Brushing Teeth

How to encourage your toddler to brush their teeth

One of the most common struggles I come across when working with families is the difficulty they face trying to brush their little ones  teeth.  Toddlers do not understand why they need to brush their teeth and it doesn’t matter how positive you are about the importance of lovely clean teeth it can often be a struggle and a battle of wills!

Child brushing teeth

Firstly tooth brushing/cleaning needs to be part of your child’s routine, starting as soon as their first tooth appears and if not earlier. Twice a day, morning and evenings, as this will encourage good hygiene habits for life. Children need to be supervised until they are seven years old and ideally tooth brushing should be a family event.


We want children to engage in the process and begin to understand the importance of our teeth and why we should keep them healthy and strong. The key is trying to make it as fun as possible, so in this next blog I will be exploring ways to help tooth brushing become a more enjoyable experience.

  1. Sing songs

Singing songs makes brushing teeth  fun and your little one will learn brushing  is time limited and will stop at the end of the song.  Below are some examples of tooth brushing songs; it’s always a good idea to offer a choice with toddlers as it means they’re more likely to cooperate, so ask them which song they would like to sing first, the Old MacDonald theme tune is a favourite in my house!

 (Tune ‘Row, row, row your boat’)

Brush, brush, brush your teeth

Brush them every day

We put toothpaste on our brush

To help stop tooth decay

Clean, clean, clean your teeth

Clean them every day

Your teeth will sparkle for years to come

In the most beautiful way

Brush, brush, brush your teeth

Brush them every day

Happy, healthy teeth you’ll have

if it’s done this way

(Tune – ‘Twinkle twinkle little star)

Here’s my toothpaste

Here’s my brush

I won’t hurry, I won’t rush

Working hard to keep teeth clean

Front and back and in between

When I brush for quite a while

I will have a happy smile

(Tune ‘Old MacDonald’)

In my mouth I have some teeth


And in my mouth I put my brush


With a wiggle jiggle here and wiggle jiggle there

Here a wiggle, there a jiggle

Every where a wiggle jiggle

In my mouth I keep my teeth


  1. Set a good example

Children learn by watching others and at this age they enjoy copying what we do and wanting to have a go, to do it by themselves.  Ensure you have a good routine in place for when you brush your teeth, let your toddler watch you and perhaps even having a go at helping you to brush your teeth. Then you can say it’s “Mummy/Daddy’s turn”  and see if  they allow you to help with brushing their teeth too.

  1. Role play

Let your children play with their toothbrush, they can use it to brush the teeth of their dolls or  stuffed animals.  It’s a good idea to have a tooth brush to play with in the bath too, try brushing over different parts of their bodies and bath toys and asking  them if this is the place where you would use the brush?

  1. Distract and offer control

It’s helpful to allow your child to feel in control, use a mirror so they can see what you are doing and start by brushing for a short period of time, gradually extending how long you brush for.  While you are brushing their teeth let them hold a toothbrush too and if they start to complain or resist, I find the best distraction is get them to brush your teeth simultaneously.

  1. Puppets

Puppets also offer a good distraction and allow you to hold the toothbrush at the same time.  Again offer your toddler a choice of which puppet they would like to brush their teeth with and either use one of the songs above or one your toddler enjoys to make it more fun!

  1. What’s in the mouth

This game started off with me asking my children to open up so I could see what was hiding in their mouth to allow me to  brush it, then I might find a Hippo or Giraffe that needs chasing out! Ask your child what they think might be lurking about inside too.

  1. Books and apps

There are lots of books about brushing teeth that you can read to your child that keeps the discussion going and helps them to get used to the idea of brushing.  There are also apps you can down load which sings for the two minutes they need to be brushing their teeth and at the end of the song your child is able to unlock a prize.

Finally always praise co –operation and success and to stay calm, if one activity doesn’t work try another until you find one that your child enjoys.

The NHS have a short video clip on how to brush your child’s teeth here.

The Nutrition and Wellbeing teams blog for tooth friendly drinks and snacks can be read here.

Baby brushing teeth

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