National Smile Month, which occurs May 15 through June 15 in 2017, is an oral health campaign focused on the importance of proper dental hygiene. Even though the celebration occurs at the end of the school year, when most teachers have a million other things going on, it’s easy to slip some oral health lessons into the day. Plus, by getting kids excited about healthy smiles, you can revisit this topic at any time of the year.
The Benefits of Smiling
Most teachers are well aware of both the basic principles and the importance of dental hygiene. But there are fresh new angles you can use to spark students’ interest in this topic. For example, did you know that the sheer act of smiling offers health benefits? Smiles–even fake ones–prompt the body to release “feel good” hormones including endorphins and serotonin. This can reduce stress and promote positive thinking. Smiles also improve social skills, making people more approachable.
Lessons and Activities
There are many ways to make dental hygiene engaging and exciting for kids. Most children are naturally curious about their bodies, and learning more about the mouth, teeth, and tongue can be fun for them. Following are some ideas for incorporating oral health lessons all through the school year.
- Invite a dentist or dental hygienist to speak to the class, preferably with visual aids such as a slideshow or props.
- Create a classroom smile matching game: take close-up shots of students smiling, crop out everything but the mouth, then have kids match smiles to full pictures of faces.
- Plan some short puppet theater plays involving dental hygiene, such as teeth brushing, visits to the dentist, and healthy food choices.
- Use a set of Roylco Happy Mouth Puppets to teach about tongue and teeth. The set comes with a teacher guide featuring information you can use to teach about dental hygiene, speech development and the sense of taste.
- Make a tooth-themed craft, using thumbprint art, modeling clay, or even mini marshmallows for teeth.
- Print out some dental-themed crossword puzzles, word searches, mazes, and other activity sheets and make them available to kids during downtime, such as when they finish their work early.
- Use this die of molar, incisor and canine teeth to create visuals on which students can write healthy dental hygiene tips they’ve learned.
What are your favorite dental hygiene and oral health activities for the classroom?