Brushing teeth sounds like an easy task. When you add a toddler to that equation then the answer hasn’t been simple in my world. He had his first tooth when he was just over 10 months old and it wasn’t that hard to keep it pearly white. Fast forward a year and it had started to get much harder. He would only need to hear the word ‘teeth’ or just see his toothbrush and he would be running like an anxious adult seeing a dentist with a drill in their hand. Mother’s guilt would creep in everyday either because of how much he hated it or if I hadn’t managed to brush his teeth well.
I tried brushing our teeth together! He would watch and then run. We tried brushing each others teeth in unison but he was more than happy to brush mine, while his lips remained jammed shut! Needless to say it didn’t work. I even asked the dentist for some tips but he was as stumped as me. At the time I was thinking ‘if the dentist can’t give me tips then there is little hope it is going to get any easier anytime soon’. However, there is good news to this story…………I did find something that worked!
Like many other toddlers, my son is a massive Paw Patrol fan. Anyway, while strolling through a store I spotted a Paw Patrol toothbrush that lit up and looked like something my son would love. I thought ‘yes, my prayers have been answered’. You have probably guessed it………….it didn’t work as well as I had hoped. However, he did say “I do it'” so I thought well we have made some progress, with a regular partial clean.
Enough was enough, I started to think there must be something that would work. I started googling and reading forums and came across an idea (thank goodness for the internet)! My son loves animals so I followed the instructions that I had read. The next time we brushed his teeth I said “OMG you have 10 lions in your mouth”. Don’t worry he wasn’t traumatised. He was actually mega excited that he had 10 lions in his mouth, which worked for a few weeks until he got bored and we returned to square one.
After adding an extra splash of imagination to the mix that fitted in with his personality, I decided to ask him which Paw Patrol pup was in charge of his Paw Patrol toothbrush? Guess what, it worked and I remained the driver of his toothbrush while Marshall (his favourite) would brush all the 10 lions out of his mouth. I thought wow, it couldn’t get better than this until he said “mammy spiders there too”. Disbelief was the look on my face. This worked for many months and every time he cleaned his teeth he would assign a pup to the task. It would end with him giving his Paw Patrol toothbrush a high five. It really was as cute as it sounds!
Over the last few weeks we have needed to alter it slightly and he now has two brushes, a Paw Patrol and a frog brush. He picks his favourite on that day with the understanding to stop the animals turning his teeth black or making holes in his teeth. Saying that some days are easier than others, but 95% of the time it works a treat. I can’t help but think how funny it would be when he tells someone unknown to our teeth brushing game that he has animals in his mouth. Now, I definitely want to be there to witness that reaction.
I am no expert, but this challenge has reminded me that every child is an individual. We are lucky having access to information with a tap of a finger, but one size doesn’t fit all. Sometimes, we need to step back and adapt things to enter their world of imagination and interests so they want to participate. Like adults, children like to have some choice and involvement which helps to grow their own confidence and self value. One of the many beauties of children keeps us on our toes while blossoming our creativity and imagination. Brushing teeth with a splash of imagination is the way to go in this house. We are 10 months in and it still works! I am sure I will have to keep adapting things as his own imagination blossoms and interest change, but for now I have one word to say……..Yipppppeeee!
(What have you tried that has made teeth brushing work for your child? I would love to hear your stories in the comments box)
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