I love my children dearly and I always feel happy around them. Right, just scrap that! That’s a lie… I actually really enjoy their company about 99% of the time and I have to admit they look like little angels when they’re asleep! There are a few things I could do without though: being at the receiving end of a meltdown, cutting their nails, looking for nits and nagging about oral hygiene or homework, amongst other things.
A few of these still get me completely baffled, like the exorcist-like trance I’m faced with when I attempt to cut toe nails or the morning madness, but I think I’ve managed to nail some of the above. They’ve got clean teeth all round most days and it turns out that combing off head lice can lead to a nice hour-long chat with each child (you really reassess ‘quality time’ when you become a parent!).
So on this bright, sunny morning, I thought I’d share with you a range of ideas to get children to brush their teeth, from the obvious to extreme measures, with a few funny tips thrown in and reasons why we’ve been using Playbrush for a couple of years.
Quite a few of the tips below are things I’ve tried over the years with my children and others are tips gathered through a bit of crowdsourcing. When I asked parents in a Facebook group to share their tips to get children to brush their teeth, I was overwhelmed by the responses. Who knew tooth brushing resistance was such a widespread issue amongst parents?
Oral hygiene is something you’ve got to work on early on with children and keep reminding them constantly, simply because having clean teeth and a healthy mouth is not an option; it’s one of the core self-care routines we all have to stick to.
I really think you’ve won half the battle with children who are reluctant to brush their teeth when you manage to help them understand why they need to brush their teeth. For that reason, I will start with tips to get children to brush their teeth because they WANT to (or feel like they really have to) and will move on to more fun reasons to brush their pearly whites:
1- The Singing Dentist
I had to start with Save Your Tooth, the parody of Ed Sheeran’s Shape Of You by The Singing Dentist:
2- Why Do I Have to Brush My Teeth?
If you are on Netflix, look out for series 1, episode 3 of ‘Ask the StoryBots’ called “Why do I have to brush my teeth?” My youngest two love it!
3- Let’s go on a Tooth Troll Hunt!
Irina at ‘Wave to Mummy’ says: “I’ve told my daughter there are tooth trolls that live on teeth, they love eating sugar and food, and you have to brush them away or otherwise they will start digging holes in your teeth. So after she brushes her teeth somewhat haphazardly I go hunt the tooth trolls from tooth to tooth and explain how they are waving at me, or gnarling at me and jumping to get away. She loves it and she also often comes up with her own storylines of princess and king tooth trolls!
4- Understanding that Teeth Get Dirty & Practising Brushing
I first came across ‘The Dad Lab’ on YouTube about a year ago and this activity is till one of my favourite ones. This is how he describes the fine motor skills activity: “This is a perfect activity to help a toddler to get used to the idea of toothbrushing. It is super fun and it shows the need of brushing teeth daily. I printed this picture of teeth and put it inside a clear plastic envelope to draw funny-looking bacteria monsters on it with whiteboard markers. Max was very excited to brush monsters off with an old toothbrush.”
5- Brush Before the Monsters Get Your Teeth!
Kelly-Anne at ‘Mimi Rose and Me’ says: “Brushing teeth is something she actually hates. I got my daughter to pick out a ‘big girl’ toothbrush and toothpaste. Then we would play games and sing a made up song about brushing teeth. At first I did say that the monsters wants their dirty teeth back, and she always managed to clean her teeth before they could. I know that sounds mean but my daughter loved it. It was like a race and she’s super competitive!”
6- Do You Want the Dentist to Pull Your Teeth Out?
Su at ‘Ethan & Evelyn’ says: “I tell them their teeth will have holes if they don’t brush them properly and then the dentist will have to pull them out and they will have no teeth left to chew food. The end. This totally fixed the problem.”
7- Pick a 2-minute YouTube Video
Laura at ‘Five Little Doves’ says: “We let them choose a two minute video on youtube to brush their teeth too. It turns out brushing to ‘Daddy Shark’ or ‘Johnny Johnny’ makes teeth brushing way more fun!”
