a child calmly meditates alone in his bedroom

Tech & Media

7 Self-Regulating Apps For Kids That Teach Mindfulness Techniques

Feb 27, 2018

What do you do when your kid is anxious, tired, stressed out or about to blow a gasket? Do we help them monitor and regulate their emotions and therefore their behaviours?

We sure do, because little kids have a whole lot of emotions to figure out, and exploring confusing feelings in dynamic and often complex environments at school and at home isn’t easy.

While developing emotional intelligence (EQ) and social and emotional learning (SEL) is not a unique challenge to this generation of kids, awareness and resources for parents and teachers alike have been growing in steady popularity. Mindfulness, as you've probably noticed, is all the rage right now, because the appeal for practicing relaxation and meditation techniques has become a necessity for many. And it's a buzzword that deserves the hype.

But don’t just take my word for it! As Benedictine Monk shared with CBC’s Tapestry, “It's a little amusing that you reduce something as profound, as universal as meditation just to a way of reducing stress, improving your cholesterol, boosting your immune system, or improving your blood pressure. We focus more on the spiritual fruits of practicing meditation ... which you could describe as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, self-control ... when you feel that those qualities are developing within you ... this is something of greatest significance to your humanity."

So...What is Self-Regulation?

In a nutshell? It’s where EQ and SEL meet mindfulness. This kind of mental training is vital for kids to help them develop self-awareness and how to deal with difficult feelings confidently, without fear of being judged.

Why Use an App?

Well, why not? In today’s fast-paced, digital world, kids are using apps to learn at school and tapping into online learning on all sorts of platforms. I’m of the opinion that in moderation, the digital and technological advances of our time can serve parents well who aren’t experts on everything. Apps can help kids learn about their complex feelings and identify what they look like. They also introduce activities kids can try to self-soothe and calm down, but they also promote asking for help, too. Lastly, they are an excellent resource for children to learn healthy ways to express themselves and decompress. 

What’s the big deal about learning about feelings?

As we know, our emotions feed our brains information about what we’re experiencing and those feelings help us know how to react. But, as we also know, we don’t always act in the kindest, calmest, empathetic or compassionate way. Beginning this learning journey early on with kids will only serve them to be more prepared as they get older, moving into their teen and young adult years. I know that when I’m aware of my own emotions, I can be more aware of how others are feeling around me, which is equally as important. And this is something I try to teach my kids, too. As parents, we know that relationships at home, work or school require emotional and social fortitude, critical thinking and the clarity to resolve conflicts.

Ultimately, I want to do everything I can to help my kids learn to cope with change, and to understand their sensory needs and emotions. I always want to help move them away from black and white thinking. Anxiety can creep in anytime, anywhere, and while teaching them how to dig into a pint of salted caramel ice cream may have its benefits, so will harnessing some of these resources to help them understand their emotions, think outside the box and cope with changes in their sensory needs when anxiety and stress start to creep in.

1. Avokiddo Emotions

Kids can dress-up and play with beautifully illustrated animals that have quirky personalities, discovering the emotions to match.

Available for: iOS | Android  
Price: $3.99
Rated: 4+

2. Headspace

While this app features guided meditations for all ages, creators incorporated a kid space because meditation can help kids focus on being kids. This freedom allows kids to develop their focusing skills and self-awareness, while relieving anxieties and reducing stress. With short, animated instructional videos, kids can choose from short guided and unguided sessions (3-minutes long) categorized by types of feelings. Older kids (5 and up) may want to visit the sections outside the kids area. I know mine do!

Available for: iOS | Android | Web 
Price: Free, with in-app purchases
Rated: Various age categories

3. Emotions Bundle - I Can Do

Choose them all: Emotions, Emotions 2, Emotion Flashcards and Baby Emotions. This collection of apps is designed to help kids understand and identify a wide variety of feelings through real facial expression imagery.

Available for: iOS
Price: $9.99
Rated: 2+

4. Calm

I would designate this as a family app, which makes subscription more feasible and reasonable. With something for all ages, the whole family can tap into various guided or unguided meditations from various categories. I use the "Sleep" (at night, obviously) and "Music" (during work to help me focus) sections most often. My kids love the sleep stories, too, and while they have a great kids section, they both love all of the fiction, nonfiction and ASMR sleep stories. They’re a bit older though, so younger ones may prefer to stick to their area. Meditation can change how anyone’s body responds to stress, including kids.

Available for: iOS | Android
Price: Free, with in-app purchases
Rated: All ages

5. Daniel Tiger's Grr-ific Feelings

Kids can sing, play and learn about a wide range of feelings with Daniel Tiger, the admittedly adorable tiger that’s all the rage with toddlers. Daniel Tiger's Neighbourhood is also a spinoff of Mister Roger’s Neighbourhood, which, for parent’s of my generation, should be all you need to know! Sweet and charming, kids can discover how to describe and name their emotions through easy-to-remember songs, a photobooth, a trolley board game and art-making (stickers! colouring!) features.

Available for: Android
Price: $3.79
Rated: 4+

6. Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame

Through interactive mini games, your little ones can help a monster learn to breathe, solve problems and feel better. The "Breathe with Monster" feature teaches kids to take deep breaths to calm down, too. 

Available for: iOS | Android
Price: Free, with in-app purchases
Rated: All ages

7. Stop, Breathe & Think Kids

Another option for guided meditations. Stop, Breathe & Think allows you to choose how you're feeling, and then the app provides you with a relevant meditation. It also allows students to track their progress with graphs that show trends in their emotional state. It's a fun and easy way to identify and process emotions. From counting breaths to friendly wishes or frog jumps, each activity brings fun rewards to keep little ones engaged.

Available for: iOS | AndroidWeb
Price: Free, with in-app purchases
Rated: 4+

Article Author Selena Mills
Selena Mills

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A multidisciplinary creative professional and artisan, Selena has over 10 years of experience writing and editing for acclaimed publications, B2B content creation, social management, brand building, design and VA services. Passionate about elevating Indigenous and FNMI stories, perspectives and voices in digital media, she strives to build bridges renegade style. When the chaos permits, Selena is an avid four-seasons permaculture gardener and a hobby “chef” who looks for other parents to revel (and or kvetch) in motherhood with. Clearly, she doesn’t like rules, most visionaries don’t.