5 Easy Tips to Encourage Your Child to Brush Their Teeth

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Teeth brushing can be a daunting task in your child’s daily routine. There are a variety of reasons why your child may be struggling to brush their teeth—from sensory processing challenges to executive functioning and sequencing challenges—even anxiety can be a barrier to teeth-brushing. The last thing you or your child want is a high-stress activity right away in the morning or as they are trying to wind down for the night. Here are 5 tips to encourage your child to brush their teeth and to help take the stress away!

child brushing teeth

  1. Use a Visual Schedule
    • Using a visual schedule can help take the unknowns and anxieties away from this activity. Following a picture sequence also helps with attention and direction-following and increases independence in the process. This helps the child know what to expect each time, and they can anticipate the ‘end’ of the process more easily.
  2. Take Turns Brushing
    • If your kiddo wants to “do it myself!” but they aren’t quite getting the job done, turn-taking is a great option. Try 3 brushes, or count to 10, for the child’s turn and then parent’s turn. Continue this process until the task is done. If this is still difficult for your child, they may get a kick out of brushing your teeth! Negotiating with your child to help them brush their teeth first, then they get to return the favor and brush your teeth for you!
  3. Use a Vibrating Toothbrush
    • Not only does a vibrating toothbrush allow for a deeper clean of the teeth, this is great for sensory-seeking kids! It will help them receive the sensory input they are seeking during this routine-related task to promote better engagement.
  4. Use Flavored or Colored Toothpaste
    • Enriching the sensory experience can be helpful to increase participation and engagement in teeth-brushing. Does your child have a favorite flavor? It is probably a toothpaste! Take your child shopping with you at the store so they can pick out their very own toothpaste. Getting kids involved in the process from start to finish helps them take ownership of the task. Some kids prefer strong flavors like mint or berry, and for others, it might be too intense. Flavorless might be the way to go for kids sensitive to tastes.
  5. Play!
    • Kids like to have FUN! To peak their interest in this activity, use old toothbrushes as play tools. Use during pretend play, brush teeth on teddy bears, dolls, action figures, etc. This helps stimulate their imagination and play skills while simultaneously building their confidence and comfort level around a toothbrush. 
    • When brushing teeth, try and make it a game! Some ideas include: 
      • Have a competition between child and parent to see who can brush their teeth the longest. 
      • Place stickers in the sink or use bath crayons to make targets in the sink – spit onto a target in the sink to earn points. 
      • Have toothpaste taste tests and rate the flavors – compare with other household members.


Give these tips a try at home! If you are still experiencing difficulties with teeth brushing, or any other aspect of your child’s daily routine, consider reaching out to schedule a free screening with an occupational therapist. 


Written by Grace Cerny, OTD