Children can find brushing their teeth a chore when there are a million more exciting things to do. Here are some ways to make dental hygiene fun for your kids from an early age!

Keep them focused with a countdown clock

It’s recommended that we brush our teeth twice a day for at least two minutes each time but parents know that can be a challenge for active kids. Use a cute hourglass to help them keep time as the sand runs out. Alternatively, try free mobile countdown apps like the Oral B Disney Magic Timer that gradually unveils a cartoon character as your child brushes his teeth. A virtual sticker and a star await your child after each brushing session. You could gamify the experience with the Toothsavers Brushing Game that challenges your kid to brush away a sorceress’ evil spell that has left everyone’s mouths to rot. It also comes with a cutesy character that brushes along with your child for two minutes.

Give them a choice

Let your children pick their own toothbrush when it’s time for a change. This gives them something to look forward to every three months. Today, there is an assortment of kiddy toothbrushes — from familiar cartoon characters to those in the shape of animals like penguins or cats — that will make toothbrushing a lot more fun. In choosing a toothbrush, make sure it has soft bristles and a head that fits well in the child’s mouth. Manual and electric toothbrushes are equally effective at removal of dental plaque. For children below 6 years old who may not be able to brush their teeth well, parents should do a follow-up brush. Electric toothbrushes with in-built timers or dedicated mobile apps that coach and motivate children to brush their teeth correctly through interactive games may be a consideration for older children so that toothbrushing becomes a fun activity for them.

Parents as role models

Monkey see, monkey do! Young children like to mimic their parents, so show them the right way to clean as you brush along with them. Parents should also assist their young children in flossing and brushing their teeth thoroughly to remove food debris from hard-to-clean areas. Flossing and brushing daily promotes healthier teeth and gums from a young age.

Entertain them while brushing

A little entertainment goes a long way. Songs from children shows such as Sesame Street could get your kid to “brushy brush brush” away. Your children will be encouraged when they see their peers doing the same thing on TV. Parents of young children can pretend to brush their child’s favourite stuffed toy’s teeth and then their child’s teeth. Some children are very responsive to such modelling.

Make the wash basin fun for kids

According to Early Childhood Australia, children are more motivated to be independent when they’re given opportunities to do things on their own. Use a small stool to allow your child to reach for items with ease. Colour-code toiletries to give children a sense of ownership: children may be more motivated if they have their own set of tumblers, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap dispensers and towels in their favourite colour or with their favourite cartoon character.

Introduce friendly competition

Sometimes, friendly competition can kick start a lifelong toothbrushing habit. Siblings of different ages can brush together to the tune of apps such as the Brush DJ, which plays music for 2 minutes as they brush. The winner is the one who manages to brush his or her teeth continuously without stopping. The younger ones might be at a disadvantage especially if they have to brush on their own. Parents can assist them to ensure they don’t stop. This levels the playing field so the competition seems fairer. Another motivation method is to use reward charts. Keep up friendly competition between siblings as they accumulate stars on their charts. If your child has no siblings, they can compete with cousins.

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[Sesame Street]. (2012, Feb 29). Sesame Street: Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me: Brushy Brush PSA [Video file]. 
Retrieved April 2016 from https://www.youtube.com/user/SesameStreet/about 

Touhill, L. (n.d.). Promoting independence and agency. [PDF]. 
Retrieved April 2016 from http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/nqsplp/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/NQS_PLP_E-Newsletter_No64.pdf 

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Retrieved April 2016 from http://www.wda.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/WDA-WIAAP-Tooth-Brush-and-Floss-Chart-Final-Oct-2015.pdf 

Contributed by:
Health Promotion Board's Parent Hub