8- Disclosing Tablets
We use disclosing tablets (from the dentist’s) at home with my older two. After they’ve brushed their teeth, get your children to chew on one of the coloured tablets, which will reveal plaque so they can focus on problem areas.
9- Bedtime Stories about Going to the Dentist
Lucy at ‘Organic Cookery School’ says: “Bedtime stories normalise all aspects of going to the dentist – I have a great list here (with recommendations from a Dental Public Health Program Manager at Public Health England).”
10- Use Playbrush
Playbrush is a smart little device that attaches to any manual toothbrush and turns it into a games controller. As they brush for 2 minutes, the games (on phone or tablet) encourage your little one to brush every single tooth thoroughly and at the correct speed. It’s been a life-changer for us and we’ve been using Playbrush for two years. Click here to read the review we wrote in 2016.
You can find out more about Playbrush over on their website and see the full range in their online shop. The Playbrush smart attachment is currently reduced to £19.99 with four games included (more games are available on subscription). Use COINDEMEL at checkout to get 20% off all orders.
Check the little video the children made of their tips for brushing teeth and their experience of using Playbrush:
My four are pretty excited about the launch of Playbrush Smart Sonic, an electronic toothbrush that connects to the games too. We’ve already pre-ordered ours (currently reduced to £19.99) and can’t wait to try it in September.
11- Sand Timer
Carly at ‘Mummy and the Chunks’ says: “My kids have a little sand timer and all brush their teeth together and try to brush for as long as the timer is running.”
12- Tooth Fairy or Tooth Goblin?
Susan at ‘Edinburgh Mummy’ says: “The tooth fairy comes and swaps clean teeth for money if you look after them. If you don’t look after them the tooth goblin takes them and doesn’t leave you anything.”
13- Brush Your Teeth with Them
Mary at ‘Over 40 and Mum to One’ says: “We brush our teeth at the same time in the morning and set a timer. My son loves making sure I brush for long enough. He never questions having to do it at bedtime.”
14- Use an App
Jaymee at ‘The Mum Diaries’ says: “We use a brush time app on our phone. It is 2 minutes of a character dancing around singing a song. The more brushes the more characters/songs/dances/backgrounds you can unlock!”
15- The Tomliboos Clean their Teeth
‘Joanna Victoria’ says: “We play the Tomliboos clean their teeth song.”
16- Check Each Other’s Teeth
Nina at ‘Non-IgE Baby’ says: “We play the dentist game where we check how clean each other’s teeth are and the winner gets a sticker. At the end of the week, the person with the most stickers gets to choose Sunday telly time. The eldest always wins though as the youngest doesn’t really know he’s here yet.”
17- Make up a Song
Adam at ‘You’ve got All This to Come’ says: “We used to sing “This is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth on a cold and frosty morning/evening”” Jennie at ‘Rice Cakes and Raisins’ and Emma at ‘Island Living 365’ also make up songs to encourage toothbrushing!
18- Let them Be in Charge
Ayse at ‘Arepops’ says: “I find letting my daughter brush her own teeth works a treat, she feels so grown up and in control… I need to double check them after and just get the bits she missed (which is when I properly clean them).”
19- Give them Stickers
Pete at ‘Household Moneysaving’ says: “We give our kids stickers. Whenever they brush for 2 minutes, they get another one to put in their album. We buy a big stack of whatever they’re into at the time (my son is now earning football stickers for the World Cup).”
20- Go Over their Teeth When They’re Done
Alice at ‘Living with a Jude’ says: “Emmeline brushes her own teeth on the proviso that I’ll have a go afterwards “just to get the bits you’ve missed” kind of thing. To make her brush for longer, I sing a tooth brushing song. She can’t stop brushing until the song ends.”
21- Get a Light Up Toothbrush
Jodie at ‘Tightwad Mama’ says: “My son has a light up toothbrush, it flashes until he should stop cleaning.”
