The tooth fairy is one of the most cherished yet never seen visitors children await. The child puts his tooth under a pillow before sleeping and awakens to a surprise in the morning, usually a small amount of change. While the money is quickly spent, the memory is usually cherished, at least until the child grows out of imaginary friends. For parents, belief in the tooth fairy represents the barrier between when the child relies on imagination for answers versus looking for real answers. However, it is nonetheless an interesting rite of passage and one that can be sort of fun.
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Different Beliefs About a Child’s Teeth
The tooth fairy is but one superstition when it comes to how a child’s teeth are dealt with. Many other methods of dealing with kid’s teeth have been used over the years.
In Medieval England, for example, teeth were burned in order to ensure that the child would be able to enjoy their afterlife. if the teeth were not burnt then the child would need to find their teeth before he could pass on. Other European cultures destroyed teeth to prevent witches from possessing them.
In South Korea, the teeth were tossed onto the roof in the belief that the birds would take them and grant the child good luck. Vikings paid children for their teeth, believing that wearing them into battle was good luck. In Japan, lower teeth were tossed straight up and upper teeth down in order to ensure that the teeth would grow straight.
What Is the Tooth Fairy?
Simply put, the tooth fairy is the entity that takes the teeth of children and replaces them with a small gift, such as candy but usually money. In the United States, the average is $3.70, with few children receiving more than $5 or less than a dollar for their teeth. The child is likely to begin encountering, however indirectly, the tooth fairy when they are about five to seven years old when they are losing their baby teeth.
Should a child ask “what is the tooth fairy?”, the parent is able to answer however they wish with little expectation of questioning. It is best to keep it as simple as possible and leave it to the child’s imagination as much as possible. Thus, the best answer is along the lines of, “she visits children in the night to take their teeth and leave a small gift behind.” For most children, this will suffice. However, it never helps to add that the child needs to be sleeping or the fairy will not come in order to make things a little easier.
What Does the Tooth Fairy Look Like?
Unlike other anthropomorphized holidays, the tooth fairy has no real fixed form; even the sex of the tooth fairy is up to debate, with 12% believing the fairy to be male and 8% believing the fairy to be sexless. A wide variety of different forms have been described, including a dragon, a bunny, a mouse, a dental hygienist known to the child, or even two old men; however, the most popular is a standard fairy with a wand and wings, leaving a trail of glowing pixie dust behind as she flies. In short, the parent has a lot of room to describe the fairy, assuming the child does not take the lead here.
If you are asked, “what does the tooth fairy look like?”, you have the option of deciding what the fairy looks like or asking the child, “what do you think the fairy looks like?” If you want to see the wheels turn in the child’s brain, asking him to describe the fairy can be all sorts of interesting. It needs to be noted that the child rarely has a problem if another child has their own version of the tooth fairy; apparently, because it is a supernatural creature capable of changing shape anything is acceptable as what the other child saw at that time.
What Does the Tooth Fairy Do With the Teeth?
Tooth fairies are strange little entities. When they take the teeth, they can be used for any number of purposes. As teeth are actually pretty strong, they appear to be the default building material in fairyland, finding use in everything from simple huts to immense castles. However, if a tooth is found to be too weak for use as a building material, such as due to cracks or cavities, the tooth is ground down to be used as fairy dust, and this given to whoever needs it at the time. Other options, such as teeth for babies, implants for adults, and even stars, have been suggested.
When a child asks, “what does the tooth fairy do with the teeth”, the parent has a wide range of options. Obviously, you can use any of the narratives provided here, or you can use this as an opportunity to espouse dental hygiene, pointing out that while all teeth are welcome, only the strongest make it into the castles. If you really want to have fun with this, discuss the various uses of building materials, and then hand the child some paper and crayons; what they come up with can be rather intriguing.
What Does the Tooth Fairy Eat?
The tooth fairy is small and always in motion; this sort of implies that anything she eats will be easy to chew and high in sugar. While eating sugar would be ironically detrimental to the fairy’s teeth, she manages to work it all off during her evening’s work, flitting from place to place like a dragonfly. The fairy is thus able to keep a slim figure despite how many sugary treats she eats during the night. It is also worth noting that fairies tend to drink a lot of milk, so that added calcium presumably offsets any potential tooth decay and helping to keep the fairy strong and healthy.
If the child asks, “what does the tooth fairy eat?” you can have fun describing all of the various treats that the fairies enjoy on their travels. This is yet another opportunity to see where the child is on things, either through discussing what he thinks the fairy eats and drinks or by handing the child some paper and crayons and seeing what develops. This is also an ideal time to get some cooking time in with the child, allowing you to show the child how his favorite desserts are made. This question has a lot of really nice teaching opportunities.
Tooth Fairies Are All Sorts of Fun for Parents
As a parent, tooth fairies can be something that you use in a number of ways. Their use in helping to encourage good dental habits is the obvious one, but they can help to spur a child’s imagination on a number of levels, from what the fairy looks like to what they do with the teeth to what they eat. They can even be used as an excuse to get some cooking time in, something that is always an adventure with a young child.
In short, the tooth fairy may be an imaginary creature, but that is no reason not to use the creature for some good real-life lessons. Find an approach that works for you and go for it!