Ask The Parents – How Do You Teach A Child To Brush Their Teeth?

Learning to brush their own teeth is an important milestone for young children – but you want to make sure they’re doing it properly.


When your child wants to brush their own teeth, chances are you’ll feel a little conflicted. On one hand, you want to encourage independence and good habits; on the other, you want to be certain those pearly whites are looked after properly. Sue, who lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is hoping our panel of parents can offer some advice.

“We’ve always been careful about looking after our little boy’s teeth, but he’s getting to the stage now where he wants to hold the toothbrush. Thing is, we’re worried he won’t brush his teeth properly if we let him do it himself. We’d appreciate any tips on teaching him – we don’t want to crush his enthusiasm by saying he can’t!”

Holly OlugosiHolly Olugosi

Holly Olugosi describes herself – tongue firmly in cheek – as a ‘cool stepmum and dream wife’. She started her blog after she realised she was writing a lot of very long Facebook statuses all about parenting. A place where she says what everyone else is thinking about parenting but is too polite to say, The Prime Mumister has gained a loyal following – read it at

Of course you’ll need to supervise, says Holly, so the trick is finding a way to help that appeals to them.

“We’ve always been super-cautious and over-the-top when it comes to tooth-brushing. We’ve had tears, tantrums, shouting and kicking, but we are so fixed on making sure that their teeth get the best start possible. My son, like yours, has got to the age now where he wants to do his teeth himself.

“We bought him a novelty toothbrush with a superhero on, and always let him do the first brush. Then, afterwards, we say we’re doing to do a ‘superhero super-brush’, and I or his dad do a follow-up – just to make sure he’s had a thorough clean. We use lots of encouragement and tell him how brilliantly he’s done them, and he’s usually more than willing to give up the toothbrush for a ‘superhero super-brush’!”

Jessica Baxter – Real Home Truths Jessica Baxter

Jessica is an experienced writer and editor living in Cape Town, South Africa, where her two toddlers provide all the inspiration she needs for her blog. She enjoys sharing her no-filter views and experiences of motherhood – both the mess and the magic. You can read more at Real Home Truths or find her on Instagram as @realhometruths.

Jessica says that making kids feel part of the process is important.

“I think it’s great he’s showing an interest in brushing his own teeth. Getting kids to clean their teeth can be a nightmare, so if he’s at least willing to brush them, you’re off to a great start! My suggestion would be to share the duty. Tell him you’ll brush his teeth first, and then he gets a turn. Alternatively, suggest that you brush his teeth and then he can brush yours. Make him feel like he’s part of the process and encourage his enthusiasm. Good luck!

Kimberly Stanfel – Behind the Mom JeansKimberly Stanfel

Kimberly is a seasoned marketing professional who turned a few of her ‘curve balls’ in life into something positive by creating her platform, Behind the Mom Jeans. A blog that speaks to the everyday truths of being a new mom, wife and human being. You can read more at Behind the mom jeans or find her on Instagram as @behindmomjeans.

Kim had a similar situation and says there is a way to find a balance so your child is involved but teeth actually get cleaned.

“I went through the same thing, and it’s tough because you want them to know they can do something on their own but still actually be brushing their teeth. The good news is there is a way you can accomplish both!

“Give your son a toothbrush to use, and you use a completely different one. When he’s done brushing his teeth himself, you can use the secondary toothbrush to finish the job. Make it funny – I try to use funny noises so my daughter gets slightly distracted. Eventually, they’ll start to understand the purpose because you’re showing them the way.”

Katy MannKaty Mann

Katy Mann is an award-winning writer and mum to James, Emily and angel Charlie. She lives with her family in Cheshire, UK, and writes on a wide range of topics covering everything from losing a baby to living with a disability. You can find her on Facebook or on Instagram as @yetanothermumbloguk or visit her blog, Yet Another Mum Blog.

It is important you’re still involved in toothbrushing, emphasises Katy, because you need to be sure it’s being done properly.

“I still clean my daughter’s teeth, and she’s seven years old now. This was recommended to me by our dentist. Although it’s fine for your son to have a go and do some himself, you need to make sure you still do a thorough job afterwards.

“Maybe set a timer so he gets a certain amount of time to do it, and then you have time too. I’ve used silly songs and different distraction techniques with my children, but they know that me cleaning them too is non-negotiable. It’s absolutely fine for him to have a play around though, and it’s part of teaching him how to brush properly.”

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