Young children generally follow their parents’ lead when it comes to believing in imaginary characters. If parents encourage their child to believe the tooth fairy is real, she’s likely to go along with them. And if parents tell their child there’s no such thing as the tooth fairy, she’ll probably accept that as fact.
Of course, your child may figure the truth out on her own, especially if she’s awake when you put money under her pillow. “Dad, I saw you! You’re the tooth fairy!” Some kids hear the truth from older siblings. However, having older siblings can sometimes make a child believe more firmly, since tooth fairy visits have been part of their household lore from a child’s early years.
Children often ask each other, “Do you believe in the tooth fairy?” While they may take different positions, they rarely quarrel about the issue. Instead they’ll say, “Carlos believes in the tooth fairy, but I know it’s my parents,” or “Emma doesn’t believe in the tooth fairy, but I do!”
Children who believe in the tooth fairy sometimes worry about getting the rituals right. If a child’s misplaced her tooth at school or at a friend’s house, or if she didn’t notice it fall out (or swallowed it), she may be afraid the tooth fairy won’t visit. Another common fear is that she won’t get to keep the tooth; many children are interested in their teeth and don’t want to give them up to the tooth fairy.
When your child has one of these concerns, let her know she’ll get a gift under her pillow whether the tooth is there or not. If you want her to continue believing in the tooth fairy, suggest that she leave the fairy a message explaining the special circumstances.
At some point your child may ask, “Are you the tooth fairy?” Ask her what she thinks. If she really knows the truth, explain that you are, and then add, “It was fun to pretend a fairy was leaving you gifts,” or “I liked thinking about the tooth fairy when I was little, and I thought you would too.”
If you choose not to teach your child to believe in the tooth fairy, you and your child can still have fun with the idea. You can pretend the fairy is real, and you can leave your child funny notes “from the fairy.” If you don’t want to talk of a fairy at all, you can leave a special treat “from Mom and Dad” under her pillow.
Magical thinking slowly disappears during the elementary years, and eventually all children realize the tooth fairy isn’t real. Still, the myth is an enjoyable one whether your child believes or just plays along. Getting a treat, money, stickers, or a small toy, makes losing a tooth even more special.