How to Make Brushing Your Teeth Fun for Kids

Guest Contributor Darcy Fonner

It is important that young children learn to brush their teeth properly, but it does not have to be a chore! Find ways to make brushing time a fun experience for your child. Encourage your child to brush by choosing one or all of the 5 activities below.

1. Brush with your child! Show your child that brushing is easy and fun. Stand together in front of a mirror and let your child mimic your brushing techniques. You could even make a game out of brushing time by taking turns copying each other’s’ brushing techniques.

2. Buy a cute toothbrush and use fun, flavored toothpaste. Take your child to the store and let him/her select a favorite toothbrush. Find a toothbrush with your child’s favorite cartoon character. Make sure the brush is small and soft and has a good handle for holding. (Remember to replace toothbrushes every few months.) Choose flavored toothpaste or let your child choose his/her favorite flavor. You could even buy pump toothpaste to make it easier for your child to access.

3. Sing a silly song during brushing time. Instruct your child to continue brushing until the song is over, and then let your child sing while you brush your teeth. Sing “The Alphabet Song”, search the internet for an appropriate tooth brushing song or let your child pick his/her favorite song. If your child is creative, make your own tooth-brushing song by creating lyrics to sing to a familiar tune like “Old MacDonald” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”.

4. Teach kids to brush every tooth in their mouth. Model for your child by counting the teeth as you brush them. “Tooth number one is clean! Tooth number two is clean! Tooth number three is clean! Tooth number four is clean!” This is fun for your child and also a wonderful way to practice counting by ones.

5. Make a tooth brushing chart. Hang the chart on the wall in the bathroom, bedroom or hallway. Use glittery stickers to mark every time your child brushes his/her teeth. Let your child select a sticker and put it on the poster. Plan rewards for when your child reaches a certain number of stickers in a row. For example, 10 stickers may be an extra half hour of TV time. At 20 stickers, your child may stay up 30 minutes later. Be creative and allow your child to help choose rewards.

Darcy fonner works as a Dental Hygienist for a Copperas Cove Texas dentist and is an expert in dental software from Dentrix.com.  When she is not working she enjoys working in her garden and cooking for her family.

Potty Training Never Ends

Getting Real With Veronica Ibarra

From poopie diapers to clogged toilets this potty training thing isn’t going quite like I had been foolishly led to believe.  I have two kids.  Just two, but my 3 year old is still in pull-ups resisting the big boy underwear and screaming at any attempt to put him on the potty.  My 7 year old does use the potty, but for some reason I cannot seem to counteract, believes in the excessive use of toilet paper resulting in a clogged toilet at least once a week.

Once you actually get the kid from the diaper to the potty, I thought that was it.  My daughter was relatively easy as they say girls can be.  She transitioned so easily from diapers to potty that very little was required of me to facilitate it other than buying a training potty, which she used all of three times before deciding that she was a big girl like mommy.  Now, I didn’t gloat about it to any other mother that was complaining how their kids were being difficult, but I didn’t really understand.  With my son, I understand.  I’m talking tears of understanding.  I’ll join any mother in the misery of potty training blues.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Not only am I fighting (or not, trying to allow him his own adjustment time) to potty train my resistant son, but I’m finding that there is way more to do once they are on the potty.  Once they learn to hold their pee to make it to the potty the next lesson in potty training begins: teaching your kid how to wipe.  This lesson isn’t so quickly or willingly learned.

Apparently, I took for granted that wiping was an innate skill or something, but let me tell you, it isn’t.  Wiping is a skill that must be taught.  For girls this is a directional issue as much as it is about the appropriate paper wad to do the job.  Wiping after a pee took a little work, but that was nothing compared to the after-poopie wiping.

“You want me to do WHAT?”

That was my daughter’s reaction when I started encouraging her to handle things herself.  Gradually I started leaving her in the bathroom, which resulted in her yelling, “Mommy!  I’m done!  Can you wipe my butt?”  I will admit that once or twice or more I left her there for five minutes or so yelling at me.  All the while I kept grumbling to myself, I thought potty training meant I was done wiping butt.

