Your toddler is growing up! If you think about that first year, it’s crazy how many milestones your little one went through during those first 12 months of life. Your toddler can eat independently now, and has beautiful tiny teeth! That means that now is the right time to start incentivizing them to brush their teeth as well, especially if they are between 18 to 24 months old.

Check out this easy to follow step-by-step guide to start this beautiful process. 

1. Set a good routine

It is essential to develop a routine for yourself when trying to teach a routine activity to your child. Toddlers generally need to brush their teeth twice a day, so if the routine for them to do it is after breakfast and just before bed, stick to those times. However, be mindful of their mindstate when picking these times. You will want to use times of the day in which they are receptive, not cranky, or tired.

Now that the times are set start the teaching process by showing them. We know that our little ones are always watching! And once they see you brushing your teeth a few times, they will want to do the same. 

2. Let them pick their own toothbrush

Before you start the process, you will want to go shopping with your toddler. Go to a brick and mortar store, and ask your toddler to pick out the toothbrush that they want to use. This way, if a toothbrush that is being used is the one that the toddler has chosen, then the motivation for toothbrushing should come easier. Also, be sure to grab a toothpaste for toddlers then as well.

3. Create a ritual

This one is easy, and your toddler will enjoy the interactivity of this phase. When you step into the bathroom to brush your teeth, tell your toddler to turn the faucet on and be sure the water temperature is not too cold or too hot. And if the toothbrush you are using for your toddler is electric, allow them to turn it on as well. When kids are encouraged to do things independently, they feel empowered, and will generally be more cooperative to complete the process. 

4. Begin the brushing process

Make sure that your toddler is comfortable and receptive before starting. If the child needs to step on a stool, then have one available, or have them sit on your lap. 

Take their toothbrush and put a small amount of toothpaste on it, about the size of a pea. Then start brushing!

The inside of the teeth needs to be brushed first and keep it toward the gum line at approximately a 45-degree angle. Once the position is set, brush back and forth (and up and down) on the inside. Then, do the same when brushing the outside of the teeth. This process should take about one minute. Feel free to guide the movements at first, but let them do it over time.

When the time is up, rinse the toddler’s mouth and have the child spit all of it out. If they swallow some toothpaste, relax, and remember that products geared for toddlers have a minimal amount of fluoride. So, no need to worry about the adverse effects.

It will take a while before your toddler gets the hang of brushing independently. What’s important here is to be consistent. Stick to the times you chose and allow your toddler to do it independently once you have observed they do it right when you are guiding them.

5. Turn it into a game

If your toddler needs extra motivation to brush their teeth on their own, turn it into a game! You can create a fun song about toothbrushing or find a YouTube video of their favorite character brushing their teeth. That will help them grasp the toothbrushing process quicker and will help make the experience more enjoyable as well. 

Another option is to play them Elmo’s teeth brushing song. That one is quite popular among kids. Find it on YouTube and play the song before you start beginning the process. 

6. If there’s still lack of motivation, bring support

Another thing that could motivate your toddler to brush their teeth is to have their favorite plush toy present with them. This way, you can pretend to brush its teeth first. Or the toddler can even get a toy toothbrush or a spare toothbrush for the toy which they can use for play. 

Teaching a toddler to brush their teeth will take a lot of patience and time. This is why a set routine and consistency are key. If your child knows that it is time to brush their teeth, then they will be receptive to it. Just make sure to schedule a routine considering the times of the day that they are receptive and awake. 

When teaching new things to your toddler, try to work those separately. For example, don’t try to do this at the same time as potty training, going from a crib to a bed, welcoming a new sibling, or moving. The best time to teach your toddler to brush their teeth is when no other changes are happening.