Getting your child to brush their teeth is much like tasking them to do their homework, you soon feel like a non stop nag. But much like completing their school work, we know it's vitally important for children to practise good brushing habits from a young age.
Fortunately for them, the humble toothbrush has come a long way, as it's believed the Chinese invented the first natural bristle toothbrush back in the 1400s.
Forming a strong relationship with this lifelong task falls down to the brush in question, so it's certainly worth considering your choice. But what do you need to look for when buying your child a toothbrush? Well, like anything involving young ones, try to inject some fun into it.
We – alongside our two year old, four year old, and 11 year old helpers – hunted down toothbrushes that had child appeal, a smiling monkey or flashing light goes a long way in infant world, but by the very least, we were looking for fun bold colours to attract our mini brushers.
A product that is going to be used twice a day also needs to be durable, while being light enough to hold, and ergonomically designed to suit smaller hands, whether that's by an anti-slip grip or a special shaped handle.
Of course it's imperative it gives a good clean too, so we looked out for special features such as timers and different cleaning modes garnering squeaky clean points. We also searched for some eco-friendly alternatives that can help our planet along the way too.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Playbrush sonic smart
It's safe to say we've never heard our four year old tester request to brush her teeth again until testing out the Playbrush. And Playbrush does what it says on the tin; an interactive smart electric toothbrush that connects via Bluetooth to your phone or tablet, so kids, aged three years plus, can play fun games with their toothbrushing movements, collecting rewards and feedback along the way.
Not only is this smart tech a fun way to spend your two minute brush, it surprised us with how educational it is. Using a 3D model of a set of teeth, kids can interactively learn the correct brushing technique. At the end of each session, the 3D model shows where their teeth were brushed well or not so well with different colour shades, while the games will also indicate percentages on quadrant brushing. This sparked real interest with our tester, as she wanted to get better at brushing her teeth – getting a huge thumbs up from us.
The electric toothbrush itself is well designed too, the bristles are soft for child use, while the sonic swivel movements moves 17,000 times per minute giving thorough attention to the tooth in question (as you soon find out on the feedback), plus there are two cleaning modes (normal and sensitive) and a pressure sensor. In our opinion it could do with being a little lighter, but it's easy for children to grab on to with a rubberised grip.
While we love the product, we did find the pricing structure of the toothbrush a little complicated at first. To get the most out of it, sign up to a yearly subscription plan – that way you'll get six replacement brushes delivered, eight extra games (the free version allows four games), and additional brushing statistics, this costs £39.99 a year (plus the one off payment for the toothbrush), which we think is fairly priced.
Buy now £34.99, Playbrush
ISSA kids silicone sonic toothbrush, rose nose hippo
Can a child's toothbrush be beautiful? It turns out it can be when Swedish beauty brand Foreo is the brains behind it. The ISSA Kids electric toothbrush takes this twice-daily routine to new luxury heights. Made purely from silicone all you need to do is place this product in the palm of your hand to appreciate its beauty. But with beauty comes a whole lot of brawn and brain too; the super soft bristles and high-tech sonic pulsations and gentle micro-sweeping motions, work together to provide a much gentler, deeper and more thorough clean. Impressively this means it removes 30 per cent more plaque than manual toothbrushes. And the claims keep coming... it's the most hygienic toothbrush ever. A bold statement which is attributed to the silicone composition, repelling over 10,000 times more bacteria than toothbrushes with nylon bristles.
But how is it to use? A hit, according to our 11 year old tester, and this was demonstrated on how prompt she is to pick it up for two minutes each day, because if she doesn't the built-in faces light up the handle, and “glum” will show a sad face. This happens when it's used for less than two minutes, or when it's not been used in over 12 hours. “Glee” is the happy face when used regularly and for the correct time. The toothbrush also pulsates every 30 seconds to tell kids when it’s time to move to a new quadrant and you'll rarely have to worry about running out of battery. The ISSA boasts a whopping 265 time battery usage, and takes just an hour to charge.
Buy now £99.00, Foreo
Fairywill kids electric toothbrush
For less than £16 you're getting a whole lot of toothbrush with Fairywill's electric toothbrush for kids. Claiming to remove up to 100 per cent more plaque than a manual brush thanks to the whopping 38,000 strokes per minute this brush operates at; the most impressive of all those we tested. There's also three cleaning modes to choose from: clean, soft and massage – all of which give a gentle yet effective clean.
It's great for encouraging good cleaning habits too, as there's a two minute timer with interval pauses reminding every 30 seconds, which reminds children to move onto another quadrant. Our four year old tester loved the cute bunny ears which feature on the included toothbrush cover, you'll also get an extra toothbrush head too.
In terms of charge, we've been using it for two weeks now and it's still going strong and claims to last up to 21 days – it also boasts a speedy charge function using the provided USB cable, and a light will indicate when it needs charging. The bright design is appealing to young ones, while the anti-slip grip and lightweight design means it's easy for kids to hold. We were surprised how quiet the toothbrush is too.
