Training kids to dispense the right amount of toothpaste? Talk amongst yourselves.

At Amazon: Aquafresh Kids Toothpaste (affiliate link)
At Amazon: Aquafresh Kids Toothpaste (affiliate link)

Sara asks:

My kids are of the age where they don't need constant supervision while brushing their teeth, but they struggle with using the right amount of toothpaste and keeping the toothpaste tube clean!

I'm tired of toothpaste duty and cleaning up globs in the sink. Any ideas?

In my house this was a manual dexterity issue more than it was not knowing the "right" amount. Squeezing a tube of toothpaste takes some decent motor control.

We had the best luck during those years with stand-up tubes of toothpaste with pump-like dispensers that only let out a small amount of toothpaste.

Another option: liquid gel toothpaste in flip-top bottles that comes out more easily.

What say you, Parenthackers? I bet someone else has a better answer than I do.


  1. says

    We love the Aquafresh upright dispenser. It’s affordable, too. My kids still make a mess of it, but it’s not nearly as bad as the squeeze tubes. Not a fan of the liquid gels: they come out too fast and make a big mess, especially if the kids are feeling mischievous.

  2. says

    I would actually love to see more advice for the “Do it MYSELF” age! My daughter will be 4 next week and wants to do it all. Great when it comes to dressing herself (oh, the fascinating fashion she’s put together), pretty OK when it comes to brushing her teeth, not good at all when it comes to getting herself a snack. She’ll often get in the kitchen and have the fridge open before we realize what she’s up to, and occasionally we only know what happened because a pudding-faced kid comes wandering into the room. I’m mostly wondering if people have had more success with teaching their preschoolers to ask first, or providing easy to reach/open snacks. I foresee a lot of difficulty with the first, but worry about choking hazards/messes/accidentally eating Daddy’s hot-sauce-covered chicken wings with the second. I’m a first time parent so am probably overworrying but have no experience and would love to hear others’ input if possible.

  3. says

    This reminded me of the backpacking trick of creating dehydrated toothpaste dots and carrying them in a baggie to save weight. The dots need to be chewed to rehydrate before the tooth-brushing can proceed. Yes there’s the extra hassle of making the dots, but there should be very little mess when it comes to use (unless the kids get creative…)

  4. SusanOR says

    JennyOH – we just organize the fridge by what is appropriate for her to reach.
    We have a bottom freezer, so hot sauces & glass containers are on the top shelf – she can’t get it – well, now that she’s 6.5, she grabs a stepladder but that’s another story.
    And we reorganized a low cupboard with a dollar store basket to hold acceptable snacks that she could get herself.

  5. says

    Jennyoh: My daughter is 3 and about a year ago I put a medium sized clear box on the bottom shelf of the fridge and another on a low shelf in the pantry. She can help herself when she wants a snack. I keep pretty small portioned items in both, so that I doubt mind if she grabs a snack even if dinner is in a few minutes. Usually I keep things in them like the mini-boxes of raisins, mini-goldfish crackers, carrot sticks, berries or a cheese stick. She knows that if it is in the box she can have it, if it’s not she has to ask. She is allowed to help herself to water only to drink and we have milk at meal times. When we get home she grabs her own snack and plays while I make dinner. All of her glasses, plates, bowls, and utensils are in a low drawer within her reach so if she needs a bowl for berries she can help herself.

    I definitely encourage the “do it yourself” mentality, and just make sure that I’ve provided safe, acceptable ways for her to manage.

  6. Nicole says

    We use the old fashioned tubes of toothpaste but we hang them with a medium bulldog clip from a small towel bar beside the sink. Our girls just unscrew the lid and gently squeeze the tube. Perfect every time! (And a bonus hack is we just keep moving the tube up and over [folding it into an upside down U shape over the bar] which always keeps the toothpaste squeezed up).

    We did this when we moved in two years ago, so our oldest was then four and had no problems.

  7. Marie says

    JennyOH: I have used the bottom shelf of my fridge as a go-to place for snacks for both my boys. My older son was very responsible and had good self-control at a very young age so I did not have to portion things out as much.

    My younger son though, even at 6 years of age, has a difficult time with impulsiveness and self-control. So for him, every night before I go to bed, I stock the fridge/freezer/cupboard with snacks for him (each in individualized servings right for his age/weight). This way I control what he eats throughout the day, while he gets to make the choices of when he eats them. I do make sure they are foods he likes. Examples of each would be applesauce, baby carrots, and string cheese for the fridge, snack bags of frozen peas, green beans, and grapes, and yogurt-in-a-tube for the freezer, and small portions of crackers, popcorn, and rice cakes in the cupboard.

    He also likes to “make” his own breakfast in the morning so before I got to bed I also place a yogurt and half a cup of milk (in a thicker-bottomed cup that doesn’t tip easily) on the bottom shelf of the fridge along with a bowl with some cereal in it on the table with a piece of fruit (or cut fruit in the fridge if a whole piece is too big), and his vitamin on his napkin. This way when he gets up, he can get it himself. I think the best part of this for him is the choice he gets. Some mornings he will eat his yogurt first, and others, his fruit or cereal (actually the gummy vitamin is always first). And I want to note that there were a few accidents with the milk while he was learning to be properly careful taking it from the fridge, carrying it, and pouring it. But he is so proud/happy of his ability to make his own breakfast, that for us, it was worth it.

    As a parent, you are the probably the best judge of what your child can and can’t do or areas they may be ready to take on more responsibility. One way to look at the whole ask first/help self idea is that you are teaching them to be more independent and to make their own choices (from yours) and you are setting them up to succeed. And it doesn’t have to be one or the other. They still should always ask for snacks/treats that are special, occasional ones (like ice cream, for example) or ones that take adult supervision/preparation (like anything involving a knife or appliance). I have found that by giving children some freedom to make choices of their own, it seems to make it easier for them to ask for things/help when needed.

  8. Sara says

    While we haven’t been successful on teaching my 4-year-old how not to use too much toothpaste, we HAVE been successful in teaching him to clean up the glops in the sink. There’s a wash cloth on his towel bar, and he knows that he needs to grab it, get it wet, and wipe up any toothpaste that ends up in the sink. Doesn’t necessarily solve the first problem, but it does solve your clean up problem :-)

  9. Erin says

    I came here last week looking for the “keep the toothpaste clean” hack after hitting my limit of finding it on the walls, floor, sink, and down the hall. When I didn’t find anything I went with an incentive model. I told them that if they kept the tube clean til it was empty I would buy them a DVD. Then I wrote a reminder on the tube in Sharpie – which makes them laugh every time they brush. 3 weeks into this experiment and the tube is clean with the cap in place. Win!

  10. Rachel says

    We went to the cinema recently and there was a short film on (by Aquafresh I think), that showed kids how to brush, how much toothpaste etc each age group needs.

    My 5yo got it – just like that. Yes I had been telling her the same thing all her life, but as soon as this cartoon character explained it all to her it became Gospel to her & she got it.

    I’m still working on the 2yo though (of course the 5yo knows just how much the 2yo needs, but the 2yo herself will just eat it if allowed)