Time to Brush

Sometimes parents think that caring for their children’s baby teeth isn’t important because the teeth aren’t permanent. Not so. Early dental care contributes to overall better oral care for permanent teeth. As a mother of five and a licensed dental hygienist, I have a few quick tips for helping children establish good dental care routines.

Start dental care early. After nursing or giving a bottle, gently wipe your baby’s gums clean of milk with a warm, wet washcloth. Avoid baby bottle tooth decay by bottle feeding water at nap or bedtime instead of milk, formula, juices, or other sugary liquids. When your child begins to get teeth, gently brush them with a child-safe toothbrush or “finger brush.” Toothpaste is not yet necessary.

Help growing children brush and floss. As your children’s dexterity develops, let them experiment with brushing on their own—holding the toothbrush, pressing gently, and using a circular motion on their teeth. As with brushing, flossing takes a lot of coordination, and small children will struggle at first. After their best efforts at both, you may need to gently finish the job. Use a floss holder if needed.

Motivate your children. Some parents record on a chart each time their children brush and floss, then reward them when the chart is completed. Other helpful motivators include using fun toothbrushes with tasty toothpaste. Just make sure they don’t eat the toothpaste, which could cause a stomachache. Perhaps the best motivator is parental example. Your children will likely want to brush and floss if you do so regularly.

Schedule a “fun” dental visit. When children turn three or four, it’s a good time to schedule a “fun visit” to introduce them to the dental office. If they will let the dental professional look in their mouths or clean their teeth, all the better. When preparing children for their first dental appointment, use proper terminology and be careful not to share negative personal experiences. Avoid words like hurt, shot, pain, or be brave. Let the dental professional communicate with your children; avoid answering for them. Encouraging children to ask questions and talk gives them a sense of control and helps them to relax.

Your children’s formative years are full of new learning experiences. Since we want the best for them, let’s make sure we establish good foundational dental habits that will give them, and us as parents, reason to smile.

Tonya Winn Beutler, Hurricane Fifth Ward, Hurricane Utah Stake

[illustration] Illustration by Joe Flores

Getting to Know You

Family reunions provide many opportunities to meet extended family members. The following fun games have helped our family become better acquainted.

Hello Bingo. We give each person a card with 25 blank squares, five down and five across, with instructions to ask a different relative to autograph each square. The names of all present are written on slips of paper and placed in a container. After all have had an opportunity to fill their cards with names, we hand out beans or markers, then draw slips of papers from the container and call out the names until someone gets five in a row in any direction.

Family Word Search. To make a word search, draw a grid of half-inch squares. A typical sheet of paper will hold a grid of 15 squares across and 18 squares down. Write the names of family members, using one square for each letter. Names can be written up, down, across, backwards, or diagonally and can interconnect. Fill in the remainder of the squares with random letters. Make copies and see who finds the most names.

Guess-Who Quiz. Prepare a quiz based on family members and some of their accomplishments. Who plays the violin? Who can fix a car? Who took a trip to Virginia in 1927?

Family Skits. Each family prepares a skit that dramatizes something funny or unique or interesting that has happened, such as the time the family was traveling to Denver and the car broke down. Children already know the “script” and enjoy replaying their parts in the drama.

Such activities can help families grow in their love and appreciation of each other.

Lois G. Kullberg, Salmon Creek Ward, Vancouver Washington West Stake

One-on-One Home Evenings

Our family home evenings were in some ways nontraditional since it was usually just my three-year-old daughter and I.

Soon after I was baptized, a family in the ward gave me a family home evening manual. From it I chose lessons to teach my daughter, followed by an activity and refreshments. Following are some favorite family home evening activities that others may also enjoy.

  1. 1.

    Act out scripture stories. In my mind, I can still see my daughter picking up one of her dolls and exclaiming, “Look, it’s a baby!” as she was pretending to be the pharaoh’s daughter who found Moses in the Nile. We also took turns pretending to be an animal on Noah’s ark, while the other guessed which animal.

  2. 2.

    Sing hymns and Primary songs. When my daughter was older, we would sometimes sing hymns all evening. Great gospel lessons are contained in the lyrics, and we enjoyed harmonizing with the beautiful melodies. Younger children can also gain appreciation for music by singing Primary songs during family home evening.

  3. 3.

    Give anonymous service. We enjoyed making cookies, leaving them at a member’s house, ringing the doorbell, and running away. We always attached a note that said, “From the Parkland Ward Phantom,” so the recipients would know the cookies were safe to eat.

  4. 4.

    Play “I love you because …” Sometimes when others would join us, we used to play a game where we’d spin a bottle and the one spinning would say, “I love you because …” to the person the neck of the bottle pointed to. Then the “loved one” would spin the bottle and continue the compliments. It was a great bonding experience for us and helped include family members who were not members of the Church.

Family home evenings helped me teach my daughter the gospel. Now she is grown and married, and she and her family have been sealed in the temple. I believe our family home evenings helped prepare her for those blessings. I hope that other families with similar situations will have the hope and courage to keep trying.

Velma Rice, Belleville Ward, O’Fallon Illinois Stake

[illustration] Illustration by Beth Whittaker