Somewhere, a frustrated parent standing by the bathroom sink with a stone-faced toddler is musing: "Wouldn’t it be easier to teach kids about boring stuff like safety and hygiene if they just made a video game out of it?" Thankfully, the tech world has come to the rescue. Though the majority of educational toys focus on reading, writing and arithmetic, there are plenty of gizmos out there that can make forming good habits fun.
Having trouble training the little ones to wash their hands after a trip to the bathroom or before meals? Try the preschooler’s chief weakness: Fun songs and flashing lights. SoapTime consists of a base and a set of three accompanying soap bottles (earth, elephant and ABC-themed). Plug one in, and the base will recognize it, playing a set of songs and factoids as well as a pulsing LED light show. Each time you pump (up to 2,500 times on a set of AAA batteries) the unit will spring to life for 20 seconds — the amount of time experts recommend scrubbing your hands at the sink. A SoapTime set, including a base and three soap bottles, is $16.97 US, while a refill set of soaps is $10.47 US at mysoaptime.com.
Kids will put anything in their mouths — and you never know where that toothbrush might have gone when your back is turned. Help your kids shield their teeth from the evils of bacteria with a UV sanitizer from Violight — we like this super-tough ninja, and it’s available in 10 different designs. The battery-run device takes six minutes to sanitize any toothbrush or toothbrush head, at which point it automatically shuts off. According to the makers, it’s proven to kill H1N1, staph, E. coli and listeria, among other bacteria. Hi-ya! Grab one for $24.95 US at violight.com.
White plastic safety outlet covers are available just about anywhere, but where’s the fun in that? The Ouchlet outlet cover keeps kids from contact with exposed wall sockets, while instilling the correlation between "ouchies" and "messing with electricity" early in life. Get a set of four for $6 US at fredflare.com.
If you want to get really intense about your kids’ (or your own) dental hygiene habits, pick up a toothbrush that does all of the clock-watching for you. Beam Brush has the distinction of being the world’s first "smart toothbrush," and comes with an accompanying app that syncs up automatically to make sure you’re getting your requisite two minutes per brushing session. If your little one needs that extra motivation, you can even earn milestones for things like brushing twice a day for two weeks, or brushing for two hours over 30 days. This gadget is still in the crowd-funding stages — a $35 donation at indiegogo.com will get you a Beam Brush of your very own, or you can just get the app for free at beamtoothbrush.com.
So your child is old enough to have basic safety and hygiene down. No matter — there are still educational toys and gadgets aimed at older kids. Eco-minded parents looking to instill some knowledge about sustainability in the preteen set may want to check out the Power House. This kit allows kids to build a model home, complete with solar panels, a windmill and a mini greenhouse, among 20 other devices, following the story of a group of settlers on an island who must learn to live sustainably off the land. It’s proof that learning can be an adventure, no matter how old you get. The Power House is $199.95 at ape2zebra.ca.