Montessori tips: how to get your child to brush their teeth

As soon as your baby has a tooth, it’s important to start brushing teeth to provide the foundation for a healthy mouth. It is also recommended to keep helping your child brush their teeth until they are around 7 years old.

It’s easier said than done. Toddlers and preschoolers can blankly refuse to brush their teeth. They might not like that you do it for them and quite frankly, I understand them. Would you want someone else to brush your teeth?

Montessori encourages parents to support their child’s independence and to give them freedom within limits. So with that in mind, let’s see how we can encourage children’s dental hygiene.

Prepare the environment

Set up a child-sized tooth brushing station in your bathroom:

  • Have a stool to make the sink accessible
  • Give your child their cup and toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Make sure they can see themselves in the mirror. Alternatively, provide them with their mirror
  • Maybe have a visual routine showing how to brush their teeth.
  • More tips to make the bathroom Montessori friendly here

Give freedom within limits

  • Let them pick up their toothbrush at the shop
  • Have 2 toothbrushes available and ask them to choose the one they want to use that night
  • Try different toothpaste as they might react to the taste.
  • Let them choose how to start their evening routine: “Do you want to brush your teeth first or put your pajamas on?”

Extra tips:

As you will have to complete the job, allowing your child to brush your teeth and then you brush them is often helping to feel in control.

Use a sand timer to make sure your child brushes their teeth for at least 2 minutes.

If all fails, I will say go ahead and let them use an app! It might seem the opposite of Montessori but hear me out, dental hygiene is primordial and tooth decay can happen! I speak from experience with my son. Limit the app for the duration of the tooth brushing. They probably will not want to use the app when they are 5 years old and older so it’s not going to last. Here are some recommendations. 

Learn about teeth:

It can also help your child to learn about teeth and to role-play “dentist”. In the Montessori classroom, those activities would be part of “care of self – practical life area”.

I like the idea to have a denture model on which your child can practice tooth brushing.

ou could also use 3-parts cards to teach the parts of the teeth. Here is a free set.

Check also the following teeth and dentist books:

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  1. Why should I brush my teeth - Usborne: I have another one in  that collection and can vouch that they are really well done. 
  2. Teeth: a simple book with a picture and a word. Perfect for toddlers. 
  3. Going to the dentist: I use this one to help my son to enjoy the dentist's visit. For a while, he even wanted to become a dentist.
  4. Let's brush our teeth and 
  5. We're going to the dentist are two great books with flaps with tips for parents as you read along. 
  6. Brush, brush, brush: Cute illustrations and perfect for toddlers.
  7. Why we're going to the dentist: with real photographs. 
  8. All about teeth: an educational book about teeth with facts. Great for children aged 3 to 6.

Does your child struggle with tooth brushing?

Do you have any other tips to share? Let me know in the comments!

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About the Author Carine Robin

Carine Robin has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, specialising in child psychology. She worked for various social services in her home country of Belgium, before moving to Ireland in 2006. It was there that she started working in a nursery and discovered Montessori education. After having her first child, her passion for the philosophy grew and she qualified as a Montessori teacher and managed a preschool. Carine has been running a Montessori based parents and toddler group and coaching families for 9 years. She now also runs an online group for over 14000 parents, sharing her knowledge and passion with people from around the world. In 2018, Carine realised families needed more support and launched her popular online parenting courses and monthly subscription boxes, full of personally designed Montessori materials.