Getting your toddler to brush their teeth can be one of the biggest tests of patience for parents.
Ask me how I know!
Yes, getting my 2 year old to brush his teeth was SUCH a struggle. It was the last thing we did before bed which meant he was tired and I was tired.
But some nights, he would just stand there with his lips tightly closed and shaking his head, “NO!” There was usually a foot stomp thrown in for good measure too!
It felt like a fight every single night and it was a fight that I was losing. So my husband and I came up with a different approach.
Instead of thinking about it from our perspectives, we thought about it from our little toddler’s perspective.
That’s when things changed.
Here’s what we did differently and helped our son do a 180. Plus these things we have used with our second born and have made brushing her teeth much better from the start!
How to Get Toddler to Brush Teeth
Think about it from your toddler’s perspective.
Getting a weird looking brush with gross tasting goop (toothpaste) put into your mouth is a brand new experience for your little one.
They haven’t been brushing their teeth for decades like you have. So even though it seems like a simple, normal experience to you, it’s not for your toddler.
Give it time and go slowly.
Since it is a new experience, you’ll need to start small and work your way up to a full fledged tooth brushing.
Here’s how that might look:
Don’t use toothpaste at first. Let your child get used to just the toothbrush and water.
Keep the brushing quick and gradually build up the amount of time you spend brushing as your child gets used to it.
Make it fun.
This made the biggest difference for our kids. Instead of pleading with the kids to “open your mouth… let me brush your teeth…. just obey….” Say things that get your kids giggling and sidetracked.
Say, ” I see a ___________ in your mouth!” My son loved dogs at the time, so we would say that we saw dogs and they were barking. Our daughter liked Minnnie Mouse, so we often saw Minnie Mouse in her mouth.
Pick something that you know your child would like and say that you are looking for it in their mouths. Just make it a silly thing to do.
Sing a silly song about tooth brushing while brushing their teeth. This didn’t work with our oldest, but our youngest loves to sing no matter what she is doing, so she liked me singing a song about brushing her teeth!
Make funny faces. The more light hearted and fun you can have, the easier it will be to get your toddler to cooperate and not feel so much anxiety about this new experience.
Ask them to roar like a lion or ribbed like a frog. Most kids love animals and making their noises. Ask them to make the sounds while you brush.
Let your toddler be “in charge”.
Toddlers are in the independent stage, but of course you can’t just let your toddler brush their own teeth. Instead let them feel in charge as much as possible.
Have them pick out their toothbrush.
Let them hold the toothbrush while you put the toothpaste on it.
Tell them they can brush their teeth after you do it. So you brush their teeth and then they get a chance to do it afterwards. Mostly, they will just chew on the toothbrush, but it will still get them used to the toothbrush in their mouths.
Let your toddler pick the book to read or stuffed animal to take to bed after they have brushed their teeth.
Fake it with a smile!
Sometimes it is simply a struggle to get your toddler to brush their teeth no matter what you try. But the worst thing you can do is force them to brush their teeth or lose your cool and get angry.
This will only escalate the experience and cause more anxiety over teeth brushing making the next night even harder.
As a parent, remember your child doesn’t understand why they have to brush their teeth, and it will take lots of repetition and time for them to finally get comfortable brushing their teeth.
Even when you don’t feel like it, put a smile on your face and get through the 5 minutes as positively as you can. Your toddler will respond to your mood and attitude. So try to remain as calm and positive as possible and then go eat some chocolate afterwards!
Eventually it will get easier. Remember it is only a season.
My oldest is soon to be 6 and he has some gag issues which means we just have to brush teeth a little slower. It took him awhile to really get used to having his teeth brushed, but once we changed our approach, he didn’t put up a fight anymore!
Try these tips out tonight with your toddler and you’ll notice a big difference!
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