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6 Tricks for Managing Baby Grooming

1. Making Teeth-Brushing Easier
Up close of toothbrushes

By the time your child is 2, you should brush his teeth at least twice a day (a pea-size dab of fluoride toothpaste is safe, if he can spit). Direction doesn't matter; instead, focus on cleaning each tooth thoroughly, "top and bottom, inside and out," says the American Academy of Pediatrics, with a soft, small-bristled brush. To make sure her 3-1/2-year-old is all smiles, Sonia, of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, says, "I pretend there are dinosaurs in Anita's mouth and put the brush in to chase them out."

A brilliant tooth-brushing tactic: praise! "I've learned that by saying things like, 'Your teeth look so good,' I can get Beau and Jackson to brush longer," says Lesley, of Fort Worth, Texas, a mother of two.

2. Tear-Free Hair-Washing Tips

The trick to washing baby's hair is getting her to tilt back her head so that water and soap don't drip in her eyes. Some parents turn the process into a game to distract baby: Once her hair is lathered up, sculpt it into a fun design -- whether it's a Mohawk or spikes -- and ask baby to guess what it is. Whatever you do, opt for a tear-free shampoo.

3. Ouchless Brushing Ideas

To put bad hair (brushing) days behind you, play hair salon with your toddler. Perch her in front of a mirror and as you primp, allow her to style her doll's tresses. The tools of the trade: a wide-tooth comb or a flat brush that has bristles with plastic-coated tips. For an ouch-free experience, untangle the ends of her hair first and work your way up.

4. No-Pinch Nail Cutting

It's hard, but you'll get better with practice, and those tiny nails will keep growing wider. Isolate and extend the finger you are working on (while keeping it still under your thumb) and trim with baby nail clippers or scissors (which are small and have rounded edges). Sometimes a diversion eases the job.

"When I trim my sons' nails, I occupy them with a book or TV," says Laura, of Fanwood, New Jersey. "Patrick, 1, laughs when I make sounds with each clip, so it becomes a game where he anticipates the next snip."

5. Helping the Medicine Go Down

Avoid your baby's taste buds, located in the front and center of the tongue. Instead, aim a spoon toward the back of the mouth (don't touch the back of the tongue, which could make baby gag), and if using a dropper or a syringe, try for between the rear gum and cheek. Kathleen, of El Cajon, California, offers her 5-month-old a pacifier chaser. "If I give my son his pacifier immediately after putting the medicine on the inside of his cheek, not one pink drop will escape!" she says.

"If I briefly chill medicine, William, 2, is more likely to swallow it, since he prefers cold drinks -- and it kills some of the taste," says Laurene, of Huntington, New York, a mother of one.

6. Eardrops Made Easy

To administer eardrops, lay baby on his side with the affected ear up. Put the drops in so they run along the side of the ear canal (air will be able to escape at the same time). We know it can be tough, but try to keep your child in this position for two to three minutes.

Originally published in the April 2006 issue of American Baby magazine.

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