This Simple Trick Will Get Your Kids to Brush Their Teeth


life hack for streamlining the bedtime routineI don’t know what it’s like in your house, but right before my kids’ bedtime, they get a crazy burst of energy. After they’ve taken a final sip of milk, and the credits are rolling on an episode of “Paw Patrol,” they know it’s time to brush their teeth. They jump up, start running around the house screaming, and the process of herding cats begins.   

They actually love the idea of brushing their teeth. They have an impressive collection of toothbrushes and toothpaste flavors through which they rotate, but achieving a thorough cleaning of their little teeth was always challenging. They’d run away from my husband and me or they’d refuse to open their mouths. 

I wish I could leave them to their own devices and not forge the toothbrushing battle every night, but our pediatric dentist says we should help our kids brush their teeth until they’re about nine years old (when they’re more reliable to do it well themselves), so I’ve got another seven years of this twice-daily dance ahead of me.

My dread of the routine subsided, though, after I read about a so-easy-I-can’t-believe-I-didn’t-think-of-this tip on a local Facebook moms group. If I could remember the name of the mom who shared the tip and knew where she lived, I’d send her flowers. It was that big of a game changer for us. 

Are you ready for the secret that will make you look like a rock star to other parents enviously observing you? Here it is.

Pretend your kids’ favorite television characters or toys are inside their mouths. 

I know that sounds weird, but we say and do lots of strange stuff in the name of our kids, so add this one to that ever-growing list. Add your own personal flare to set the stage, but in my house it goes something like this:

Me:  Hmmm, who’s in your mouth? Is that Marshall and Skye? Let me see.

Usually Resistant Toddler: [opens mouth widely]

Me: Oh, it is Marshall and Skye! And I see Rocky and Rubble and Chase, too! [Quickly brushes toddler’s teeth and stalls for time by naming more characters]

Usually Resistant Preschooler: My turn! 

Me: Who do you think is in your mouth? 

Usually Resistant Preschooler: Moana! 

Me: Yep! There she is! [Continues brushing preschooler’s teeth and mentally high-fives myself for getting both kids’ teeth brushed before bed.]

I’d be lying if I said this works perfectly every night with both kids, but, at minimum, I can get a few good brush strokes in for each one. About 85% of the time, I’m able to give them both a thorough cleaning. Exactly 100% of the time, I’m thankful for learning this trick. Pass it on.

Editor’s Note: One reader commented that this original idea comes from the book, “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Our copies are on order!


  1. Parenting is itself a tough work to be done. We have to take care of our child oral health. Brushing is essential. So, we should make it as a habit in our kids. In-spite having good diet,it is also very necessary to brush the teeth twice in a day. It may be cause that children would not like flavor of the toothpaste or might get irritated by the brush. After reading this article, it can be somehow easy to do.
    Thanks for sharing your tricks with us!


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