Well, once I was done wiping butt I became a plumber.  It isn’t any more fun than changing poopie diapers, or wiping butt.  Poopies are disgusting.  No big revelation there.  However, for my daughter this means that there must be extra toilet paper used to deal with it.  You can guess where that leads.

I look forward to the day that she is no longer clogging toilets, or at least learns how to handle that herself too.  I want to believe that will be a great day, but did I mention my son?  When will it end?  Do I have to wait until they go off to college?  Sigh.  Why didn’t anyone tell me about this part?

Correcting Toe Walking – and Dealing with Doctors

Getting Real With Wanda Morrissey

Jeffrey is a toe walker.  It has to do with being a preemie; he didn’t develop proper muscle tone in his calf muscles.  The physiotherapist noticed it right away at our last appointment at the neo-natal follow-up clinic.  In an effort to correct the problem, he has to wear rigid orthotics (inserts) in his shoes.  They limit his ability to bend his foot, forcing the calf muscles to stretch so he can walk on his entire foot.  He got the inserts in June and has been wearing them since.

Just before Halloween, we went back to the follow-up clinic so the physiotherapist could check for improvement in the way Jeffrey walks.  I told the physiotherapist that I thought Jeffrey was doing better except for when he’s excited or tired; if he’s tired or excited, he’s up on his toes.  Then he wanted to see Jeffrey walking and, wouldn’t you know it, through the whole test Jeffrey was up on his toes.

The physiotherapist is looking at me like I lied to him and says, “Are you sure he’s wearing his orthotics?”  His tone clearly conveyed that he didn’t think he was.  I told him that, yes, he was, but what I really wanted to do was yell, “Of course, I’m sure.  Why would I spend $400 on orthotics to correct my son’s gait and then not use them?”  Then I mumbled something about Jeffrey being excited and wanting to play with the toys in the room.  I got the ‘I don’t believe you’ look again.  “Well,” says the physiotherapist, “it does take 1 to 3 years to correct the problem and Jeffrey’s only been wearing them a few months.  But you know, if the inserts don’t work, he’ll need leg braces to correct the problem.”

He made the last sound like a threat, like if the inserts didn’t work, he’d know exactly who to blame.

Jeffrey wears those inserts everyday.  He’s still going up on his toes when he’s tired or excited (I’m beginning to think this is more of a quirk or habit than anything else).  We have an appointment to go back again in January, if Jeffrey toe walks at that appointment then I’m going to come home and video tape him walking properly so I can take it and show it to the physiotherapist.

I know Jeffrey is improving.  How would it help Jeffrey if I was lying about it?

Scars and Battle Wounds from My First Trip Through the Toddler Years

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce, Owner of +MomsGetReal

Almost from the time your child is born, you’re aware of the ticking clock counting down to the second birthday. You’re prepared for it. You’re ready to embrace your toddler’s new-found independence. Of course, if your child starts beating his head against the floor because he can’t get his purple stuffed barney to stand up by himself when he’s 18 months old, you might panic. I did.

Parker is almost a teenager now (a stage closely related to the terrible twos) but when he was a toddler, he had the worst temper tantrums I’d ever seen. Something would set him off and he would literally beat his head against the floor or scream and cry. Or beat his head on the floor and scream and cry. He even managed to give himself a lovely goose egg trying to beat his head against the bar of the shopping cart while we were grocery shopping.

The new-found sense of independence (blah blah blah) aside, this was frightening. Even though I was raising Derek, Kira, and Kyle with Dave, Parker provided me with my first trip through toddlerhood. It was scary. We had to leave places (restaurants, stores, people’s homes) because he would be so loud and out of control.

In those moments, especially when sitting in the parking lot in Walmart the one day a week I had the car to do grocery shopping and wondering if we’d even be able to get out of the car and go in, I felt like a failure as a mom.

As we approached Parker’s 3rd birthday, I was still naïve enough to think that we were moving out of the danger zone. Of course, between ages 2 and 3, Parker had his first seizure (and don’t think I didn’t torture myself about that being caused by one too many head beatings against the floor before I could intervene, even though the neurologist assured me it was not).

