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Stop, Breathe, and Think Kids app review

Stop, Breathe, and Think Kids (May 2017; iOS and Android), by the creators of the similarly titled adult meditation app, is intended for children ages five to ten. (An orientation video for adults demonstrates how to use the app with children and offers some tips for extending the activities.)

Tap “Find a Mission” to find a guided mindfulness activity for your current mood. Select up to three emotions from seven emoji-identified categories. Drop-down menus for each category offer four to five more nuanced emotions, each represented with its own image; for example, under the big-smile-emoji category are “great,” “proud,” “happy,” and “excited,” while the crying-emoji category includes “disappointed,” “sorry,” “hurt,” “lonely,” and “sad”). The combination of emotions you select generates a selection of three or four recommended “missions” which will “help create your very own force field of calm.” Alternatively, tap “See All Missions” to browse missions by category: “quiet,” “focus,” “caring & connecting,” “energizing,” “meltdown,” “open mind,” and “sleep.”

Each mission is brief — between two and seven minutes — and is comprised of expressive (but calming) narration, occasional gentle background music, and a simple animation. Some of the missions suggest closing your eyes during visualizations, but “it’s okay if you leave them open”; if you do, animations offer a calming focal point. Other missions lead you through mindful movement (such as breathing into your belly, moving a specific body part in response to a specific sound, even focusing in anticipation of a bell’s ringing and “frog-jumping” at the appropriate time) demonstrated by the characters in the animations. Many of the missions end with a reminder that you can practice the visualizations and/or movements on your own whenever you might need them.

One of the missions I explored was “Imaginary Hugs & Peaceful Place,” which invites you to visualize a peaceful place you’d like to visit with friends or family. This place may be from your daily life, your memory, or the imagination (“like the 100-Acre Wood from Winnie-the-Pooh“). The narrator leads you through imagining the sensory experience of your peaceful place. Next she invites you to envision first yourself and then a loved one hugging you and making a positive “wish for your day.” Ahhh. This meditation’s animation is a low-key, soothing one of a cat sleeping (complete with deep breathing and rhythmically curling tail) in a hidden clearing. During the “hug” portion of the meditation, a dog friend approaches the cat to hug it out.

While I’m not sure how amenable kids will be to using a meditation app during a “meltdown,” mindfulness activities are valuable for people of all ages, and this app provides an accessible, age-appropriate, useful, and friendly introduction for quite young children.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 10.1 or later); free, with additional premium content on the way. Recommended for primary and intermediate users.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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