Many of us don’t like flossing our own teeth, let alone the thought of having to help someone else floss their teeth, but teaching your kids to floss their teeth will pay off in the end. Today, we’re going to give you 5 tips about kids and flossing.

1. Start ‘em early.

Basically, as soon as your child has two teeth that are touching each other, flossing becomes important. To floss your child’s teeth, wrap the floss around your fingers, like you normally would to floss your own teeth, and use your thumb to gently slide the floss between your child’s teeth. Move up and down (instead of back and forth) the surfaces of both teeth.

2. Wait until they’re ready.

Flossing takes a lot of fine motor skills! It takes a while for kids to be able to floss on their own. Every child is different, but usually sometime in early to mid elementary school, kids are able and ready to floss by themselves.

3. Give them the tools they need.

When kids are learning to floss, you might find it helpful to start off with those nifty little floss-sticks that have handles. The floss-sticks are small, so you can let them use one for the top teeth and one for the bottom teeth. Once they’ve adjusted to flossing for themselves, you can teach them how to use regular dental floss.

4. Provide motivation.

Same as with any skill that you’re trying to teach, positive reinforcement goes a long way. You know your child best and what motivation works for them, but here are some ideas for you:

  • Letting them pick out their flavor/color of floss at the store.
  • Creating a daily-flossing sticker chart for them.
  • Turning on their favorite music or story.
  • Inventing an ongoing Tooth-Time story to tell them while they floss and brush their teeth. (You can be really creative with this and make them the superheroes that are rescuing Planet Teeth from the Germy Aliens or something like that.)
  • For younger kids, you can have them practice counting. Kids have 20 baby teeth, and they can practice their counting skills as they floss.

5. Be an example.

Kids love to imitate their parents. Consider flossing and brushing with them when they do (even if you’re planning to have a snack after they’re in bed)