Buy now £15.99, Amazon
Grabease double sided toothbrush
We praised Grabease's fabulous baby cutlery set for reimagining cutlery for the youngest of diners, and we're pleased to say the same can be said for its toothbrush. There's a sweet story behind this clever invention too. After the brand had created the utensils the entrepreneur worked with her daughter, Alma, to create a baby-friendly toothbrush. And that's exactly what they've done, you'll get a finger brush included which is for four months plus and the double sided toothbrush for when your baby hits six months.
The longer tapered brush head means your baby can reach most of the teeth at once, while the double sided soft bristles allows easy manoeuvring in the mouth. Much like the cutlery set, the clever flower shaped ring works as a choke prevention shield, for peace of mind.
Buy now £12.96, Amazon
Much like the electric offering, Playbrush impressed us again with its manual version – the original Playbrush smart. This effectively upgrades almost any manual toothbrush into a smart brush by simply adding the clever little base. A manual toothbrush is provided, but if your child is attached to their existing toothbrush you can use that.
Charge it up with the supplied micro-USB cable (this takes less than an hour), and connect through Bluetooth to your phone or tablet. We'd say this is probably slightly more suited to younger kids (suggested age is three plus) rather than the Smart Sonic as it's lightweight and the manual toothbrush provided has a built-in grip so it doesn't slip out of small hands. You'll also receive a handy phone holder which we kept in the bathroom (although didn't trust it enough to leave above the sink) so you don't need to hold the phone, or worse trust your child to.
The app is exactly the same as the Smart Sonic which we think is brilliant, you get access to four free games (you can upgrade to 12 by subscribing for £39.99 a year), plus the hugely impressive feedback.
Buy now £24.99, Playbrush
Punch and Judy kids natural bamboo toothbrushes
If 2021 sees you and your family on a green mission why not start with the essentials like a toothbrush? These new kids toothbrushes from Punch & Judy are made from bamboo which is not only organic, but a natural anti-microbial and biodegradable too. In this multipack you'll get four different colour heads, our four year old loved guessing what was coming up next (yellow, blue, green and red) as they're all individually packaged. While this felt like excess packaging it's all zero waste recyclable packaging.
The BPA-free bristles are soft and gentle on enamel and gums, while the small handle is a great size for smaller hands. If you're running low on paste, check out the brand’s fabulous selection of kids' toothpastes too.
Buy now £4.99, Amazon
The Brushies Brushie toothbrush and book set
Brushies is the brainchild of two mums – one a family dentist and the other a psychologist – who wanted make healthy habits fun for parents and their kids. And they've done just that. Brushies is the world's first finger puppet toothbrush, made to be easy and effective for use between four weeks and four years of age. Made from food-grade silicone, and free of BPA and phthalates, the silicone bristles means they are effective on plaque – but gentler on gums than typical nylon – which is particularly comforting for the youngest brushers.
Our two year old tester loved popping the puppet on her finger, and while of course we had to go over her work it's certainly a fun approach to what is usually a rather mundane task. The book also gives this task a narrative, finding out about the pesky sugar bugs and the Brushies’s mission, we found this engaged our toddler and made it much more about play than oral hygiene.
Buy now £16.00, Natural Baby Shower
Brush-baby BabySonic toothbrush
Electric toothbrushes are automatically more fun than manual brushing, well, we think so. And this seems to be the same for youngsters too. Brush-baby's BabySonic toothbrush is suitable from the first brush through to around three years old. You receive a brush head for babies (aged 0-18 months) and a slightly larger one for toddlers (18-36 months), this is a great indication for how much toothpaste is actually required as it's easy to overestimate with manuals.
Our toddler tester loved the gentle vibrations, and while at first the buzzing just seemed humorous she soon saw it as part of the process and would stick it in her mouth independently, leaving the trickier bits for adults. There's a handy two minute light timer, which also helps to light up the mouth so parent's can ensure they're getting all the teeth, plus it pulses every 30 seconds to give you an idea on timing.
It takes an AAA battery but you do get one included, it would be great to see a rechargeable option in the future. There's also a suction base so that it stands up to attention, which is great for keeping it hygienic.
Buy now £9.00, JoJo Maman Bébé
Jack n’ Jill bio toothbrush
A brand launched in Australia in 1949, Jack n' Jill care about the environment as much as they care about your children's teeth. The brand started out by designing a natural toothpaste that's safe for children to swallow, and now has a whole range for tiny teeth. With millions of disposable toothbrushes ending up in landfill each year, the team at Jack n' Jill invented a biodegradable toothbrush which is made of corn starch and takes just 90 days to decompose and as you would expect the packaging is plastic free too.
The bristles are extra soft and the handle is comfy for small hands to hold onto, in fact our two year old tester didn't want to let go of it. Suitable from baby's first tooth, roughly around six months upwards, you'll need to replace every couple of months – perfect excuse to keep to try out a new character, there's five in total. Once you're done, simply break off the head and recycle the nylon bristles with your plastic recycling, and pop the brush in the compost.
Buy now £4.00, Kidly
The verdict: Kids' toothbrushes
We can't deny the clever technology that Playbrush's toothbrushes boast, the brand really have found a way to make brushing your teeth fun with its smart sonic toothbrush.