As our lives continue to become intertwined with technology our children are using phones and tablets for learning and play more than ever. Have you ever thought about using technology to help teach important skills like tooth brushing?
Many kids love to play with phones and tablets, and they are highly motivated to follow along with what they see on the screen. As a parent, you may be struggling to limit time spent on such devices. But have you considered using your tablet to motivate your child to complete important daily routines?
While not every child will benefit from app based instruction many do. While there are a lot of good programs out there here are the ones we use in the clinic.
iDo Hygiene (iPad)
iDo Hygiene is an iPad app that addresses 12 areas of self-care. The free version includes shampooing and washing your face. “Brushing your teeth” is available for a $1.99 in-app purchase. For each self-care task, the app provides an instructional video, a picture sequence and two games. The app also allows users to make their own video and picture sequence.
Pros: The use of video, and especially personalized video, may improve the child’s engagement, particularly for kids who benefit from visual learning such as kids on the Autism spectrum. The games provide a fun and motivating strategy to review sequencing of the tasks.
Cons: Though the picture schedule can be used during the task of brushing teeth, there is no timer feature.
Brusheez allows the child choose a funny monster as an avatar. Many aspects of the monster’s appearance can be customized including hair, outfit, color of the toothbrush and how many teeth are present in their mouth.
Pros: The timer can be adjusted from 30 seconds to 3 minutes by 30 second increments, which is great for kids that need to build up a tolerance for the sensory input gradually. The colorful, dynamic animations and music may help kids maintain attention to brushing teeth.
Cons: The exciting animations may be overwhelming or distracting for kids that are more sensitive to sensory input. The app does not remind kids to brush their tongue.
The Brush Up app also uses bright and colorful animation. The app uses the front facing camera so kids can watch themselves as they brush along with the character.
Pros: In addition to the front facing camera, the character brushes off visible scum on his teeth, providing great visual feedback to improve thoroughness. This app is a favorite for many kids who are motivated by watching themselves in the mirror on the app.
Cons: The timer runs for 4 minutes. In our experience, that’s much longer than most kids can maintain attention to brushing teeth. Two minutes is recommended by the American Dental Association. And similar to Brusheez, the sounds and animations may be distracting for some kids.
Toothbrush Timer (iPhone)
The Toothbrush timer is an iPhone app that runs for two minutes, split into 10 seconds intervals (i.e. upper right outside, upper right top, upper right inside) to encourage thorough teeth-brushing skills.
Pros: The visual presentation is simple and minimizes distractions. Each section of the mouth is labeled and highlighted as the timer progresses. Auditory cues, in the form of a simple tone, also indicate when it’s time to move to a new section. Most kids are able to successfully complete two minutes of brushing and are rewarded with the sound of applause at the end.
Cons: The app does not remind users to brush their tongue. I’ve also noted that kids tend to follow the directions for left and right sides of the mouth, and tend to neglect the front section when they’re using this app. Lastly, this app has not been updated since 2011. One glitch I’ve found is that you need to completely close the app in order to restart the timer.
I recommend this app for older kids that might find other apps too juvenile, and for kids that are distracted by the auditory and visual stimuli found in other apps.
Hope you and your child have found a routine that is successful for tooth brushing. Having good oral health is important for many reasons.
Start early so you can start building a routine that will last a life time. Often children who have developmental delays experience increased difficulties with self-care tasks like brushing teeth.
Our office works with many children who are experiencing difficulties with self-care tasks. Occupational therapy might also help with children who have sensitivities that are preventing them from brushing. Brushing teeth should not be hard. If your child is struggling ask for help.
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Have you tried these apps or any others?
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