Parenting would be a whole lot simpler if kids greeted good habits such as brushing and bathing with as much enthusiasm as the latest video game or candy.
Unfortunately, kids tend to treat these habits as little more than chores they must do because their parents said so. The impact that adopting good habits early on is entirely lost on them.
So here are a few ways in which you may be able to make brushing seem like less of a chore and more fun for your kids:
Effective Story Telling
This is the most obvious starting point for most parents. Telling your kids a story about how food gets stuck in teeth, and is later turned into homes for those sneaky cavity monsters is probably the best way to get your kids to take brushing seriously and remember why they must do it in the first place.
Try to come up with a scenario where your kid’s toothbrush is the superhero who fights tooth decay and plaque on each tooth individually. Try to make sure the story is visual and entertaining enough for them to really get engaged and interested in the imagination element.
Demonstrate What Could Go Wrong
You’re probably familiar with the “show and tell” technique adopted by tobacco companies to warn about the health hazards of smoking – the thinking is that shock has value when it comes to getting kids to understand health risks.
So, you could use something similar to make your kids understand what could happen to their teeth if they don’t brush twice a day. Try showing them online images of old people with horrible teeth or displays showing plaque buildup at the dentist’s office. Showing your kids how horrible it looks when someone has yellow teeth or cavities just may be the best way to get them to brush and lay off the candy.
Make Timing Fun
For many kids, the issue is not brushing, but not brushing for long enough to be effective. If they’re just swishing the brush around for 30 seconds, they’re not getting the job done. So, to ensure that your kids are brushing for the full 2 minutes, you can either invent a 2-minute song you sing together while you brush or you can play 120 seconds of a favorite song. And yep, there’s even an app for that – Brush DJ is a free mobile app that automatically plays exactly 2 minutes of a song that’s already on your device.
Let Them Pick
There’s a ton of toothpastes, toothbrushes, floss and other dental products marketed specifically towards kids. Sure, you may roll your eyes at the fact that there is “Frozen”-themed floss, but your children think it’s awesome.
You might not know this, but kids aren’t supposed to use adult toothpastes anyway as they’re too harsh, so let them go ahead and pick their own favorite brand or flavor. And whenever it’s time to get a new brush or floss, try to frame it almost as if it’s time to pick out a toy.
OK, this tip isn’t exactly magic, but your kids might think that it is. Because your child’s definition of brushing might be the same as yours, you can test their skills afterwards. Plaque-revealing tablets and rinses make plaque on teeth turn a different color. Most kids I know think this is pretty darn cool, so make it a fun part of the brushing routine. They get to see just how good of a job they did every time they brush with a “magic” mouthwash.
Finally, encourage your kids to stick with their new-found brushing habit by giving positive feedback. You know your child best – for some, simple compliments and high fives will be enough incentive. For others though, you may want to come up with some type of reward system that allows them to get a “prize” for brushing well every day.
For example, if they do a whole week of great brushing, they can earn extra screen time or a trip to the ice cream shop…just make sure they brush afterwards!
About the Author: Dr. Kim Dyoco is a practicing dental and cosmetic dentist in Chicago, and the proud founder of One Mag Smile, on the famed Magnificent Mile in the heart of the city. Dr. Dyoco is passionate about educating people on preventative oral care and often does so by contributing to several online health and lifestyle publications. To find out more, click here!
Featured Image Courtesy of Sura Nualpradid of FreeDigitalPhotos.net