Those Icky Sticky Smelly Cavity-Causing but… Invisible Germs, by Judith Anne Rice

            This book introduces children to the why’s of brushing your teeth.  It talks about the different kinds of germs that can damage teeth and how to care for your teeth.  This story is a good introduction to dental care.


  • Dental x-rays (Most dentists will give you old x-rays of your teeth if you tell them you want to share them with your children.)
  • Popsicle sticks (one per child)
  • Several old toothbrushes
  • A bottle of school glue
  •  A small, one-inch square, piece of contact paper per child


  • Germs (a teeny tiny invisible particle, or piece of something that can make you or your teeth sick)
  • Sticky (covered with something that is gluey)
  • Halitosis (a scientific name for the germs that make bad breath)
  • Invisible (too small to see or unable to see-like the wind)
  • Cavity (a hole in your tooth caused by germs)
  • Tartar (a hard build up on your teeth like when dried play dough gets stuck to our play dough tools)
  • Gums (the part of your mouth that surrounds your teeth and holds them in place)
  •  X-rays (pictures of your teeth or bones)

Introducing the Story

            Read the Title of the book to the children.  Ask them if they know what sticky means.  Give each child a piece of the contact paper and explain that the one side is sticky.  Have them stick it to their cheek, their elbow, their foot, etc..  Ask them if they can think of other things that are sticky.  Write their “sticky thoughts” onto a piece of large paper.  Re-read the title and ask them if they know what invisible means.  Explain that germs are SO teeny tiny that you cannot see them with your eyes.  Show teeny tiny with your fingers and name some really tiny objects (they’re smaller then a grain of sand, smaller then a dot on a paper).  Re-read the title again, ask the children if they know what a cavity is.  Ask them if they can guess what the story is about.  Show the children the cover of the book and re-read the title again, can they guess what these creatures on the front represent? (Cavities) 

Science/Scientific Skills & Methods; develops increased ability to observe and discuss common properties, differences and comparisons among objects and materials. AND Language Development/Listening & Understanding; understands an increasingly complex and varied vocabulary.

Reading the Story

            When you get to a page that says, “This!” shutter and shake your head.  When you get to the page that says, “Thank goodness Sal knows what all of need to know-how to get rid of the germs in our mouths.” Stop and ask the children if they know what needs to be done (brush your teeth).  When you get to the part that says, “The next day, Sal had an appointment for his six-month checkup at the…” slow down here and see if the children say Dentist’s Office. 

Science/Scientific Knowledge; shows increased awareness amd beginning understanding of changes in materials and cause-effect relationships. And Physical Health & Development/Health Status & Practices; builds awareness and ability to follow basic health and safety rules.

After Reading the Story

            Tape a large piece of paper onto the wall and explain to the children that you are going to make a class germ.  Go around the circle asking each child a question in regards to how the germ should look. (What color should are germ be?  What shape do you want the germ to be?  How many eyes should our germ have?  What color eyes should we make?)  As they answer, draw the germ onto the piece of paper.  When everybody has contributed a part of the germ, do the Toothbrush Chant or your own tooth brushing song. 

Approaches to Learning/Initiative & Curiosity; chooses to participate in an increasing variety of tasks and activities. AND Social & Emotional Development/Cooperation; develops increasing abilities to give and take in interactions; to take turns in games and using materials; and to interact without being overly submissive or directive.

Music and Movement

            Teach the children the toothbrush chant/cadence

Brush your teeth every day,

Up and down it is the right way.

Back and forth and circles too

That’s just what you’ve got to do.

Brush your teeth every day,

Up and down it is the right way.

Physical Health & Development/Health Status & Practices; shows growing independence in hygiene, nutrition, and personal care when eating, dressing, washing hands, brushing teeth, and toileting.

Teach your children Brush Your Teeth by Raffi

When you wake up in the morning at a quarter to one and you want to have a little fun, You brush your teeth ch ch ch ch, ch ch ch ch….   When you wake up in the morning at a quarter to two and you want to find something to do, You brush your teeth ch ch ch ch, ch ch ch ch….   When you wake up in the morning at a quarter to three and your mind starts humming a tweedle dee dee, You brush your teeth ch ch ch ch, ch ch ch ch….   When you wake up in the morning at a quarter to four and you think you hear a knock at the door, You brush your teeth ch ch ch ch, ch ch ch ch….   When you wake up in the morning at a quarter to five and you just can’t wait to come alive, You brush your teeth ch ch ch ch, ch ch ch ch….

