There are certain things that parents expect to teach their young kids, like the alphabet, counting, how to tell right from left, and how to tie their shoes. But there is a whole category of lessons that most parents don’t think about until they become vitally important. One of those tiny-but-crucial lessons showed up on me a few weeks ago, and it was a nasty one.
It all started when my husband brought home toothpaste for our two-year old daughter, a flouride toothpaste, to be exact.
“This isn’t flouride-free.” I reminded him as I eyeballed yet another Dora the Explorer product that had snuck into my house.
“Don’t you think it’s time?” he asked.
Flouride makes sense, but there’s a catch
On one hand, kids need flouride for healthy teeth, according to the American Dental Association. On the other hand, ingestion of flouride toothpaste can lead to permanent tooth discoloration, among other health issues. Studies and 30 seconds at the bathroom sink with a toddler prove that young kids swallow a lot of toothpaste.
My solution: teach my daughter to spit like it’s going out of style. There’s just one problem. I hate spit. I’ve had to turn away from many a ball game because some athletes can’t stop hocking loogies, like it’s going out of style.
Teaching a toddler to spit isn’t child’s play
I held my daughter over the sink and yelled, “Spit! Spit!” She made the “Tttt” sound and thrusted her head towards the sink, but nothing came out. Even the promise to use her Dora toothpaste once she could spit did not inspire her.
You can’t teach a kid to spit all willy nilly. I had to pull a few tricks from my potty-training arsenal.
You can teach your child to spit in a week or less
Here’s how I taught my daughter to spit in one weekend. I bet it will work for any toothpaste munchers in your life.
Get the right equipment. For us, that included a step stool, small water cup, and a cool toothbrush.
Do practice drills. Putting toothpaste in your child’s mouth, be it flouride or flouride free, and then expecting them to spit it out is an exercise in futility. Instead, hold a few sink sessions where you skip the toothpaste all together. Let your child practice taking in water from the cup and releasing it.
Talk about it away from the sink. Do you know why Mommy wants you to spit? Wow, you swallowed only a little toothpaste this morning. Can you do it, again?
Show the kids how it’s done. Again, I hate spit. I don’t want to see it, hear it, or even discuss it. Yes, I realize I’m discussing it, right now. Spit happens. For one weekend I was a spitting champion.
Give your spitter some praise. At first I would give my daughter a sip of water and then immediately tilt her over so that she could feel the sensation of the water coming out. Then I would give her a high five. Slowly she began to release the water without my help. That got her a high five, a hug, and a “that was awesome.” My only hope now is that she doesn’t use her new skill for evil.
Saliva Boot Camp proves successful
I didn’t have to wait long for the results of our weekend of spit training. My daughter, still dressed in her church clothes, took a swig from her sippy cup and spit down the front of her satin dress.
Readers: What messy little lessons are you teaching your kids these days?