Although I'm posting ideas below as often as I can, my very favorite dental health activities have been reserved for my "COMMUNITY HELPERS" booklet (see the "Stormie's Stuff for Teachers" section of my website).
Brushing Teeth: Provide large manilla tooth cutouts for the easel. Have children paint a tooth using a toothbrush dipped in white paint. Or, provide white posterboard teeth and let the children brush them with real white toothpaste. Or, let them paint the tooth with a mixture of white paint, glue, and a scant amount of silver glitter. The idea for these activities is simply to reinforce the concept of "brushing our teeth" shiny and clean. Obviously, discuss that we use only toothpaste on our real teeth.
Language:New Fun With Old Rhymes
I can still remember how I thought this riddle was so funny when Grandma read it to me as a child. Today's young children can enjoy it too. I've always found that most 4 yr olds have a sense of humor and love little jokes and rhymes.
Brushing Real Teeth: Provided children are brushing their teeth themselves and there are no dental problems in the class, and parents (and their family dentist) have given approval, have children brush their teeth at school during this unit. (I realize that day care centers do this anyway, but even if your program is only half-day, children could practice this healthy habit during this special dental health unit.) Provide different flavors of toothpaste during this time for children to taste-compare. Instructing them to squeeze out just a pea-sized amount of toothpaste onto their brushes is in itself good practice. If you have the appropriate setting, brushing could even be a group activity as everyone (including teacher) brushes their teeth (or at least uses their own dampened toothbrush). Teacher can reinforce "how-to" brush our teeth. For example, she can say things like "Don't forget to brush that tongue" or "Let's make sure we get those back teeth" (then demonstrate how we close our mouths just a little bit in order to get at those upper back teeth).
Toothbrush Show-n-tell: Take a little survey among your parents and find out if their children have particular kinds of toothbrushes (colorful, cartoon related, etc). Then allow children to bring their cased or covered toothbrushes from home to show everyone -- show only, not touch. This is a great opportunity to discuss cleanliness and how we must keep our toothbrushes germ-free as much as possible. (Why can't we touch our friends' toothbrushes? Is it ok for my friend to use my toothbrush?) You might show children a new toothbrush and compare it to how a used one looks with its frayed bristles.
Snacks for Healthy Teeth: Provide little buffet samples of calcium-containing foods (milk, yogurt, cheeses).
I saved four 2-liter soda bottles and cut off the botton portion. When turned over the bottom looks like a set of teeth. Place each one in a tub or basin. Add some water and supply children with a toothbrush and toothpaste and let them brush those "teeth."
From Bonnie T in Colorado:
Slice the apple into about 8 pieces. On one slice, spread some peanut butter, then place another slice on top of that. Next, place marshmallows upright between the slices to look like teeth. It looks like a smile. Cute!
Part 1: I hard-boil an egg for each child to represent "teeth." They place their eggs (in the shell) in clear plastic cups (remember to print their names on their cups). We then fill the cups about half-full with a coke product. We discuss (and I print their words on paper -- one sentence per child) about what we think might happen to the eggs. Then we wait overnight. (This demonstrates what lots of sweets can do to our teeth, especially if we don't brush.)
Part 2: The next day, we check the eggs and compare the findings to our guesses from yesterday. Then we clean our eggs with toothbrushes, but first, we taste test three cleaning agents (baking soda, toothpaste, and salt). The children state which one they like, then "predict" which one will clean their eggs best. We try each agent and clean the eggs to discover which one was the correct cleaning solution. (Then we discuss tartar.)
Part 3: We refill the egg cups with vinegar and leave them overnight, after again expressing our thoughts on what might happen. We check the eggs the next day, which by this time, are so slimy that the children don't like the feel..............this simulates tartar build up.
**All during this week of experiments, we are also keeping track of things like who brushed their teeth, who has lost teeth, and so on, and we have our "dress-up" area converted into a dental office.
*Drilling Cavities: Place large Styrofoam chunks in your water table as "sets of teeth" (no water). Provide battery operated drills for children to drill out cavities.
Judie Stevens in Stockton, California:
Timing Tooth Brushing: Hi Stormie, Just want to let you know about a valuable use for sand timers. Our dental hygienist advised us that children should be brushing their teeth for two minutes. If you can calibrate a home-made sand timer for two minutes, it would give children something tangible to represent two minutes when brushing.
Note from Stormie: You can click here for instructions on making sand timers, then keep hitting your "BACK" button to return to this page
Christena Kaufman, in South Carolina:
Flossing Practice: I made a flossing puppet out of a plastic milk jug: Cut a hole for the mouth, making slits to create teeth. The children then use real floss to practice flossing the puppet's teeth. I added silly yarn hair and big funny eyes so the children really like the puppet itself and are eager to help him learn to "take care of his teeth!"
***Michelle in North Dakota, sent me the following note and photo. I ask you, how darling is this?
Stormie, we wanted to share our version of Ms. Kaufman's flossing puppet with you. My darling son helped me make our "flossing buddy" named "Hillary" for my family daycare. He was so proud to show his dad and brother and he will help introduce her to all the kids as they arrive and we kick off our dental health theme. Thank you for your great website. We can always find something to do there to add to our themes.
Susie Van Guilder, Special Needs teacher:
Egg Carton Teeth: Provide each child with a styrofoam egg carton (turn it upside down so that the "bumps" are the teeth). Give each child a toothbrush. Squirt some shaving cream onto the egg carton, and encourage the children to "brush the teeth!" They love it!
From Leah Elkins:
Mouth With Teeth: Hi Stormie, here is an idea that I have used with my pre-schoolers: First, I have them cut out a pre-drawn tongue from red or pink construction paper. I then have them fold a paper plate in half and put glue along the edges. They then put mini-marshmallows on the glue. Lastly, they glue the tongue in the middle of the bottom half of the plate. The end result is a "mouth with teeth."
The Loose Tooth, by Gina and Mercer Mayer: Little Critter has a wiggly loose tooth.
Susan Wray, Library Storytime Leader, Dyersburg, Tennessee:
Grandpa's Teeth, by Rod Clement: Grandpa's teeth have been stolen and he taw'th tho funny now! The police are called in because Grandpa suspects everyone...especially those who don't smile and show their teeth. So, of course, everyone in town begins to smile real big! It's a great surprise where the teeth finally show up. What a funny book!
Michelle, in the Philippines:
Little Bill: A Visit to the Dentist, by Eleanor Fremont: This book can help in encouraging young children to visit the dentist.
Reminder from Stormie: If you would like to begin collecting ALL my current classroom ideas (each on a 4 x 6" index card), as well as new ones that I create, you can do so by ordering my "Activity Cards." Click here to check them out.