Designers at PA Consulting Group’s Cambridge Technology and Innovation Centre in the UK have come up with the Brushheads concept to encourage children to develop positive brushing habits by making brush time a more enjoyable and playful experience.

As most parents of young children know, getting kids to brush their teeth can be quite an ordeal with children often finding it a boring and repetitive task. Ahmad Bitar, PA Consulting’s designer who led the Brushheads concept design, explains this gave him inspiration to talk to family and friends about the experiences they’ve had with their children. He also spoke to children themselves to get their side of things. “So, the challenge I set myself was how can I use the power of design to alter children’s behaviour.”

He started off by building a picture of how children behave before, during and after brushing their teeth.During this process he discovered some interesting insights including: children don’t like standing still in front of a sink for two to three minutes at a time doing a repetitive motion; they get frustrated and agitated quickly if they do not understand why it is necessary to do a certain task; brush time did not offer them any gain or reward; and children were lying to their parents about brushing their teeth and parents had no way of checking on them.

Bitar first set out by sketching some of his ideas, but the real ‘eureka’ moment came when he decided to base the design around a cartoon character that children can engage with and grow to love. Other criteria involved making the electric toothbrush portable, comfortable for the child to hold and also to enclose the toothbrush, as Bitar felt this was more hygienic.

The toothbrush is charged by plugging a USB into a computer, tablet or smartphone, which also connects the toothbrush to the Brusheads app. “The Brushead is linked to an app which brings the product to life. Children can interact with the Brushead cartoon characters and check out their brushing performance and compare the achievements of their character with other children. Parents can also use the app to monitor their children’s progress and keep an eye on patterns or trends,” describes Bitar.

The toothbrush also features a suction cup base so that it can attach to almost any flat surface. As the toothbrush is enclosed making it look more like a toy than a toothbrush it means that it can be taken out of the bathroom environment and into the children’s bedroom where it can be popped on their bookshelf, for example.

The Brusheads also feature intelligent sensors that recognise brushing patterns and play audio messages to the child to encourage better brushing. “Sensors monitor the pattern of brushing and if the child decides to stop brushing before it’s reached the two minute time, for example, a microphone within the brush can engage with the child saying things like, ‘Great Johnny, you are doing a really good job and you’ve only got 30 seconds left to go’. This helps them to feel like somebody is really encouraging them,” adds Bitar.

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