If twos are terrible threes are…terrifying.

By three, not only is your toddler self-aware but has a voice and a tiny budding sense of reason. But it is all about wanting control.

Being a control freak myself, I found ways to help Parker manage his expectations that minimized our stress, doing things like telling him 30 minutes before we were leaving the park that we’d be leaving (shortly after his first trip down the slide) and remind him every 5 minutes.

It was hard with Parker. We know now that there were some things going on – sensory issues, seizure issues, and an undetected iron deficiency and an overarching undiagnosed Asperger’s  syndrome that we’ve only recently resolved.

I sometimes wanted to escape, but I never stopped wanting to be a mom, even when I was in tears on the phone with mine thinking I was a complete failure at it. That’s motherhood, though – and you know, now that Parker is almost as tall as me and I can’t rock him to sleep anymore because wow, that would be so uncool Mom, I’d give anything for just one more temper tantrum that we could resolve with some hugs.

Ava Parnass, my friend the kid whisperer, also recommends hugs and encourages parents to “decode what our kids are saying and help them learn to use feelings words and new coping skills to decrease tantrums.”

If your kids are still in toddler stage and you’re looking for some great advice and tools to help you survive, please check out http://owl.li/7QonI

About Ava

Ava Parnass, a.k.a. “The Kid Whisperer,” is an author, songwriter and child therapist  who specializes in marrying Entertainment, Emotional Intelligence and Time-In not Time-Out for kids. Ms Parnass helps kids figure out how they feel through playing, talking ,listening,reading, singing and dancing.

Her multi-media materials, books and songs encourage parents and  kids to read and sing along, in the process learning how awareness of  feelings “Emotional Intelligence” improves problems and behavioral issues.  Parenting is a hard job and the books and songs really help kids and parents put a finger on what is bugging them and change it. Her books & songs can be found on Amazon  http://owl.li/7Qp5o


Rainy Day Summer Activity – Treasure Hunt

Getting Real With Wanda Morrissey

This was an idea that I had in my head for awhile, I was saving it for a rainy day and I finally got my chance.  I put together a treasure hunt for my 3 year old.  His current favourite show is Jake and the Neverland Pirates and because of it he’s into all things pirate.  I thought a treasure hunt is something he’d really enjoy. I wasn’t wrong.

I drew a rough layout of our apartment with the starting point in the kitchen and the end point in his bedroom – the map.  On the map I drew a path to be followed as well as numbered stations for him to stop at along the way.  At each station he had to look for a challenge card and complete that challenge before he moved on.  I kept the challenges simple for him; things like count to 10 and find something shaped like a circle.  I rolled up the map and tied it with a piece of ribbon.

After his nap, I snuck the treasure into his bedroom – a paper treasure chest filled with gold doubloons (foiled covered chocolate coins).  I called him to the kitchen gave him the map and off we went on our treasure hunt.  He loved every second of it.  He proudly carried the map, trying to figure out where the next challenge was hidden (I’m not much of an artist). He shouted with excitement when he found a challenge and hurried through it so he could find the next.  I think finding a treasure chest sitting in the middle of his bed was the biggest thrill of his life. We had to hide the treasure again so Captain Hook wouldn’t find it.

This is going on my redo list.  But next time I’m going to need a better map and new challenges.

Toddler Trip to the Dentist – the First Cavity

“Jeffrey has a cavity.  You’ll need to make an appointment to get that filled.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I’d just taken my son to the dentist for the first time and I was not expecting him to have a cavity.  How does a 3 year old get a cavity? Sure, he gets treats now and then but I make sure his teeth are well taken care of.

After I got over the shock of Jeffrey having a cavity, the dentist says that he asks that both parents be present when he gets the filling.  Why?  Because they don’t give children that young any kind of freezing and they may need both parents to hold down/calm the child!  I didn’t know this and was horrified by it.   Already, I was imagining my toddler screaming in pain and fear as the dentist laughed manically over him.  I asked about nitrous oxide (laughing gas).  No, he’s too young.  I asked if there was any kind of extra strength Ambesol that could be rubbed on the gums first.  No, there wasn’t.  I knew I was grasping at straws but I couldn’t get the picture of my screaming son out of my head.  The dentist assured me that it was only a tiny surface cavity and that my son wouldn’t feel any pain but I didn’t believe him.

