As children get older, it’s critical that they not only learn to take care of their own teeth, but also understand the how and why of dental health. After all, without understanding why it is so important to brush and floss, it might be harder for them to maintain those healthy habits into adolescence and adulthood. Learning about their own dental health is just as critical for children as learning about healthy nutrition and the importance of exercise for becoming independent and self-caring adults. Try these fun tips for making sure your child understands how their teeth work and how important it is to take care of them!
1. Books about teeth
What better of a way to learn than through reading! Pick up a few books appropriate for your child’s reading level about dental hygiene, then read and discuss the book together. Reading books that are fun and engaging for kids to read, like “The Tooth Book” and “Tooth Poop: The Truth About Dental Cavities” are fun books that kids love that will introduce the topic well. Books with fun illustrations are great for helping kids understand more specific or complex subjects, like bacteria and cavities!
2. Craft projects
Kids learn best by doing, so put together some fun activities that introduce concepts of dental health and hygiene. Try having kids “whiten teeth” by using a toothbrush to paint teeth white on a paper face. Use some floss as a craft material and let your kids weave the floss in and out of other materials, like rocks and beads, to see how floss can get in the tiny spaces of your teeth to remove food and plaque.
3. Science projects
It’s science time! Put together some fun and simple activities to show children the importance of dental hygiene. For younger children, this may simply mean giving kids some soap, water, and a toothbrush and letting them use it to clean rocks to see how effective toothbrushes are at getting rid of the “yuck” on our teeth. A popular project to use is to put two baby teeth into two different substances, one sugary and one plain water, and show how the two different teeth fare over the course of time. When kids see the rotting teeth that have been soaking in sugar, they’ll never want to skip brushing again!
4. Talk about it
The best way to get kids to understand the importance of dental health is to simply talk about it. When you and your child go to brush their teeth in the evening, talk about how they are brushing away all of the sugar, acid, and bacteria that have accumulated in their mouth throughout the day. Encourage and praise them for keeping their teeth healthy and strong. More than any other learning strategy, kids respond to the support and encouragement of the strong adult relationships in their life. Make it a regular topic of discussion, and they’ll come to understand!