"Did you know 85 percent of people can curl their tongue into a cube?" Fun facts like this one from Softschools.com are great ice-breakers to engage kids in learning about mouth anatomy. Talking about the parts of their mouth allows you to educate them not just about good hygiene and proper oral health, but also about how their body functions. After all, the mouth is the first step in the digestive process.
Here are a few more fun ways you can support your kids' understanding of their mouths and how caring for each part contributes to great general health.
Playing games is one of the best ways to engage kids in learning, and this one is an easy option for a rainy day or classroom lesson on mouth anatomy. It's perfect for kids who are between eight and 11, or those who can read or write at an average level.
The object of this game is to point and teach about each part of the mouth. You can also play an interactive video, draw a diagram or use a picture. KidsHealth offers a digital diagram with the basic parts of the mouth suited for kids at this age. Point to a part and ask them how they think it might work. The uvula, for example, helps formulate speech and produces "large quantities of liquid saliva," according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). With each item, address two or three characteristics to help your child better understand its function.
Play Superhero Sleuth
Using the characteristics they've learned, have your kids take turns in this next game: One person comes up with a few clues about a certain part of the mouth, and the others try to guess the part. Whoever answers correctly first is the "Superhero Sleuth," and gets to go next.
Kids like the competitive challenge of trivia because it makes learning about their mouth and how it functions fun and interesting. Nonetheless, let them know that good oral care isn't just about their teeth, but also the daily proper brushing of those teeth, alongside the mouth and gums as well. Using a themed toothpaste like Colgate® Transformers™ Mild Bubble Fruit® is a fun and beneficial way to keep their whole mouth healthy.
Create a Booklet Together: 'Rainbows Are for Skies'
Create a booklet that tells a story of a boy who ate so much candy every day that his tongue stayed blue, his throat became sore and his teeth turned yellow. This is a great way to teach kids about mouth anatomy, and that taking care of your mouth can prevent the things that make it unpleasant. It's also a fun, interactive read for younger kids from four to seven.
Once you've stapled together the pages for your child, you begin by writing that, although eating candy every day might sound fun, it can lead to a lot of trouble. Each page will have the next event that occurs: First, the boy's tongue turned very blue, but he continued eating candy. Then, his throat turned sore and the back of his mouth turned purple. Still he continued on, devouring sweets. Finally, his teeth turn yellow. At the end of the story, his mother discovers his secret and they drive to the dentist for his regular checkup and cleaning – a little earlier than planned.
Write each event at the top of each page and hand a sheet to each child to draw a colorful picture of that part of the story. Read them the story and show their drawings, allowing you to instill good dental health through pictures they made themselves. Conlude your story: "Rainbows don't belong in mouths – rainbows are for skies!" Make this the title of your booklet and write it on the bottom of each page. Kids love repeating fun, catchy phrases, and you can talk about how each part of the mouth turns a color of the rainbow if not taken care of.
Teaching kids about parts of their mouth doesn't have to be boring and perfunctory. The more your kids learn early on, the more invested they'll be in their own good oral care as adults.