Do you have twice daily battles with your toddler over brushing their teeth?
My kids have run away from me, cried, shouted and refused to open their mouth when it comes time to brush their teeth!
It’s one of those important things that you know you absolutely cannot skip, but when your child isn’t playing ball it can make it a real chore. And you have to go through the ordeal twice a day!
Toddlers are naturally rebellious. They are seeking to push and test boundaries, while also being suspicious of anything they are told to do.
This combined with the taste of toothpaste, which some kids just decide they hate, makes for a tricky challenge for parents.
It’s so important that you stick to your guns and clean your child’s teeth twice a day. Not only does it teach them good habits right from the start, but it helps to keep their teeth healthy.
You should be the one to brush your toddler’s teeth. In fact you should be doing most of the brushing until they are seven to ensure all of their teeth are properly brushed on all sides.
While your toddler may be willing to pop the brush into their own mouth and chew on it for a while, it’s another thing to ask them to open their mouth and let you scrub.
Here are 11 fab tips for convincing your rebellious toddler to let you brush their teeth.
1. Use their favourite cartoons
Most of the big kids’ TV shows aimed at pre-schoolers have at least one episode about going to the dentist and looking after teeth.
Have a quick Google search of your child’s favourite TV show and the word “dentist” or “cleaning teeth” to see if any episode suggestions come up.
To help you out, I’ve listed a few TV episodes of popular shows that are all about keeping your teeth clean!
My personal favourite is the Storybots one, which actually explains what happens if you don’t clean your teeth really well!
Many of these episodes, or at least clips from them, will be available on YouTube if you don’t have Netflix.
- Peppa Pig, The Dentist, Season 2 Episode 35
- Ask the Storybots, Why Do I have to Brush my Teeth?, Season 1 Episode 3
- Bubble Guppies, A Tooth on the Looth, Season 2 Episode 7
- Daniel Tiger, Brusha Brusha, Season 1 Episode 17
- Teletubbies, Dentist, Episode 135
- Powerpuff Girls, Tooth or Consequences, Season 2 Episode 20
- Morphle, Episode 235
2. Read a book about brushing teeth
If you’re struggling with getting your toddler to brush their teeth then try educating them about why it’s so important.
Books can make it fun while also showing them just how important it is to keep their teeth clean.
There are lots of different books all about brushing teeth on the market, so just have a good shop around and buy a few to get your child engaged in the subject.
You could try reading the book just before brushing their teeth so that the subject is fresh in their mind.
Try these fab books which are all about brushing teeth.
3. Try a YouTube song
There are tons of songs on YouTube all about brushing teeth.
Some are clips from TV shows, while others are little clips made specially for encouraging kids to brush their teeth.
There might be a song that captures your child’s imagination, or a short story that gets their attention.
Try a few different videos to see what gets them interested.
If you find a song that they love about cleaning teeth, you could play it while you are cleaning their teeth to distract them from the tooth brushing!
4. Challenge them to make a noise
This one may only work a few times before they wise up to it!
It’s part of the distraction technique when it comes to doing stuff to your kids they will probably hate, like vaccinations or taking medicine.
All you need to do is get them to open their mouth wide to enable you to get the toothbrush in their mouth.
My favourite challenges include:
- Show me your biggest yawn. If you go first then they’ll be encouraged to copy you.
- Roar like a tiger/dinosaur/lion.
- Stick out your tongue.
- Pull a silly face.
All of these work best if you go first and get your toddler to copy you. Make it into a game and they will be more inclined to go along with it!
5. Offer a controlled choice
A controlled choice is a fab parenting technique where you make your child think they are making the ultimate decision, but really you are getting them to do what you want.
It means your child feels like they are in control.
With a controlled choice, you give your child two options (keep it simple so that you’re not confusing them).
When it comes to brushing teeth you can make this work by purchasing two different toothbrushes and two different tubes of toothpaste.
Go for ones that are vastly different, with different colours and characters on them.
Ask your child to choose which toothbrush and which toothpaste they want to use. This way they’re more invested in the situation, and feel involved, rather than being forced to get on with toothbrushing.
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How to handle defiant toddler behaviour
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6. Let them choose a toothbrush and toothpaste
Take your child to the shops and ask them to pick out their own toothbrush and toothpaste.
There are so many different types with fun designs that you can find something for any taste.
If you want to make it fun for them, this is a great way to start!
You can also get some really cute toothbrush pots and holders that fix to the wall next to the sink.
Make it fun for your child to stand up on a stool at the sink and pick up their toothbrush. Give them a chance to put the toothpaste on the brush too, because any independence you allow them with this will help to encourage them.
7. Try an app
There are many apps offering help to parents with brushing teeth!
Some of them have timer features on them that show a fun song or video for your child for the two minutes that you need to be brushing their teeth.
It can be the perfect distraction for your little one!
Major dental product brands have their own apps for this, as does the NHS which has a special two-minute video on its app to show your child.
Keep looking around to find one that engages your little one.
8. Use an incentive
A sticker chart could be a brilliant way to get your child to brush their teeth.
It makes it fun for them and gives them something to look forward to for after their teeth have been brushed.
Get a sticker chart you can put on the wall of the bathroom or get a sticker book that you get out whenever they have finished brushing.
9. Brush with them
Monkey see, monkey do!
Show your toddler that you also brush your teeth by brushing at the same time! Use a brush to brush your own teeth for a few seconds, then see if they will open their mouth to let you do it too.
You could also try brushing their teeth when they’re in the bath and make a game of it with their bath toys. You could get your toddler to first brush their toys’ teeth then brush their teeth for them.
It’s a similar story with their favourite doll. You could get an extra toothbrush and get them to brush their doll’s teeth first before you then brush their teeth.
10. Be firm
You want brushing teeth to be a positive experience ideally, but there comes a point when you do have to put your foot down.
If your child is refusing to open their mouth, there comes a point where you need to just tell them they have to do it.
Explain why it’s important, including the truth about tooth decay and tooth loss. Sometimes the ugly truth is needed!
When my kids are not doing as they are told, I often find that counting down helps to get them to do what I want.
11. Enlist the dentist
If you’re really struggling then enlist another grown-up to emphasise how important it is for your toddler to brush their teeth.
Visit the dentist and ask them to talk to your child about their teeth and what they need to do every day to brush them.
Then when your child refuses to brush their teeth you can remind them of how important the dentist said brushing teeth is.