The appointment was set for two weeks later and I spent those weeks imagining the most horrible things possible.  I had visions of the dentist practicing medieval torture techniques on Jeffrey and recruiting me as his accomplice.  I had visions of Jeffrey desperately trying to get out of the chair and me having to hold him down.  I pictured him clinging to me crying.  I imagined him so mad at me for making him go through that, that he wouldn’t come near me.  I don’t know how many times I almost cancelled the appointment but didn’t – I knew the cavity had to be filled.  I had myself so worked up that I wasn’t sleeping.

The day of the appointment arrived and I was in full panic mode.  I was ready to grab Jeffrey and run if there was so much as a hint of a tear.  My husband and I put in the chair and stood by his feet.  The dentist sat down beside him and showed him every tool he was going to use.  He let Jeffrey listen to the sound of the drill and play with the thing that squirts water.  He gave Jeffrey one of the small mirrors to play with, which Jeffrey tried to use to look up his nose, while he worked.  It was over in less than 15 minutes and Jeffrey hadn’t flinched once.  We had to keep reminding him to open his mouth wide and we had to sit him down once when he wanted to get up and explore but there was no screaming and crying like I’d imagined.  All that panic and worry for nothing.

But at least I can say that Jeffrey behaved better than I did when visiting the dentist.  When my parents took me for my first check-up at age three, I bit the dentist as hard as I could.

The Call of a Child – Selective Hearing in Action

Getting Real With Veronica Ibarra

One of the many skills we develop as mothers is the extraordinary ability to hear our children call for us, and know by the sound that they are in need.  This acutely sensitive ability to attune to our children is not necessarily limited to mothers, but often times fathers aren’t as attuned because they attune to other things, like the myriad of sounds made by the car.  I suspect that many fathers also over rely on a mother’s ability to attune to their children, trusting that if something were really wrong then he would be alerted.

This hypothesis was unintentionally tested recently as my son began calling me from somewhere within our house.  At first I wasn’t sure if he was calling me as “mommy” is his catch all for when he wants something, which includes addressing his father who was also in the house at the time.  His first call had that note of hey-pay-attention, which he usually does use to address his father.

The second call for mommy came with a hitch in the cry, that I-am-not-happy transitioning into I-don’t-like-this.  I got up from writing to go investigate, figuring I’d find him fussing at one of the cats or an uncooperative toy.  I poked my head in every open room—he is only 2 after all, and has yet to master the opening of doors.  I poked my head into my husband’s open office to see him typing away at his computer, but no sign of our son.

I heard the cry for mommy again, muffled, but now with that hint of rising panic, the one that begins my reciprocal panic.  I urgently start opening doors to the rooms that were closed, and still no 2 year old.  Meanwhile, daddy is typing away.  I start calling for my son, who starts the repeated mommy call, which I am able to follow and trace him to the closet in his sister’s room.  With much relief he latches on to me with a death grip of gratitude for rescuing him from the stuffed animals and nightlight he had managed to close in with him.

I poke back into my husband’s office to point out that our son was essentially trapped in the closet in the room next to him, and asked why he hadn’t helped.  I got the deer-in-headlights look.  Apparently, daddy thought our son was farther away and talking to me.  And my calling for our son when I couldn’t find him? Oh, I wasn’t paying attention.

I roll my eyes, and carry our son back out to the library where he can play with the train set while I write at my desk.  Of course, I’m muttering about my husband’s deafness, and grumbling about what a great help he is, so it takes me a few minutes before I can think rationally again.  But as the mommy-panic-and-frustration haze begins to clear I remember a film I watched in a long ago psychology class talking about this very issue.

