Teaching with the Tooth Fairy

On Brent’s (and my) birthday earlier this year, we went to dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant in Chino Hills. Halfway through the meal, Brent said he felt something weird in his mouth — his first tooth fell out! After searching the table and scrounging around on the floor, we realized he had swallowed the tooth! Definitely made for a memorable first lost tooth!

I came across this article with a few interesting suggestions for teaching about dental care for young kids and the Tooth Fairy. We’ve thought about using other tooth fairy gifts instead of money, but the kids are also at the age where they’re still think $1 is a lot of money! We’ve also considered buying an inexpensive tooth brushing timer for the kids, similar to one I had growing up.

“It’s important to teach children the importance of dental hygiene at an early age. Children should begin brushing as soon as their first tooth appears, and healthy habits of cleaning teeth for two minutes twice a day will help children to have better oral (and overall) health. However, it’s hard to effectively communicate the risks of gum disease, and the harm caused by decay, especially when children are young and dental health problems seem so far away.

Enter the tooth fairy, one of our favorite childhood legends. Not only is she a fun story to tell your children; she’s also an excellent opportunity to teach kids to value dental health and be diligent in their own personal habits.

No one is completely sure where the story of the tooth fairy came from. You’ll mostly only hear stories about her in Canada and the U.S. dating back to the early 1900’s. However, long before that we see stories in Northern Europe of children getting rewarded for their lost baby teeth, either by parents or by little mice that serve much the same function as the tooth fairy. In any case, the tooth fairy is a captivating character, and can be a great motivator and teacher. Here are 4 ideas to help you utilize the story of the tooth fairy in order to get your children excited about dental health.

1: Leave something besides cash

Most children expect to see a small pile of change under their pillow, after leaving their lost baby tooth there the night before for an exchange with the tooth fairy. However, have you ever thought about providing something besides change, or something in addition? Consider what the tooth fairy would like to share with your child in order to encourage them in their task of perfect dental health. It might be a brand new toothbrush, or a fun new flavor of paste.

2: Offer better payments for cavity-free teeth

The average price of baby teeth has gone up significantly in the past decade, and a report from Visa recently announced that the average payment hovers around $3.00. However, have you ever considered varying the amount that the tooth fairy pays for teeth according to the quality of those teeth? If a child gets $5 for each pristine, cavity-free tooth, versus under a dollar for one with a filling, they’ll be much more motivated to keep as many teeth as possible free of decay. After all… you already paid a good amount for those teeth with fillings in them, didn’t you?

3: Make it personal

A personal touch from the tooth fairy can give kids a special boost. Encourage a more personal-feeling connection with this pixie, and she’ll soon become a powerful motivator next time you’re trying to get your children to brush their teeth before bed. “What would the tooth fairy say?!” is a lot more effective when your children already feel like the tooth fairy is personally vested in their dental health.

So, in that vein, consider leaving a little note along with the change, wherein the tooth fairy thanks your child for their beautiful baby tooth, and encourages them to keep up the good work. This link has some other fun ideas for adding a little something special to the tooth fairy exchange.

4: Start the narrative early

Kids don’t start to lose their teeth until about 6 years old. However, they should be caring for their teeth long before then. In fact, the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children visit a pediatric dentist by age 1, or when they get their first tooth. So, you should consider starting the story of the tooth fairy early, in order to build some hype. Make the most of fun opportunities for your children to meet the tooth fairy (for example, at the local library or at your pediatric dentist’s office) and to learn more about her. Check out books that tell her story, and encourage your child to write a letter, or draw a picture for the tooth fairy when she comes to pick up a tooth. As a bonus, these little letters are wonderful mementos as your children grow.”  

Advertisements

Current thoughts on being a mother

Every phase of Brent and Tessa’s lives have been so fun. When they were newborns, they were cuddly, adorable, growing and just so cute even if we were all sleep deprived the first few months. I loved the newborn baby stage. I loved seeing them learn to communicate, crawl, walk, laugh, explore the world, show interest in certain things, etc.

I love their closeness in age (a few days short of 2 years), when they talk and play together and that they get to do new things together. I know I’ll miss these days when they’re not in school full time and we get to spend most all day together.

Brent started preschool when we lived in Texas and it was fun watching him make friends, learn his letters etc. His current preschool is more of a Pre-K and his learning has really skyrocketed in this last few months. He’s doing so great with letters, sounds, numbers, writing, spelling, sounding out words, and basic addition.

Both the kids are at the age when they’re starting sports. As sports lovers, this has been so awesome for me and Dave to watch them learn the basics of various sports and play! They are currently participating in pee wee sports ‘camps’ through the city of Chino Hills. Brent did soccer last session and just started basketball and Tessa just started soccer. The camp is just 6 Saturdays but it’s one of the highlights of my week to watch them learn new skills.

^ gorgeous backdrop for basketball ^ one thing I really love about Chino Hills are, the hills! There are lots of hiking trails and open areas left undeveloped. The park (also the same park I play soccer at) is at the top of a hill and it’s hard to beat the view!

Teaching your kids to be bilingual

Ever since having the opportunity to learn Spanish on my mission, I knew I wanted to teach my future children Spanish. I love the language and cultures of the many Spanish speaking countries around the world.

There’s been lots of back and forth research as to exactly what the benefits may be, but one that is known is that it’s easier for a child to learn a second language early on than later in life. Our hope for raising bilingual kids was that they would be able to understand and converse in both English and Spanish and eventually would be able to attend a bilingual (dual immersion) school. We would love in years down the road to be able to take out kids back to Paraguay and Guatemala and have them be able to understand and language and be exposed to cultures we loved on our missions.

The main concern we’ve heard is that they will be confused with two languages or won’t know English. Language development is different with every child and most little kids will often get English words confused or conjugate verbs incorrectly. Some people have thought our kids don’t speak English (because they know we speak Spanish). That isn’t the case however. There have been times our kids are shy or don’t want to talk but it has nothing to do with the fact that they are learning two languages.

We’ve made a decent effort to speak to both Brent and Tessa. Brent speaks more English in general, for example if we ask him something in Spanish, he will usually reply in English or sometimes Spanglish. He goes to an all English preschool, church and doesn’t have any kid friends who speak Spanish. Both kids understand Spanish and Spanish kid TV programs. When they talk to each other, they usually speak in English with some Spanish words. Neither has mastered Spanish verbs, which is more advanced in most languages than nouns.

The two most important factors for us are starting early and consistency. Since English is our native language it took a little getting used to speaking to a brand new baby in Spanish. Once we got in the habit, it’s been pretty easy to keep it up. When children are young like our kids (4 and 2), they love learning new words, reading books and learning about the world in general. We try and speak Spanish to them as much as possible at home and in public. We don’t teach both words but rather just the Spanish word. They pick up English words just as monolingual kids do since they are exposed to both languages (verbal, written, TV, other people, etc).  While we haven’t been 100% consistent, I feel like we’ve seen the benefits of our efforts.

It has been really fun and interesting to see them learn and develop in both languages. I love listening to their Spanish words and hope to be consistent enough that it will stick with them.

raising bilingual children