Ways to Make Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth Fun

Keeping your child's teeth and gums healthy requires a faithful routine of twice a day brushing — something not every toddler or baby is crazy about. If your little one dislikes or resists having her teeth brushed, check out these tips for making the task easier and perhaps more enjoyable for both of you.

Baby Teeth Brushing Games and Tips

Add a fun angle to brushing those baby teeth to help avoid tears and tantrums. Here are a few game ideas that may help:

  • Set a lighthearted mood. Play peekaboo while brushing teeth to lighten the mood for all involved, particularly for babies and younger toddlers.

  • Brush to the beat. Sing a favorite song or play some music on your phone and encourage “crazy brushing” until the music ends. Pick a song that's about two minutes long, and brush for the entire length of the song. Use your toothbrush as a microphone for added laughs.

  • Race the clock. Set a timer or your phone's stopwatch, and make it a race against the clock to brush until the “finish line.” If she brushes until the buzzer goes off, she wins a small reward like a sticker, or an extra story at bedtime.

  • Involve a toy. Place your child's favorite cuddly toy up near the sink and “brush” the toy's teeth while your little one brushes hers. Tell her that the toy doesn't want to brush his teeth alone.

  • Let her practice. Let your child practice brushing teeth on her favorite cuddly toy or on you. This might seem like a hassle, but it can teach her the motions that she'll want to repeat on herself later.

  • Make her feel like a grown-up. Another tactic is to brush your teeth at the same place and time as your child. Children love to copy adults, so when she can do something “grown-up” that mom or dad also does, she'll be eager to jump in, as well. Set a great example by brushing your teeth thoroughly, including brushing your tongue and very back teeth, as well. Remember to look enthusiastic about it, and show her your beautifully clean teeth at the end.

  • Give her some responsibility. Your toddler might be ready to try “big kid” stuff like picking up her cup, holding the toothbrush, or squeezing the toothpaste tube. Let her do her part, even if it means some spills. This will give her the feeling of independence and a sense of control over what she might see as a boring chore.

  • Make the toothbrush part of the game. Your little one may enjoy a toothbrush that lights up with a bright smiley face after two minutes of brushing, or one that plays music for a few minutes so she knows to keep going until the music stops.

  • Reward good brushing. Your toddler may respond to a tooth-brushing rewards chart. Kids love nothing better than earning rewards for good behavior, and stickers for a job well done can be a positive way of giving encouragement. You might try a system where each tooth-brushing sticker earned means an extra book at bedtime. For continued success, you can offer a bigger reward, like a toy she has been asking for.

For even more guidance, check out this short video:

Accessories to Make Baby and Toddler Dental Care More Fun

Once you start the teaching process, set up a toothbrush station in your bathroom with the following fun accessories:

  • Baby toothbrush: Choose a baby toothbrush (making sure it is child-sized and has soft bristles) that is decorated with something that appeals to your little one, such as a superhero, princess, or animal. You could pick one in his favorite color, or select one that comes in a fun shape, like a dinosaur or dolphin. Take your toddler shopping, and let him choose one he likes from those that are suitable for his age.

  • Baby toothpaste: Children under 3 years old should use a tiny smear of fluoridated toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice. Pick a toothpaste with colorful designs on the tube, or one that comes in a fun color or with sparkles added. Some toothpastes even squeeze out into a star shape, which children love. If your child just doesn't like the taste of ordinary toothpaste, there are plenty of flavored toothpastes. In between brushings, keep the toothpaste out of reach, so your child isn't tempted to eat it.

  • Special toothbrush holder: This cup can hold your child's toothpaste and brush. Choose something bright and colorful, perhaps a cup that's decorated with a favorite cartoon character.

  • Stepstool: Most sinks are too high for small children, and a stepstool will help her reach the sink comfortably and safely. Remember to always supervise when she's brushing.

  • Mug for rinsing: If the mug has an appealing color or design, your toddler might look forward to using it.

  • Timer: Set the timer for two minutes, and encourage your child to keep brushing until the buzzer goes off.

For even more tips, read these frequently asked questions on taking care of your baby's dental hygiene at home.

There's a lot to think about in terms of your baby's development, but a lifetime of healthy dental hygiene habits starts by brushing your baby's teeth as soon as they come out. Then slowly teach her how to brush her baby teeth all on her own, and ensure she gets regular checkups at the dentist. Making tooth brushing fun and enjoyable from an early age will help these healthy habits stick.