Get Kids to Brush Their Teeth With the Pokémon Smile App

Screenshot: Pokémon
Screenshot: Pokémon

Kids are not exactly the best or most effective when it comes to brushing their teeth — if you can get them to do it at all. But if they can brush those teeth while looking like Charmander and helping to save other Pokémon who have been captured by (gasp!) cavity-causing bacteria, well, that might be just the motivation they need. Plus, if they do a good enough brush job, they’ll get to catch the Pokémon they saved, too.

Pokémon released the Pokémon Smile app this week on iOS and Android to help kids suck a little less at brushing their teeth — and to cut down on the battle it takes to get them to even try. The app’s augmented reality effects let kids “wear” Pokémon hats while they brush their teeth, focusing on the spots indicated in the bottom right corner of the phone or tablet they’re using. Here’s a brief look at how it works:

You can set a countdown timer for 1, 2 or 3 minutes, as well as notifications for brushing reminders. And you can have different user profiles for different kids so they can keep their game progress separate from their siblings.

If you’ve already tried a few different tips or games to get kids to brush their teeth, you may have discovered that once the novelty of the new gimmicky thing wears off, you’re right back in the middle of a battle of wills. This app works hard to keep their attention, though.

To start with, there are more than 100 Pokémon to catch in the game. And they get a handful of Pokémon “hats” to wear while they brush (mostly the biggies you’d expect to see — Pikachu, Eevee, Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle), but kids can “unlock” more hats as they progress in the game. And the more they brush, the more “Brushing Awards” they earn in the game; once they’ve collected all the Brushing Awards, they become a Brushing Master.

You can even set the app to take pictures of your kid, Pokémon hats and all, while they’re brushing and then they can add digital stickers to the pictures afterward. Keep brushing and they’ll keep unlocking new stickers to use.

The only potential downside here is that they need to look directly into the phone or tablet while they’re brushing so the camera can register their face, which means you either need to get a sturdy stand of some kind on the counter (that won’t end well) or you’ll have to stand there and hold your phone up for two minutes while they brush (which you know you’re willing to do).

You’re going to go try this out yourself, aren’t you? You know, as “research” for the sake of the kids. It’s ok; I did, too, Charmander hat and all.

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