Being a parent is a job of unfathomable responsibility. At its most basic level, it’s a position that literally requires keeping another human alive: keeping them fed, free from harm and healthy. Then there are the more ill-defined requisites, like nurturing a growing personality, instilling good habits, and developing a strong moral compass. And, that’s just the short list! While we can’t help you with most of those concerns, we can lend a hand with creating good habits that’ll help set your kids on autopilot when it comes to taking care of their teeth. So get ready to check one future worry off your list, and secure your kids with a lifetime of healthy teeth. Let’s get sneaky!
Okay, so a little sneakiness goes a long way when it comes to getting kids to think about, and (yes) even enjoy taking care of their teeth. Here are our top six tips for ingraining good oral health habits in your children.
- Let them pick the weapon: If you allow your kids to choose their own toothbrush, you’ll get a lot more buy-in from them when it comes to using it. These days brushes come with every imaginable cartoon character out there, with every degree of flashing light to be sure they’re brushing for at least two minutes. So, take ‘em shopping – and don’t forget to do this every three months as well. Don’t want to forget? Have your child keep it on their calendar. They’ll look forward to it as a result.
- Get them to shake those hips: Speaking of the 2x2 methodology the American Dental Association recommends (2 minutes of brushing, twice daily), make it fun by having your kids brush to a favorite song of theirs that runs at least two minutes long. If the song runs longer, then move on to flossing after that. Here’s a “brush your teeth” video from Elmo to make it simple for you. Also, keep in mind that not everyone in the video is brushing correctly – too much back’n’forth. Maybe just the audio is the way to go … have your kids brush in small circles!
- Make it a team effort: How will you know if they’re actually brushing for those two minutes? And how about flossing? Even you have trouble with that, right? Well, you’ll know because you’ll be right there next to them doing the same thing. It’s incredible we don’t hear about this more often, because it can work wonders in instilling good habits in children and re-establish habits that you’ve likely let lapse as well. Spend four minutes each night with your child brushing and flossing your teeth together. Trust us, your child will remember that daily routine for the rest of their lives. Heck, they might even call you while brushing as an adult and ask for you to join in! P.S. If Elmo isn’t your cup of tea, try working out and brushing!
- Think outside the bathroom: Taking good care of our teeth is just as much about what we put into our mouths as how we clean them. Here’s an idea that’ll help take a chore off your hands, and involve your kids in picking out healthy food. Assign your kids with the task of monitoring the fruit and vegetables in your house and making a list of what’s needed for the next shopping trip. Then, when you’re at the grocery store, teach them how to pick fruit and vegetables that are fresh, and that will last for as long as you need them to last. Maybe even enlist the help of the produce clerk for a tutorial on freshness as you move throughout that section of the store. Your kids will love the learning and the responsibility, and you’ll have the job of keeping track of what to buy outsourced to your new kitchen helper.
- Have them don an apron! Don’t let the learning end there; though … enlist the help of your kids in the kitchen as well. Too many parents take on the full burden of preparing each meal for children, when kids are willing and able to help. If they’re too young to wield a knife, have them wash and peel the fruit and vegetables for meals. If they’re old enough for a knife, you might want to start them out with a lettuce knife that won’t cut their fingers. The responsibility of watching them with the knife is still yours, of course, so you’ve got to know the limitations of your own children, but there are kid-safe knives out there.
- Bring on the visual: Early learning focuses a lot on visual representation and reinforcement, so seek out positive and informative visuals about the dentist and oral health in general. Children’s books are a great way to accomplish this, and serve double-duty by not only helping to elevate reading skills, but also to instill good habits via characters in the book. Here’s a good list of books to get your started.