Let’s face it, most parents have struggled with finding new and effective ways to educate their kids about responsibilities and self-care. It’s not that we can’t make our children do the things that are best for their health and safety, it’s how to teach them to want to. There are several tried and true methods that are worth giving a try.
Teach by Example
Our example is the very best way for our children to learn. Children tend to model our behavior, so when we demonstrate how important dental care is and how we care for our teeth, they will want to copy our example. Brushing your teeth together and sharing the importance of each step is a great start. When you talk about brushing each section of your mouth and what those teeth are important for, it brings it more to life. As you floss, talk about how food and germs like to hide and how thankful you are to have tools like dental floss to get to those secret areas. The more involved you are, the more children are going to look forward to the task. Be diligent in keeping a routine so your child learns the importance of including dental care in their daily routine. Children love structure!
Make Learning Fun
I know it’s hard to believe that learning about dental care can be fun, but it can! When I was a child, we had chores to do. I dreaded those chores
She made doing chores a contest with prizes. No longer was it a chore. It was now a game that was fun. I know not everything in life can be turned into a game, but we can add an element of fun and reward to encourage our children to want to take care of their teeth and gums. There’s a reason the dentist office gives toys and stickers from a treasure chest. It encourages kids to want to go to the dentist. The same idea can work at home. Use a cool, special timer to time how long they brush, explaining the importance of being thorough. Get neat, colored or flavored, floss sticks to help them with flossing. Let them pick out their favorite character toothbrushes, or rinse cup, to add to the excitement. Use colored tablets to show where the germs are playing hide and seek so they can see the areas they missed, and so on.
Never Stop Teaching
As children grow and mature, they master different skills. They grow to have a greater understanding of what they do and why. As your child ages, you need to stay active in their education about their dental care. The teeth they have will have to last them a lifetime. Educating them in how to take care of them is an ongoing responsibility. As children gain a greater ability to understand more, go into greater depth about the importance of each element of dental care. Explain the different effects each element has on the life of their teeth and gums. You may also want to do age appropriate experiments periodically to show how different foods and drinks can damage our teeth, especially if they are not brushed or flossed. Placing a hard-boiled egg in dark cola overnight is a great one. There are also a lot of interesting pictures on the internet that show what happens to teeth when they are not cared for and microscopic pictures of what lives in our mouths. These can be a fun way to share the education at any age.
Helping our children develop the most important skills in life is a challenge. The greatest thing to remember is that we want to help them learn to want to do these disciplines in their life, not just feel like they have to in order to avoid pain or punishment. Sometimes it’s hard to find the time to devote to everything that needs to be a part of every day. In the grand scheme of things, preparing your children is one of the most important.