22- Silly Noises
Louise at ‘With Love from Lou’ says: “We always make silly noises while brushing our teeth. So sometimes it will be a buzzing like an electric toothbrush, sometimes more of a gargling or a humming noise, etc. We find the sillier the better as it encourages Oscar to want to brush his teeth for longer just so he can find out which noise is coming next.”
23- Try an Electric Toothbrush
Susie at ‘This is Me Now’ says: “Best thing we ever did was to buy a battery operated electric toothbrush as soon as our daughter turned 3. (They’re usually targeted at 3+). Our daughter instantly loved her new Disney princess brush and felt more grown up like Mummy and Daddy. She now brushes her teeth no problems and doesn’t chew down on the head like she used to with a normal style one.” Siobhan at ‘The Baby Boat Diaries’ and Tracey at ‘PackthePJs’ recommended electric toothbrushes too! You can pre-order the Playbrush Smart Sonic here.
24- Let them Brush as You Clean their Teeth
Kati at ‘How to Rock at Parenting’ says: “The toddler has his own toothbrush and brushes away while I use another brush to clean his teeth properly. I usually ask him about animal sounds (most of which funnily enough end up going roaaaaaaaaar).”
25- Look for a Brushbaby for Little Ones
Victoria at ‘Lylia Rose’ says: “My kids hated proper toothbrushes when they were ages 1-2 so we got a Brushbaby which they both loved! It’s a soft chewy brush that they can chew instead and it’s much easier for them.”
26- I Brush Yours, You Brush Mine
Carla at ‘MyBump2Baby’ says: “My son hates brushing his teeth, the only thing that works is I brush his teeth for him then he brushes mine.”
27- Brush for the Length of a Song, without Singing!
Charlie at ‘Our Altered Life’ says: “Play a song on YouTube and see who can brush right to the end. Always has us laughing as we try not to sing along (2 min recommended length).”
28- Simon Says Brush Your Teeth
Kaiden at ‘A Suffolk Dad’ says: “Our little one isn’t fond of brushing his teeth, so we turn it into a game. We all have to copy what each other does (washing hands, brush teeth etc), he suddenly gets eager to do it! We also let him watch himself do it in the mirror, as he finds it funny.”
29- Use a Favourite Tune and Turn it into a Toothbrushing Song
Kat at ‘Confessions of a Working Mum’ says: “We sing “Shiny” from Moana but change the words so it’s all about brushing our teeth to make them shiny. Works a treat!”
30- If All Fails, Ban Sweet Treats
Emma at ‘The Free From Farmhouse’ says: “It helps if I let them brush mine or each others. On the harsher side, this weekend when they were refusing, I banned all biscuits and sweet treats until they did!”
31- Make them Accountable to Another Adult
Sally at ‘The Happy Home with 3 Boys’ says: “I tell my three year old that I hear his best friend at playgroup likes to brush his teeth in a certain way and why doesn’t he try it (he hates brushing his teeth) or that his playgroup leader is checking teeth that day so he’d better clean them!”
32- Toothbrush and Mirror in the Bath
Hayley at ‘Very Mummy’ says: “We have a toothbrush in the bath and a mirror and we practice brushing in the bath. We also have sticker charts in the bathrooom. We have also made up our own song for when we brush our teeth.”
33- Give them an Incentive
Becky at ‘A Beautiful Space’ says: “Give them an incentive for afterwards e.g go and brush your teeth THEN we’ll go to the park. Kids love an incentive!”
34- Use Videos Filmed at the Dentist’s and Dirty Teeth as Examples
Veronica at ‘My Parenting Journey‘ says: “I let her watch dentist videos for kids in YouTube. I also explained why it was important to brush her teeth, show her gross examples.”
35- Get Your Dentist to Talk to Them
If all else fails, just ask for your dentist to explain to them why it’s so important to keep their teeth clean, and show them what could happen if they didn’t.
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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Playbrush but all opinions, photos and video footage are our own. If you are planning to order a Playbrush Smart or Playbrush Smart Sonic, use COINDEMEL at checkout to get 20% off.