Caring For Our Kids

Tooth fairy tips

What’s the going rate for a tooth these days? photo: Michael Marusin / flickr

The tooth fairy can be an important part of a child’s life, especially in the early years of losing teeth. Most children hold on to their belief in the tooth fairy longer than their belief in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Playing this role can be tricky for parents while determining how much money to leave and what stories to tell about where all the teeth go. With seven years between our oldest and youngest child, it is important to us that we keep the magic alive so each of them can enjoy and relish the excitement of the tooth fairy for as long as possible. Here are some tips that may help the tooth fairy in your house:

The going rate: Deciding what is appropriate to leave under your child’s pillow is purely a family decision; however, if you are like I am, you want to be in the ballpark of today’s going rate. According to Visa’s latest tooth fairy survey, the average price of a lost tooth in 2015 is $3.19, which puts a full set of 20 baby teeth around $63. The research also suggests (which I find fascinating and true for our household) that dads report giving 27 percent more than moms. Visa actually has a free tooth fairy app ( with an online calculator to help parents determine an appropriate amount per lost tooth. In our house, we always give more for the first tooth because that is such a special moment and then a silver dollar for each additional tooth.

Whatever amount you decide, consistency is important. Remember, your little one has many teeth to lose, so if you start high, you’re going to have to maintain that level of payment for every tooth thereafter and for every younger sibling. My son can tell you exactly how much his older sister received for each tooth. Inconsistency can lead to confusion, and confusion can lead to questions that only get harder to answer.

Be prepared: Often that first tooth falls out late in the day, when banks are closed and it is too late for any last-minute shopping. As soon as you see that tooth become wiggly, get ready. Gather a secret stash of coins, dollars, or whatever you are leaving, and decide what to leave the tooth in — there are many options. My daughter received a cute tooth fairy pillow as a gift, and it hangs over her bedpost. If you opt for something simpler, you can have your child decorate a special envelope or container. However, my favorite, which also makes it easy for the tooth fairy, is the decorative tooth fairy pillow dish on Etsy. It can be placed in the bedroom or bathroom and is perfect for a child who is uneasy about someone putting something under his or her pillow while sleeping. Make sure to set an alarm or write yourself a note so you don’t forget your fairy duties. If you do happen to forget, and it happens to all of us, have a story ready or hide it under someone else’s pillow and say the tooth fairy got confused.

Maintain the magic: Every child is different and only you as the parent will know what will work best to keep your child believing for as long as possible. After my daughter lost her first tooth in kindergarten, she had many questions about what the tooth fairy did with everyone’s teeth. I found a great picture on the Internet of the tooth fairy’s castle made of teeth and toothpaste, which she continues to add to. My daughter was really into princesses and fairies at the time, so this worked. For our son, who can be a bit more skeptical and lost his first tooth a bit later, we used The website allows you to superimpose an image of the tooth fairy onto a picture of your child sleeping. It costs about $10, but for doubters, this is good proof. If all else fails, you can always try our mantra: “If you don’t believe, you don’t receive,” so once you stop believing, the tooth fairy stops coming. So far, this has worked.

Seeing the excitement of your child anticipate a visit from the tooth fairy is priceless. We have a lot more years of tooth fairy duties in our house, and I hope it is a tradition we can all continue to find joy and magic in until the last tooth flies away.

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Liz Farrell is the mother of three young children. She was formerly a television producer in Washington D.C. and in San Francisco.