Losing teeth is an exciting milestone that is celebrated by parents and children alike. The Tooth Fairy is a relatively modern tradition that combines the practices of multiple cultures, but with an American twist. Most of the world celebrates children losing teeth in some fashion, but only here do we use a fairy to deliver a small amount of money—normally a coin—under the pillow to mark the occasion.
Unlike Santa or the Easter Bunny, who each have a standard image, the Tooth Fairy has been portrayed as both young and old as well as big and small across all sorts of media in the U.S. However, there are many people who choose to celebrate without the Tooth Fairy. There are numerous other traditions to mark the occasion and to celebrate this milestone in your child’s life.
The French way
If a fairy isn’t your thing, follow the French tradition where a mouse or a rabbit delivers a small gift or token to a child commemorating the event. A mouse or rodent is used since your children’s teeth continue to grow their whole life; these animals are thought to bring good luck, and hopefully a lifetime of health hallmarked by healthy teeth.
Memories for the future
If you want to memorialize the passage of time, think about creating a time capsule with teeth that are lost. Include in the capsule a note from your child that highlights their favorite things, or something fun they’ve done recently. Other fun items to add include a newspaper from the day, a coin with the current year, or a small toy or trinket that is important to the child (though not the one they’ll miss most if you hide it away). Keep all the items in a sealed box and choose a date to “dig” it back up. You could choose to do it on the day your child loses their last tooth, for example, or on their 18th birthday.
If keeping your teeth in a jar grosses you out, consider taking the tooth and burying it in your garden. Like all natural things, teeth will eventually decompose. Burying teeth is a great way to symbolize “out with the old and in with the new.” When the flowers come in the next spring, and when the leaves are green on the tree, your child can think back to the time you buried a lost tooth in the dirt.
Alternatives to standard coins
Even if you don’t have the Tooth Fairy bring money, it doesn’t mean the tooth can’t be exchanged for something else. You can even make coinage a little “less about the money” by using a silver dollar or a two-dollar bill. If you want to make it more educational, consider giving foreign money or coins, and teach your child something about a far-away place.
An open-ended tooth exchange is a way the child can choose (within reason) what they would like in exchange for their tooth. Set up a location, such as a small mailbox or envelop that your child can place their tooth in. Then, together as a family decide what to exchange it for. Options could include an experience like a trip to the movies, or a small treat like a book or a game. The exchange is a great way to encourage decision making with the younger ones.
Choosing to not invoke the Tooth Fairy doesn’t mean you can’t acknowledge or celebrate losing teeth. There are numerous opportunities to commemorate the event; it just takes a little creativity and outside-the-box thinking to make it your kind of special.