In the film there was a scene with a couple sitting on the couch watching TV.  There’s a faint baby cry and the woman asks if the man heard.  He says no, and she goes to check.  Within seconds she comes back to report that the baby stirred, but fell back asleep.  They go back to watching TV then a faint metallic rattling sounds and the man turns to the woman asking if she heard it, which of course she did not. He goes to check and comes back to report that the furnace was acting up, but is now fine.

To be fair, my husband can start the car and within moments can tell you if the car is running as it should.  I surely can’t tell the difference between the subtle sound changes in the engine, so why do I get frustrated that he can’t tell the subtle sound differences of our son’s cry?  Intellectually, I understand that he and I attune to different things.  I even understand the psychology behind it, but as a mother…well, I don’t understand.

Toilet Training Blues

Getting Real With Wanda Morrissey

Everybody sing along: “I got the blues/ the toilet training blues/ my little guy/ just won‘t go potty.”

That’s been my mantra for the past few weeks.  I’m trying to toilet train my 3 year old with absolutely no success.  This isn’t my first attempt at toilet training.  I’ve tried it several times over the last few months and have had no luck.  I don’t want to push him too hard because I don’t want him to become afraid or nervous about using the toilet but at the same time, I don’t want to be too lax about it either.  I don’t want him thinking that diapers are forever.  I’ve read all the information about the signs to look for in toilet training readiness and he displays them all, except he just won’t use the potty.

I’ve tried all the tricks.  I’ve read him books about using the potty.  We’ve toilet trained all his stuffed animals.  I’ve put food colouring in the toilet so he could see it turn colour when he peed (he won’t pee so it won’t change colour so he lost interest in that one real quick).  I’ve tried progress charts, treats and rewards.  I’ve put him in ‘big boy underwear’ so he can feel what it’s like to get wet.  Nothing seems to be working.

But I forget that he’s not developmentally 3 years old.  My son was born premature.  He was born in January but should have been born in April.  This could have a huge impact on toilet training success.  He looks and acts like a 3 year old but maybe his internal development hasn’t caught up to his external growth.  I need to relax a little and not worry about it so much.  I’ve been reassured time and again by other moms that one day things will just click and he’ll want to go potty.  In the meantime, I’ll just have to try and banish this image in my head of my son graduating university still wearing diapers.

Giving in to Never – Supporting Toddler Relationships

Getting Real With Wanda Morrissey

I was always told ‘never say never’, yet I often hear myself saying “I’ll never do that” and just as often I find myself doing that thing I said I never would.

The latest never that I’ve gone back on is: “I’ll never sign my child up for any activities until he’s old enough to tell me what he wants to do.”  My reasoning was that before then he’d be too young to know what he wanted, too young to maintain any long term interest, too young to understand a lot of rules, just too young.

Then I started to worry about how much interaction Jeffrey was getting with other children.  He’s an only child who spends the majority of his time with his dad and me.  At our weekly playgroup, I noticed that he barely interacted with the other children.  If another child showed an interest in what he was doing he would abandon it and move on to something else.  He’d act the same way even if I tried to get him to join me and another parent and child for a group activity.  I wanted him to feel comfortable around other children and to learn how to make friends.  So, I took back another ‘never’ and started looking for an activity that I thought Jeffrey might enjoy.

One day at playgroup I stumbled upon an activity that I thought Jeffrey would like.  I’m always checking out the bulletin boards at the centre where playgroup is held and that is where I saw the notice for Little Kickers.  They promised a no pressure and fun introduction to soccer for children under 5.  It sounded good to me so I checked out their website.  I liked what I saw and signed Jeffrey up for six classes of Junior Kickers – ages 2 – 3.5 years.

Jeffrey’s first class was on Saturday.  I was right, he didn’t understand all the instructions or pay attention half the time but neither did the other children and that was okay.  I realized I was holding out on signing him up for things because I was afraid he would act his age.

Jeffrey had a blast.  I have to say that his coach is great.  He has loads of patience, included everyone and made it really fun.  Jeffrey actually interacted with another little boy, taking turns kicking a ball – that, for me, was worth the cost of enrollment.  If this is how I can get him to interact with other children then I’ll be signing him up for another round of Little Kickers when this round ends.

I wonder what never I’ll have to take back next….