Inside: A cute dental health printable activity to teach toddlers the importance of taking care of their teeth and instill good dental habits from young. Scroll down to download this free printable.
According to a news article by The Straits Times, 50% of Singapore's preschoolers have tooth decay and 38.4% of them have severe early childhood tooth decay. These are alarming percentages aren't they? We probably already know the best way to prevent tooth decay in our children is to teach them about the importance of dental health and instill good dental habits from young.
But if you have tried talking to a 2-year-old about tooth decay, you will also know how challenging it can be for our little ones to understand tooth decay, why they need to brush and floss their teeth and why they cannot binge on their favorite desserts all day.
Fret not, here's a cute and fun activity to the rescue! This Happy Tooth, Sad Tooth activity is a fun way to help young children understand how some food are good for their teeth and some are harmful to their teeth. As the children assign the different food to the happy tooth or sad tooth, parents can use the opportunity to talk about the tooth decay (see helpful notes below) and how children can take care of their teeth.
Now, when my 2-year-old reaches for another gummy or resists brushing her teeth, I remind her how sweet treats or not brushing teeth will make her teeth sad. And she is much more willing to cooperate because she does not want her teeth to be sad.
Ready to try this fun dental health printable activity with your little one?
Here's what you need:
- 9 popsicle sticks
- An empty tissue box
- A pair of scissors
- Washable black marker
- Old toothbrush/ cotton buds
- Clear packing tape
- Happy Tooth, Sad Tooth Printable
Setting up this dental health printable activity
- First, download (from HTS Printable Library) and print the Happy Tooth, Sad Tooth printable.
- Cut out pictures of the sad tooth and happy tooth and paste them on the box (see photo).
- Write 'eat less' on the left side of the box and 'eat more' on the right side of the box.
- Paste clear masking tape over the happy tooth.
- Cut out the pictures of the healthy and unhealthy food and attach a popsicle stick behind each picture.
- Make 4 slits on the left side of the box and 5 slits on the right side of the box.
Ways to learn with this dental health printable activity
- Start the activity with a discussion about cavities and tooth decay. (see helpful notes about cavities and tooth decay prevention below)
- Sort the food that we should eat more or eat less of to keep our teeth healthy and prevent tooth decay. Insert the popsicle sticks into the slits according to those that are good for teeth (for the Happy Tooth) and those that are bad for teeth (for the Sad Tooth). Talk to your child about eating more of the food that are good for teeth and less of the food that are bad for teeth.
- Extend the activity: Cut out different types of food from magazines or supermarket brochures. Invite your child to sort the food according to those that are good for teeth and those that are bad for teeth.
- Using a washable black marker, draw black patches all over the white and happy tooth. Note: washable kids markers work best, dry erase markers don't clean off as easily.
- Let your child know that the happy tooth is sad now because we forgot to brush it and it's dirty. Explain that we have to brush the tooth before the bad bugs start eating the food and make holes in the tooth. Invite him to clean off the stains on the dirty tooth with a wet, old toothbrush or wet cotton buds
How to explain cavities and tooth decay to toddlers
Here's the proper scientific explanation: After a meal, the bacteria turn the sugars in foods and drinks into acid. The acid breaks down the enamel of your tooth. If the decay gets through the enamel, a hole, or a cavity, can form.
For young toddlers, simplify the explanation: the bad bugs in our mouth love the sugars in our food. When food get stuck in our teeth, the bad bugs eat the food and eat into our teeth at the same time, causing holes to form in our teeth.
Teaching toddlers good dental habits
- Brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste 2 times a day
- Clean between your teeth every day with floss
- Limit how often you snack and sip on sweet foods and drinks.
- Drink water with fluoride as much as possible.
- Visit your dentist regularly
Have fun playing and learning with this Happy Tooth, Sad Tooth printable!