Welcome to Small Humans, an ongoing series at Mashable that looks at how to take care of – and deal with – the kids in your life. Because Dr. Spock is nice and all, but it’s 2018 and we have the entire internet to contend with.
Millions of people around the world can attest to the positive effects of mindfulness on their mental health and well-being. Take reduced stress levels, improved concentration and organization, and a greater ability to control emotions and experience compassion and empathy, just for starters.
These are all things we want for our kids, right? And it’s easier than ever, thanks to the range of digital tools right at our fingertips. One of these apps could be the perfect way to introduce your child to a world of calm, mindfulness and emotional maturity.
1. Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame
is a great introduction to mindfulness for younger grade-schoolers. With the help of a cute monster, kids learn calming breathing techniques to help them cope with potentially frustrating or distressing situations: putting on shoes, saying goodbye to parents, fixing a block tower, waiting in line and going to sleep in the dark. Each scenario can be revisited, depending on your child’s particular struggles, and there’s also a parents’ section packed with tips and strategies. The app also has a Spanish-language setting.
2. Calm Kids
, which was named Apple App of the Year 2017 and Google Play Editor’s Choice 2018, ranks as one of the top mindfulness and wellness apps for adults but it also has a great section for children, Calm Kids. It provides mindfulness exercises, relaxation activities and “Sleep Stories” for kids of all ages, which are updated every week. The app or desktop version has a 7-day free trial; after that it’s $59.99 a year.
is aimed at kids age 8 and over, with its programs most suitable for kids who struggle with self-confidence, anxiety or settling down at bedtime. Strategies include a “rainbow body-scan,” “schoolwork mastery meditation” and confidence affirmations, and there are also a wide range of relaxing, ambient background sounds to help send your little one to sleep. The app is free, but the guided meditations are $3.99 each.
4. Headspace for Kids
is structured around five themes: Calm, Focus, Kindness, Sleep and Wake Up. Each one has programs for three age groups (5 and under, 6-8 and 9-12) based on breathing exercises, visualizations and focus-based meditation. The quirky cartoons help to engage kids, with the soothing voice of Headspace co-founder and former monk, Andy Puddicombe, offering guidance throughout. A subscription costs $12.99 monthly or $94.99 a year.
5. Calm Counter
is a simple but effective app, designed as a visual and audio tool to help children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders to calm down when they’re anxious or angry. The app’s opening screen reads “I need a break” and then switches to a red screen with an angry face and the number 10. With each tap of the screen, it changes color and the face becomes calmer, prompting the child to count backwards from 10, followed by a deep breath. It costs ￡2.99.
6. Stop, Breathe & Think Kids
, developed in collaboration with activity-based mindfulness expert Susan Kaiser Greenland, is most suitable for ages 5-10. This app helps kids recognize and understand their emotions through a wide range of activities, from friendly wishes to frog jumps, with each activity offering reward stickers. The app has a free tier, and a premium subscription option for $9.99 a month or $58.99 a year.
7. Calm Child
, created by child psychologist Dr. Eugenia Steingold, consists of stories designed to be “emotional metaphors for mediations.” Every story is written for a specific fear, anxiety or emotion, such as anger, jealousy, being teased or a fear of something bad happening, and is read by a child to improve engagement and empowerment. As your child listens to the story, they learn to focus on their breath as part of the story. The app is free but the stories are $0.99 each.
8. Mindful Powers
is designed to introduce grade-schoolers to mindfulness by leading kids through a series of interlinking stories. A cute sea creature called a “Flibbertigibbet” helps kids stay focused and encourages them to calm their thoughts and be more mindful in their actions through breathing exercises. The childlike quality of this app makes it particularly appealing for younger users. The app and the first three lessons are free.
9. The Zones of Regulation
, winner of the Mom’s Choice Award, is geared toward elementary and secondary age kids. It teaches strategies for managing emotions based on a cognitive behavioral approach and utilizes four colored zones, each representing a different emotion. Activities are designed to help students recognize when (and why) they are in different zones and learn how to get back to the right zone. It costs $5.99
10. Smiling Mind
has programs for kids of all ages, but there are so many options younger kids may need some help to use it. In fact, many of the activities for younger kids speak directly to the parent and include activities, like close hugging, that require parental involvement. As well as breathing meditations and sensory exercises, such as listening to music, the app tracks when kids meditate. The app, built by a non-profit, is free.