Hi! I'm Ayn and I am a Ga. Pre-K teacher, serving 4 and 5 year olds in an inclusive setting. I share my classroom adventures on my blog, little illuminations.
Did you know February is Dental Health month? It's a great time to help kids get familiar with dental visits and dental routines. Many children are afraid of going to the dentist. One of the best ways to alleviate a child's fear of the dentist is to help them learn about visiting the dentist and what to expect. Today I'm sharing some ways to help children learn about dental health/hygiene AND ways to make the learning fun!
1. Get a fun toothbrush and tasty toothpaste and let your child help pick them out! There are lots of fun toothbrushes for children these days. Some light up, some play music, you can personalize or decorate some or get one with a popular character on it.
Now, let's talk toothpaste. I'm going to get personal for just a minute and let you in on a little family secret here. I have a teenager with special needs. She had a horrible smile. Her teeth were crooked, her smile was misshapen and she had a yellow tinge (common in our family). We found a local dentist that had a scholarship program that would provide dental and orthodontic work that we never could have afforded. Her smile was fodder for the bullies that plagued her every day. We applied and got the scholarship. Fast forward a couple of years and the braces are off and she has an absolutely beautiful smile!!!! Here's the tricky part---she wouldn't brush her teeth. After all this work, we were nagging and cajoling her morning and night to brush. She would "forget" more often than not. Recently, we've discovered a big part of the problem---toothpaste!!! She was using regular adult paste and with her food/sensory issues, the minty taste really bothered her. I mean REALLY, REALLY bothered her. So we went back to children's toothpaste with kid friendly flavors and she's brushing regularly again. If using bubblegum paste makes the difference between brushing and not brushing, we'll do what we have to.
|image courtesy of Amazon.com|
2. Use a tooth brushing chart to remind kids about brushing and help set some goals. Help your kids get in the habit of brushing at least twice a day. Using a tooth brushing chart helps provide a visual reminder for kids until the habits become second nature. There is a great chart on my blog, little illuminations sent to me by "Love Your Teeth". Click here for the link. It can be personalized and is printable. Teachers---you can enter in a class list and print one for each student!
3. Read some fun books about teeth and dental health! There are tons of great books out there, but I'll share some of my favorites below!
4. Play games! Honestly, most of the games we've played this week accented our math skills but had a dental theme. That's okay!
I printed out a coloring page of a toothy smile and laminated it. The kids roll a die and color in cavities on the appropriate number of teeth. At the end of the game, we compare the number of cavities, then brush them all away!
I have a board game, courtesy of Colgate's Bright Smiles Bright Futures program. I don't know if they still send out kits to classes, but the board game has lasted several years and is a fun little game. You could also easily make a game board with a file folder and colored dots.
5. Identify "tooth friendly" foods/drinks and foods/drinks that aren't healthy for teeth. Yesterday, I let the kids get some cutting practice in by cutting out some pictures of food and pasting them on paper. (recycled women's magazines and grocery store sale flyers are EXCELLENT for this!) I really didn't give them any guidelines---I just instructed them to cut out any food pictures they wanted.
I asked the children if they thought they had healthy foods to sit down by the tooth with the smile and if they had junk foods or sweets to sit by the sad tooth. We then looked at each student's picture and talked about why they sat where they did. If, after discussion they were by the wrong tooth, we encouraged them to find the right tooth and sit beside it.
Later, we posted the pictures on or near the right tooth and displayed them on our classroom wall.
6. Explore the damage soda, tea, coffee and sugar drinks do to our teeth by experimenting on hard boiled eggs. Soak each egg in a different drink and observe after several hours or overnight. For additional investigation, have students use a toothbrush to try and clean the stains off the egg. This hands-on experiment really helps them see the damage done.
7. Talk about the tools used in proper dental health. We examined and explored toothbrushes and floss. We explored how to use them properly.
We played a little simulation, using the children as teeth and a jump rope for the floss. I then "flossed" between the children!
Later, use toothbrushes and dental floss to make art! (Sorry, no pics for this one.) Use the toothbrushes as paintbrushes. Drag the floss through the paint like you would with string art. These turn out wonderfully creative and unique! (If I am able to get a few shots later, I'll try to add them!)
8. Make a giant mouth and count out marshmallows, packing peanuts or cotton balls to make the teeth.
Or, use playdough to make a mouth and place beans to make teeth!
9. Set up a mock dental office. This is a favorite center to explore every year!!! I don't have any specific "dental tools", just items pilfered from a toy doctor kit, a few toothbrushes, rubber gloves and dribble bibs made from napkins or paper towels clipped to string with clothes pins.
The reception and waiting area is also a very popular place to play. the kids make appointments, type on an old keyboard and answer the phone while others thumb through magazines while waiting their turn for dental work!
10. Visit and tour a children's dentist BEFORE your first appointment. Knowing what to expect goes a long way in alleviating a child's fears. Many of the children's dentists really make the appointments fun and this helps the children get excited about going to the dentist! We have FABULOUS children's dentist in our area that really goes all out for our visits. After touring the work areas, the children are given a dental health lesson from the Tooth Fairy.
The Tooth Fairy also visits our younger students in the school to talk about dental health, as well!
Before we visit, we always talk about what the kids think a dentist does. They can compare their answers with their observations after the visit. It may also give an indication if there are unfounded fears or misconceptions that are easily cleared up.
As a child, I had several very bad experiences at the dentist. My hope is that by making dental visits and hygiene fun, my students will look forward to visiting the dentist and perform proper oral health habits. No child should ever fear or dread the dentist the way I always have. I hope some of these ideas are of help to your little ones, too!
Stop by and visit me anytime at littleilluminations.blogspot.com or visit the little illuminations fanpage on facebook! And be sure to check out PreK+K Sharing EEE!