Teaching your children good daily habits and to understand the tricky concept of time can be tough but help is at hand. Octopus, an icon-based watch, has three key functions. First, the watch teaches children to tell the time using both analog and digital faces. Second, it’s a scheduler that parents can program — via a smartphone's Bluetooth — with pop-up icons to remind their offspring when it’s time to clean their teeth, go to sports practice or feed the cat. And third, Octopus is an assistant that stores notes and reminders for both children and parents. The gadget, designed by French start-up Joy, is aimed at kids ages 3 and 8 and comes with a gamification feature, which rewards progress with special badges. Sam Hickmann, Joy’s co-founder & CEO, explains how his own children inspired him to create Octopus

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What’s the story behind Octopus?

My wife and I work a lot and we have a hard time disconnecting from our job, even at home. Our two kids have a lot of activities besides school, plus they are constantly exposed to a lot of distractions such as TV, computers, tablets… Consequently, we were having a hard time spending quality time together. Sometimes our children didn’t want to cooperate: they didn’t want to dress up, to help clear the dining table – and so, depending on the day, either we were stressed and it would end in power struggles or we were exhausted and we would give up. And sometimes they would simply forget to do things like to brush their teeth or to feed their fish. After having tried everything to maintain routines in our family, we ended up building a prototype of Octopus and it made such a difference to our lives. All the power struggles over chores were gone. They were super proud of themselves to say, “Hey Daddy, look, I brushed my teeth without you telling me!” This device really empowers our kids actually. It helps them to be more organized, independent and focused; it fosters responsibility and self-esteem.

How does Octopus work?

We wanted a watch that is really simple to use and to setup. Parents program reminders directly onto their smartphone, which is synchronized via Bluetooth, while all the information is stored on the memory of the watch. Then, visual reminders pop-up on the watch screen and it vibrates. The watch can store more than 500 icons or tasks. Each reminder can have additional attributes, like the kid needs to press the button to acknowledge the fact that he completed the task for instance. There is also an optional gamification module for positive reinforcement.

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Why do you compare Octopus to training wheels?

Remember when you were a kid, when your dad taught you how to ride a bike? First he explained to you how cool it is, then he gave you some tips, before installing training wheels on your bike, so that you could train without the fear of falling down. And one day, you knew you were ready; there was no need for training wheels anymore. We love to think that Octopus is the training wheels for good habits. It’s here to help children learn good habits. Once the good habit (brushing the teeth, for instance) is assimilated, parents can remove the reminder and move to another task they want their child to acquire.

Why do families need Octopus?

We have a very good testimonial to answer this question: Justina, a mother of a 4-year-old, said: “This product is life changing for my son. I love the level of ownership and responsibility the Octopus enables a child to have over their routine. This keeps my son on track with his daily schedule, creates a level of predictability that allows him to better function at home and school, and improves self-sufficiency.” On our side, we’d say that families need Octopus because it fosters responsibility, independence and self-esteem in the child. While it helps parents to prioritize their expectations and stay consistent with daily routines and overall, it helps families to live in harmony, thanks to technology. No more stress, no more power struggles, only quality family time!

What kind of habits do you want to spread among kids? 

Fifty years of psychology research have proven that kids are happier, more successful and healthier when there are daily routines in their family. But to be efficient, you need consistency and persistency. With Octopus we want to help the children to be more organized and on schedule. Success starts with good habits! And actually, during our testing phase (and you can check this in the comments of our Kickstarter page by the way) we discovered that Octopus can be very beneficial for kids with special needs (autistic kids, ADHD, etc.) and that really pumped us up even more.

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Is this device totally safe for children and for their personal data?

Yes and yes! On the hardware side, we use only quality materials so that even children with allergies or with sensory issues can wear it. It’s robust, water resistant and we’ll even offer different straps to please every one. And on the software side, we never store, share or send personal information about the kids nor the parents. My co-founder Omar quit his job at LinkedIn to join this adventure. He was in charge of the security at LinkedIn and Slideshare, so we can assure you that when he encrypts the data, it’s safe.

—Daniel Casillas