they can see how you brush yours.
Katie said she lets her little boy have a go at brushing his own teeth, which Helen also suggested:
Let them do it no matter how badly they do it and build on what’s good.
Claire had a lovely suggestion to make a family event of brushing:
Family toothbrushing time – all brush together at the same time.
Louise makes sure that she gives equal measures of independence and oral hygiene with one simple rule:
I have a bit of a rule that they can all do their own every morning, BUT mummy or daddy have to help with e bedtime ones as I worry they don’t do the backs enough, we haven’t had much moaning…..yet!
2) Sing songs
Katie also turns teeth-cleaning time into its own little celebration with a song:
We have a version of “the brush on the teeth goes round and round, ” to the tune of the wheels on the bus. Also “this is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth. This is the way we brush our teeth, every single day/night.”
It doesn’t always work, particularly on overtired evenings but, mostly.
And Claire had an extra special reason for including songs as part of her daughter’s brushing routine:
Ah a subject close to my heart. My lovely girl has a condition where the enamel isn’t formed on her back teeth so we have to brush after every meal to stop cavities in the mis-shaped areas. We made up a special toothbrushing song to make sure all areas get covered.
3) Play games
This was a popular suggestion from a few mums and one I have used myself, in the past, particularly the “animal brushing game”, where you pretend to seek out and find all manner of interesting animals in your child’s teeth.
Do funny things like say oooh we need to brush that elephant/lion/kangaroo from your mouth.
And Heidi agreed:
You can chase animals, trains, etc around the mouth with brush.
Another lovely game was suggested by Micki. This one is for outside of toothbrushing time, but one which gently encourages a good relationship with teeth brushing and is sure to be a hit with even the most brushing-resistant toddler.
This brilliant video was posted on Facebook by The Dad Lab:
Mum-of-three, Louise, finds that bringing a light-hearted bit of competition to brushing time effective:
We found quite controversially to make lots of things like into a game with my big 2 as they were so competitive so it was always ‘Who can brush their teeth the fastest/most/who has the shinier teeth competition…we just had to remember to mix up who won every time so there were minimal tears and distract them with something straight away afterwards. LOL!
We have just started a new brushing game with Biggest after she had a 2-minute brushing timer from the dentist’s earlier this week. We have a “race” with the timer to see if she can “win”…there are no logical rules to this game whatsoever but she likes it (and she always wins!).
4) A special toothbrush
This was another popular suggestion, with some mums finding success with buying electric toothbrushes.
Helen kicked us off:
Make a special trip to let them choose their own toothbrush and make a big deal about it.
Katie was a fan of electric:
We bought a spin brush.
Claire also hailed her girl’s special electric brush:
Let them have a special toothbrush. An electric toothbrush when they get old enough is good (my girl loves her Disney princess one).
And I think Sophie’s comment about what her son’s brush requirements are was my favourite of the whole post:
My boy will brush his teeth with only one caveat: he MUST use an adult toothbrush. As with most things he doesn’t like to be seen differently; he likes big cutlery, he must open the car door and climb in himself.
He doesn’t want games, or placating with a Dino-brush, he wants independence and what I use… 💙
We buy him a soft, small headed adults brush.
5) Keeping it positive
Most of the mums cited keeping positive during brushing time as one of their wins.
I loved Helen and her daughter’s ritual:
We do a mirror pose after brushing is complete with “cha-ching!” sound effects for sparkly clean teeth.
Claire was also a fan of keeping it light:
Obviously lots of praise and encouragement, positive reinforcement while they brush.
6) A chewable toothbrush
During Biggest’s most resistant days the only way I got any sort of brushing completed with her was using a chewable toothbrush. Lisa also found a chewable to be effective for her little girl.
7) Use tech
A few mums had good successes when they enlisted the help of tech at tooth-brushing time.
Aimee has an app linked with special electric brushes for her two children:
You can get apps that time them and make it into a game. We have the Oral-B one as it goes with their electric toothbrushes.
Sticking with apps, Pamela recommended the Aquafresh Brush Time App.
Heidi’s child likes to watch Elmo on YouTube to help at brushing time. I found this funky Elmo brushing video when I had a look (and now I can’t get it out of my head! Maybe a bit too funky for the bedtime brush!):
Claire has a relaxed brushing time with her daughter in front of the TV if everything’s a bit too intense:
Brush for them whilst watching TV! 😆
At bedtime I also find brushing teeth downstairs before they go up removes a whole load of tension from the bedtime routine.
8) Reverse Psychology
Some advice for when you just need to get it done!
Marie starts us off:
Reverse psychology, I told my son it was my new toothbrush and then he wanted to do his teeth with it!
And Louise also finds this a winner with her youngest boy:
With our number 3 I have to use a bit of reverse psychology and tell him jokingly that he isn’t allowed to brush his teeth and then that makes him want to do it!
What gentle tips do you have for toddler toothbrushing? Have you discovered any new ones in this post to try?