My 2-year-old is a very independent little girl. This is usually a good thing, like when she learned to feed herself early. But it can also be a bad thing, like how she likes to brush her teeth by herself and ONLY by herself. She used to strongly resist any attempt to clean her teeth. Here's how I've made brushing her teeth a little easier on both of us.
Pick a fun toothbrush and toothpaste
The first thing to get a toddler interested in brushing his or her teeth is to pick out some fun toothpaste and a fun toothbrush. My daughter loves octopuses (yes, 'octopuses' is the plural form of octopus; so is octopi but octopuses sounds better.) So when I found some all-natural toothpaste that had an octopus on the package, I bought it. It also has a nice strawberry flavor. I also get her fun toothbrushes in her favorite colors or that feature an animal she likes. For an older toddler, you could also let them pick out their own toothbrush.
Let your toddler brush her own teeth, and brush together
Make brushing teeth a fun ritual. Brush your teeth together so your toddler will want to imitate you. Give your toddler her toothbrush and let her brush her own teeth while you brush yours. Chances are she'll watch you intently and copy what you do. Many toddlers love this part...but don't like when mom or dad has to take over a minute later to do the real brushing.
Let your toddler brush a doll's "teeth"
I sometimes let my daughter bring a doll into the bathroom with us when she brushes her teeth. We brush the doll's "teeth" together or I just let her do it. (Cute story: One time I gave her a floss stick to use on her teeth. I looked down from brushing my teeth to see her telling her baby doll to say "Ahh" as she flossed her doll's eyes. Afterward, she cheerily told her baby, "Good job!")
Give toothpaste only during the real brushing
I used to put a tiny smidge of toothpaste on my daughter's brush while she brushed her own teeth, then added more when I brushed her teeth. I don't anymore, because my daughter loves her toothpaste and if she knows she only gets toothpaste when I brush her teeth, she has a reason to look forward to it.
Get into a Comfortable Position
Even after using all of the above measures my daughter wiggles away, doesn't open her mouth wide enough, or just lies down on the floor hiding her face. The easiest position for both of us, I've found, is with her sitting on my lap, my left arm around her holding her forehead to make sure she doesn't move around too much, and using my right hand to brush her teeth. That way I can easily see where I'm brushing and reach all angles.
My daughter had run away from brushing her teeth one too many times, and I was beginning to get scared her teeth might suffer. So I decided that the next time she ran away she would get a time out. I only had to do this once. Now when I'm having a particularly hard time brushing her teeth, I simply stop and ask her if she needs a time out, and she calms down and sits still and lets me brush her teeth...at least for half a minute before she starts biting down on the brush again.
Getting toddlers to do stuff they don't want to do is rarely easy...so we need all the tips and tricks we can get when it comes to getting the essentials done! If you have any tips for how you made brushing your toddler's teeth a little easier, post it in the comments section below!
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