11 June 2021 (updated)

Tales and Traditions of the Tooth Fairy

The fairy, the mystery, the legend...read on to find out more about the story of the tooth fairy and how to approach this tradition!

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The First Tooth

The day has finally come...the tooth is just hanging on by a thread! Could this be it? It seems the wind could blow and knock it right out! You beg you plead, can't we just get this over with? You gently remind: if you put the tooth under the pillow, then maybe the tooth fairy will visit and leave a small gift! Suddenly...*POP!* Out it comes! But why do we celebrate the loss of the first tooth with a visit from a mystical fairy?

The History of the Tooth Fairy

The loss of a baby tooth tends to be one of the first rites of passage in a child’s life, and the Tooth Fairy can be a source of comfort during a scary or painful experience. The addition of a monetary reward is thought to symbolically help children pass into the world of adulthood and responsibility.

The tooth fairy's roots (sorry, I had to...) weren't fully uncovered until the 1990s by folklorists Rosemary Wells and Tad Tuleja. Although, the rituals surrounding young children's teeth disposal have been around for centuries all around the world. These can involve burning the tooth, burying it, or even swallowing it. One possible influence may be the Viking tradition of tannfé, in which an infant receives a gift when their first tooth emerges. Another may be a Venetian witch, Marantega, who would exchange a gold coin for lost teeth.

The first printed appearance of the modern Tooth Fairy dates back to 1927 in "The Tooth Fairy: Three-act playlet for children,” an eight-page playlet for children by Esther Watkins Arnold.

La Bonne Petite Souris

While many different countries have folklore that bears resemblance to the tradition, it's thought that the closest parallel to the modern-day tooth fairy may be the 18th century French Fairy Tale called La Bonne Petite Souris. In the story, a bad king takes a good queen prisoner. The queen enlists the help of a mouse to help her escape. The mouse turns out to be a fairy who frees the queen. The fairy-mouse then knocks out the king's teeth, hides them under the king's pillow, then has him assassinated.

The modern tooth fairy thought to be a combination of many different traditions. However, the strongest contenders are the fairy-mouse in La Bonne Petite Souris and the European children's folklore archetype, "the good fairy." This magical "helper" character was made popular in America by Disney with movies like, "The Blue Fairy" (Pinocchio), "Tinkerbell" (Peter Pan), and the "Fairy Godmother" (Cinderella).

How Much Should the Tooth Fairy Give for Baby Teeth?

The good news is, this entirely depends on each family! It can be tempting to compare with how much other kids receive for their teeth, but the Tooth Fairy typically brings anywhere from a quarter to $5 for each tooth. According to a 2020 survey of 1000 parents, the average payout received for a tooth is $4.03. Typically, the first tooth lost receives the biggest sum! No matter what you decide, you may want to explain to your child that she isn't always able to give out the same amount to each child or pay for each tooth. That's life, kiddo.

Tooth Fairy Ideas

Make Them a Certificate or Letter

Losing the first baby tooth can be a huge accomplishment for a child. Help them feel even more special with a certificateof tooth loss or a letter from the "desk of the tooth fairy." Congratulate them on their first tooth loss and for taking care of those pearly whites. Dental health is a big responsibility, and it's never too early to begin encouraging good hygiene.

Making Tooth Fairy Money Special

While money is exciting enough, the tooth fairy can make things even more magical by using "fairy dust". The real tooth fairy uses her own magic, of course. However, if you're trying to make glittery money for...unrelated reasons...just use a little bit of glitter spray from the craft store on the dollar bills for a fun way to add an extra dose of magic!

Tooth Pillow

Having a specific place to store the newly-emerged tooth like a tooth pillow can make the experience a little extra special. It can make it easier for the tooth fairy to find! Mine was a small, tooth-shaped pillow with a little pocket, perfectly sized for a tooth. You can order them on Amazon, or make it yourself as a fun and easy sewing project!

Your Traditions

No matter how you celebrate your child's first tooth loss and the rest thereafter, make it your own! We hope your child is excited to receive a visit from the mystical fairy! Do you have any favorite stories or memories about losing your first tooth? Let us know in the comments. And be sure to share the moment with your loved ones on FamilyApp!



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