Philips Sonicare for Kids

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The $49.99 Philips Sonicare for Kids is a Bluetooth-connected toothbrush that aims to help children take care of their teeth. The companion app includes a Tamagotchi-like virtual creature that encourages children to brush their teeth. The app is also a great way for parents to keep track of their child's brushing habits, and further encourage them through notifications and rewards. The mascot will likely only appeal to very young children, but even the brush alone is appealing, with a built-in timer, fine bristles, a comfortable grip, and long battery life. It's a great brush for beginners, and earns our Editors' Choice.

Design and Features
Philips Sonicare inlineThe Philips Sonicare looks like a standard electric toothbrush. It measures 9.6 by 1.2 by 1.2 inches (HWD), which is quite large considering it's meant for children; Philips recommends the brush for ages four and up. Smaller children will likely have a tough time holding it, but it does have a nice, comfortable grip.

At the top end of the brush is a detachable head, equipped with soft, fine bristles. There are no rubberized sides or yellow, pointy bristles, like you get on the adult-geared Sonicare Flexcare Platinum Connected. Philips says the brush head is capable of 500 strokes per second. Additional brush heads comes in packs of two for $16.99.

The brush handle has a large power button near the top with an LED inside, which indicates battery life. Below that is a second button that toggles between brushing modes: Low vibrates the brush head at a lower intensity for young children, while High (the default) is meant for older kids. The plastic surrounding the buttons is actually a removable panel, which makes the brush easier to wash. The brush also comes with multiple removable stickers.

Philips estimates the rechargeable lithium ion battery can last up to two weeks before needing a recharge. An included charging cradle comes with the brush, along with an extra brush head and a plastic protective travel cap.

Setup and App
Setting up the brush is simple. It comes out of the box disassembled. First, you need to apply the removable panel to the front of the brush, at which point you can add any stickers you like. Then you need to align the brush head so that the bristles point in the same direction as the handle's front, and push down until it clicks into place. The brush comes fully charged.

Once together, you need to download the free Philips Sonicare for Kids app on your Android or iOS device. To pair the brush to your smartphone or tablet, you just need to turn it on by pressing any of its buttons. Once pressed, the app will automatically pair with the brush so long as Bluetooth is activated on your device.

The brush itself works just like any other electric toothbrush. The innovation comes in the app. With your child's free hand (or with your help), they can follow along as a purple creature named Sparkly has its teeth brushed. A built-in timer keeps the brush moving for two minutes if set to High, or one minute if set to Low. You'll also hear a series of tones that tells your child when to move to the next area of their mouth. When using the app, you can view a graphic broken up into quadrants that helps your kid learn when and where to brush. The highlighted quadrant corresponds to where they should be brushing.

The app itself is pretty basic. The main screen is home to Sparkly. He's alright, though I doubt anyone but the youngest children will find him appealing—he's no Minion. But, the more you brush, the more you can dress him up with goggles, scarves, cat ears, and more. You gain a gift (or two or three) after each brushing session. You can view these by tapping a treasure chest icon in the lower right corner of the screen. The left side of the app lets you see your collected achievements, the total number of minutes spent brushing, and a history of brushing sessions.

Parents can create an account so they can access a Parent Dashboard within the app. Here, you can set brushing reminders, as well as notifications to see when to replace brush heads. There are also options to turn off the app's music and sound effects, and a calendar section shows you how well your child brushes across a timeline organized by date, with each day divided into morning and night. You can also see the exact time your child has spent brushing, and, if satisfied, you can add rewards with your own real-world prizes, like "Play the new Zelda game for one hour."

Rounding out the app, a Support and Tips section contains troubleshooting info and advice like "Close your mouth around your brush before you start brushing."

Performance and Conclusions
I used the Sonicare brush for a week, brushing everyday, morning and night. Each time, I held the brush in one hand, and an Apple iPhone 6 in the other. I must say, this is not the easiest way to brush your teeth, and holding my phone near the bathroom sink definitely gave me pause. I got used to it, but you might want to think about investing in a waterproof case before your child starts brushing.

Brushing sessions consist of an animation of Sparkly's mouth getting brushed, complete with cartoony bacteria covering his choppers. The animated brush moves from tooth to tooth for about the dentist-recommended two minutes (when set to High), which you can watch and follow along.

Thankfully, the brush can still record your sessions even without your phone nearby. Later, you can connect the brush with the app to view your recorded sessions in the calendar history.

The Philips Sonicare for Kids toothbrush cleans teeth well, and does a nice job making brushing seem more appealing. Even without the app, it's a colorful, well-built electric toothbrush that children are sure to respond to. And with the app, brushing becomes less of a chore, and something a lot more fun. That makes it a great choice for children that are just learning how to take care of their teeth, and an Editors' Choice.

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