I started planning to teach the little girl to brush her teeth when she was about 7 mths old.
The right equipment, to me, was something that was brightly colored, safe and gentle on her gums. I also realized that it would be an added bonus if the toothbrush was kept in a container or holder that would automatically catch her attention, as opposed to me putting it in her hands. Bearing in mind my requirements, I came up with this:
The toothbrush holder caught her attention and made her giggle and point each time I carried her and intentionally walked pass. The yellow clip on gave me a peace of mind because it prevents JoyJoy from sticking the toothbrush too far into her throat, although, soon enough, the little girl learnt that the other end of the toothbrush was fun too.
Initially, all the little girl did was to suck and bite on the training toothbrush to soothe her teething gums. I resisted the urge to take it from her hands to show her how to do it correctly because my hunch is that it would work better if we left her to explore the toothbrush on her own.
Perhaps it was such a novelty to her or perhaps, for once, no one tried to stop her from putting things into her mouth, she was very taken with the toothbrush. Sometimes, I have to pry it out of her hands and say “give this to mummy, thank you!”.
Each time I brushed my own teeth, I made sure to do it in her full view and let her hold her toothbrush too, so that she could imitate me.
Soon enough, at about 8months old, JoyJoy she started to sign to me with a finger swiping across her mouth, whenever we come near the wash basin. And she automatically rubs her teeth / gums when I pass her the toothbrush.
She could tell from the shape that it was a tooth brush but because this time it had bristles instead of rubber on it, she started to play with the toothbrush like a toy, getting a kick whenever she ran her index finger across the surface of the bristles and giggling at the feeling.
I just let her treat it like a toy, continuing to show her how I brush my teeth and putting her toothbrush beside mine to show her how similar they are.
And tadah! In a very short time, she learnt to brush her teeth with a regular children’s toothbrush.
I believe even more now that it is better to tap on a child’s nature and allow them to learn things in their own time and in their own way. And, as un-environmentally friendly / wrong as it may sound, I think part and parcel of teaching a child independence is mess and wastage (of water, food etc) but that process is necessary and when moderated, should not be a factor that prevents us from allowing our child to TRY.
I feel lucky that JoyJoy is such a curious child. My philosophy from now onwards is to teach JoyJoy by letting her play and explore what she needs to learn and then reinforcing it by demonstration because children learn through imitating.
When my mummy gut feel tells me that she is ready, the next thing I am going to show her is how she can self feed with a spoon. Mess expected but it’ll be fun!