The struggles of brushing a child's teeth are all too familiar for many parents. With the combined power of reading and giggles, Ticklish Teeth tackles tooth brushing in a whole new way.
TACKLING TODDLERS’ TEETH
When thinking of toddlers, the first thing that springs to mind probably isn’t dental problems. They’re young, their teeth will change, what could go wrong? Well, the reality is that 1 in 5 kids has dental issues that can cause problems in developing adult teeth. Combine that with a tedious (unexciting, boring, not-at-all-fun) daily routine and you may have a challenge on your hands.
To Clint, father and founder of Ticklish Teeth, it was such a challenge that his son refused to brush his teeth. This resulted in a traumatic couple of minutes for both parent and three-year-old — twice a day, every day.
CUTTING HIS TEETH
Desperate to find a way to turn this around, Clint started looking into solutions. At that time, he and his son shared a couple of favourite experiences: reading books and tickling each other. It occurred to Clint that if his son’s teeth giggled each time he brushed (or tickled) them, his approach to the routine might be very different. This sparked the first step in their journey to reframe the tooth brushing experience.
Armed with insights into the powers of reading and giggling, Clint wrote and illustrated a story about tooth brushing. He also put together a rudimentary prototype for a ‘giggling toothbrush’ to match — after all, what sound is better than a child’s laughter?! To his relief, the combination worked wonders. Overnight, Clint’s son went from avoiding having his teeth brushed to wanting to sit and read the book while he brushed his own teeth. Surely, this transformation could benefit other parents as well.
Clint brought his first prototype of the system to Locus; we were immediately excited by its potential. In our initial discovery, we set out to check the idea by looking at the market, the consumer base, the system itself, and potential future partners.
We came across other audio toothbrushes as well as other attempts to engage children in tooth brushing, but most of them involved software and screen time. None of them combined the power of reading and the love of giggles.
This unique combination helps reframe a negative experience into a positive one, without the use of screens and technology in the bathroom. We also realized that this winning combination could apply to more than just brushing teeth, alluding to a world of ticklish products.
GETTING OUR TEETH STUCK IN
We decided to put the system to the test with young families. We developed the basic principles of the system into a realistic looking and working prototype, complete with its own Ticklish brand identity to match.
It was important, for both user testing and downstream manufacturing, to get the brush to a looks-as, performs-like state. This meant working with our electronics experts early on to define the component layout and parameters, as well as designing the embodiment of the brush to perfectly fit kids’ hands. We aimed for a friendly, soft embodiment without looking like an electric toothbrush. The same friendly character is present in the Ticklish logo, based on a toothpaste-like logotype with a cheeky ‘T’ tickling the ‘h’. A fun and direct brand representation supported by bright colours and a friendly tone of voice match the storybook and the products’ intent.
“The team at Locus have deployed their collective expertise to breathe life into this project. Without their skills and knowledge, this project would still be floundering at the ‘another good idea’ stage — now, it’s on the verge of becoming a reality.”
— CLINT SULLIVAN, FOUNDER, TICKLISH TEETH
LET’S GET BRUSHING
The first round of user research focused on understanding the home environment. We dove into the kids’ world to refine the relationship between the device and the story in a real-life context. Using local families with kids raging 3 to 8 years old, we explored the dynamics of the morning struggle to “get out the door” vs the evening routine, which is often filled with “mischief and meltdowns”.
Here we discovered the power of routine and variants between families; tooth brushing is not always done in the bathroom! We also identified the need for the system to be resilient to the knocks and bumps that come along with a giggling child.
Once we understood family dynamics a bit better, their habits and their challenges, we used our developed prototypes for a round of testing. We gave our test families a Ticklish set to use for a week. Teeth got cleaner, giggles sounded all around, and the result was happier families and great insights into our developments.
BEYOND THE PROTOTYPE
With all the testing and improvements noted, we were able to move into the production phase. Through our network, we were able to secure a high-end production partner in China. This allowed us to focus on completing the device, while the book was further developed by Clint and his illustrator. We also created a packaging system that works with the book, allowing for the device to sell as a set or on its own. The brush box shows a huge smile among the FMCG sea of plastic-wrapped toothbrushes. It comes with a quick-start guide with friendly illustrations to promote proper use of the book and brush set. To complete the family of products, we designed a 3-pack of replaceable brush heads in the same recognizable style. The brush heads will come in different colours to mix things up. Over time, the Ticklish Toothbrush body will also come in different colourways.
With a view of taking the product to the world, we made steps to ensure worldwide compliance. We refined the electronics and tested for durability, waterproofing, and battery life; last but not least, we had to pick a giggle. Lucky for us, some of the team have some pretty cute kids that also love tickles and giggles. Much fun was had to get their voices onto a track and into the brush. Even after hundreds of tests, the sound still makes us smile.
Now that the full system is in production, Clint has set up a social media presence and website where you can download the e-book for free. He has also just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund production — add your pledge and grab yourself a book & brush set today!