Creative Arts/Music; participates with increasing interest and enjoyment in a variety of music activities, including listening, singing, finger plays, games, and performances.


            Hang the dental x-rays in the window. Show the children how the tooth goes into the gum.  Can you see a cavity or a filling on the x-ray? Talk to the children about your own dental experiences. 

Approaches to Learning/Initiative & Curiosity; grows in eagerness to learn about and discuss a growing range of topics, ideas, and tasks.


Explain to the children that by the time they are three years old they have around 20 teeth in their mouth.  Challenge the children to count out 20 blocks.  Can they make two rows of ten?  Can they make a pattern with the two rows of blocks (square, rectangle, square, rectangle)? 

Mathematics/Number & Operations; begins to make use of one-to-one correspondence in counting objects and matching groups of objects. AND Mathematics/Patterns & Measurement; enhances abilities to recognize, duplicate, and extend extend simple patterns using a variety of materials.


            Cut out yellow tooth shapes and put them on the easel.  Give the children white paint and an old toothbrush.  Challenge them to brush the plaque away by covering all the yellow with white paint. 

Physical Health & Development/Fine Motor Skills; progresses in abilities to use writing, drawing, and aart tools, including pencils, markers, chalk, paint brushes, and various types of technology.

Sand and Water

            Put items in the water table that can float today.  Challenge the children to make the water whirl and swirl the objects.

Science/Scientific Skills & Methods; begins to participate in simple investigations to test observations, discuss and draw conclusions, and form generalizations.

Library and Writing

            Ask the children to draw their own version of a cavity onto a half a piece of drawing paper.  Ask them to tell you one way that you can keep your teeth healthy and write their answer onto a small piece of paper.  Have them glue both pieces of paper onto a larger piece.  Remind them that in the story the author said children should just use a dot of toothpaste.  As they put the glue on the back of their picture and your words have them repeat,”Not a lot, just a drop”.   You can put all the children’s germ pictures into book form and make your own class Icky Sticky Smelly Cavity-Causing Invisible Germ book. 

Approaches to Learning/Initiative & Curiosity; grows in eagerness to learn about and discuss a growing range of topics, ideas, and tasks. AND Language Development/Listening & Understanding; shows progress in understanding and following simple and multiple-step directions.

Dramatic Play

            As the children use the kitchen today, ask them to sort and name for you which plastic food items you have that are healthy for teeth and which one’s might not be as healthy for teeth?  Ask the children if any of the foods are sticky?

Language Development/Speaking & Communicating; uses an increasingly complex and varied vocabulary. AND Mathematics/Patterns & Measurement; shows increasing abilities to march, sort, put in a series, and regroup objects according to one or two attributes such as shape and size.

Math and Manipulatives

            Let the children put on rubber gloves today and give them small mirrors to look in their mouth and count their teeth.  Can they see the different shapes if the teeth?  Can they see any food or tartar on their teeth?  Does anyone have a cavity? 

Science/Scientific Knowledge; expands knowledge of and respect for their bodies and the environment.

Outdoor Play

            Look at the toys on the playground.  Do any of them have sand or dirt build up in the crevices?  Explain to the children that this is like tartar that builds up over time on your teeth.  Give the children popsicle sticks to try to dig out the dirt and sand.  Talk about how the dentist has special tools to scrape away the tartar on your teeth. 

Social & Emotional Development/Knowledge of Families & Communities; develops growing awareness of jobs and what is required to perform them.


            Remind the children that in the story Sal brushed away halitosis germs that give us bad breath.  As the children go to the next activity ask them if they can think of something that is stinky and might cause a halitosis germ.  It does not have to be something that they eat; the concept is to think of something that is stinky and smelly.

Approaches to Learning/Reasoning & Problem Solving; develops increasing ability to find more than one solution to a question, task, or problem.


Dear Parent-

            We have been talking about germs that cause tooth decay today.  Ask your child to tell you about tartar and halitosis. (Tartar-the build up that occurs on your teeth, like dirt on toys.  Halitosis- the germ that causes stinky smelly breath).  Ask them, what the best way to prevent cavities is.  Practice brushing your teeth together in the morning and after meals or snacks.

About Kerry CI am an Early Childhood Educator who has seen daily the value of shared book readings with my preschoolers. I use the book theme in my centers and can daily touch upon a variety of Early Childhood Domains which makes assessing the children easy and individualized.