The tooth fairy brings joy and delight to kids all over America and many other parts of the world. While most parents view it as merely a fun fantasy for children, the tooth fairy myth can be wrapped into a larger, more meaningful experience. Proper care of teeth can be a difficult task for children, but savvy parents can use the tooth fairy to help reinforce positive habits. Here are some things you can do:
Create an appropriate back story
While almost every child understands the tooth fairy brings rewards in exchange for baby teeth left under pillows, there is a lot of missing detail in the bigger story. Some parents have created impromptu, family-based traditions to fill in some of the gaps, but most children are never given reasons for why the tooth fairy goes about her nightly rounds.
That provides you with a prime opportunity to create a fantastic back story full of detail. The richer you make the story behind the tooth fairy, the more your children will be enchanted with the wonder and mystery. Ultimately, this fascination can be channeled toward an increased enthusiasm for practicing good oral hygiene. Here are some questions you may want to answer as you craft your family’s tooth fairy tale:
- Who is the tooth fairy, and where did she come from?
- Why did the tooth fairy begin to provide rewards in return for teeth?
- What values are important to the tooth fairy?
- How does the tooth fairy go about her nightly duties?
As you write, use descriptive language that evokes positive emotional responses in young children. Don’t worry if it isn’t a “perfect” story; a few plot holes here and there will not be noticeable. Also, resist the urge to make your home’s tooth fairy into an overly-moralizing, joyless creature that does not have your child’s interests at heart. While you want your tale to be powerful, kids are going to tune out a tooth fairy account that strikes them as authoritarian.
Provide extra rewards for healthy teeth
Ensuring healthy teeth in your kids is a big part of your home’s tooth fairy experience, so be sure that your children are rewarded more for surrendering healthy teeth than ones that have evidence of decay such as spots or fillings. If you are unsure as to what constitutes a healthy tooth, then spend some time with your family’s dentist or dental hygienist; ask them to provide a quick description of decayed teeth. Certainly don’t expect to become a dentist after a few minutes of conversation, but you can correctly identify big problems much of the time with a little training.
When the tooth fairy rewards your child, be sure to include a written note describing the tooth fairy’s “reaction” to your child’s tooth. If it is a perfectly healthy tooth, use effusive praise and recognition. If it has a suspected spot of decay, then make mention of it, but never castigate the child or use any type of negative language. Much in the same way Santa Claus merely rewards less well-behaved children with fewer presents, then you should be sure to provide a small reward on behalf of the tooth fairy.
Build an ongoing dialog
The tooth fairy is traditionally considered an infrequent visitor to homes, but one of the advantages of creating your own story is that you can “break the rules” and expand her role. Here are some ideas:
- Make mention of the tooth fairy around brushing and flossing times; keep the conversation positive, and focus on why the tooth fairy is pleased by healthy teeth.
- Send your child a card from the tooth fairy after they receive a good report at the dentist’s office; include a little extra reward in the card if you wish.
- Create or purchase a tooth fairy doll that can be prominently located in a place within your home such as your child’s bathroom or the kitchen. The doll can serve as a visible reminder for kids to practice good oral hygiene habits.
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