Best wellbeing apps for kids

Best wellbeing apps for kids
With mental health issues on the rise amongst children, try these apps to help your child achieve inner calm.

Best for developing self-awareness

Me: A Kid’s Diary by Tinybop, £2.99, Apple

This interactive app will inspire your child to learn more about themselves and the people around them. It’s designed to build self-awareness, self-confidence, empathy and kindness through a range of different journaling techniques.

Children start by creating their own avatar, personalising it with their skin colour, hairstyle, eye colour, and so on. They then click the thought cloud, which unleashes a new question or prompt to encourage them to think about who they are and what makes them tick.

Prompts include: ‘this is my favourite place to hide,’ ‘this is my favourite book,’ ‘this is what I really want for my birthday,’ and ‘this is what my family will look like when I grow up.’ They can record their answers in a whole host of different ways, including drawings, photos, text, animations and voice recordings.

These are all stored on a ‘map’ of who they are, and they can click each pinpoint to read or edit their previous answers. There are hundreds of questions in all, allowing your child to build a fully interactive profile and grow in their sense of identity.

Best for bedtime relaxation

Sleep Meditations for Kids, free, Apple and Android

If you have an anxious child who finds it hard to drop off at night, this meditation app is well worth trying. Designed by a yoga and Montessori teacher, it’s aimed at children aged 12 and under and can help with sleep issues, insomnia, stress and anxiety, as well as promoting feelings of wellbeing.

The free 13-minute meditation begins by encouraging your child to imagine their worries floating up into a big balloon then drifting away. It then progresses through a number of relaxing story settings, before guiding your child to relax each part of their body in turn. Subtle sound effects and gentle music add to the sense of calm.

There are also several other meditations available to download for £2.99 each, including Bedtime Meditations for Kids, Enchanted Meditations for Kids, and Mermaids and Fairy Dust.

Best for tweens and teens

For Me, free, Apple

Developed with Childline by teenagers, For Me is aimed at children and young people aged up to 19, helping them access advice and support on a huge selection of mental health and wellbeing issues.

It brings together numerous self-help articles and videos on subjects ranging from body issues, exam stress, emotions, school life and relationships to bullying, mental health issues and self-harm. There are also message boards where children can talk to others about what’s on their mind. They can track their mood each day, and the reason for it, to receive tailored content that’s relevant to how they’re feeling.

The password-protected Locker Room is a safe area for children to save bookmarked articles, track their mood, write in their journal and store artwork created in the Art Box section.

If they need more support, the app will connect them to a Childline counsellor who will provide a listening ear by phone, email or one-to-one chat. Online conversations are, again, saved in the Locker Room so your child can come back to them as needed.

Best for finding out how your child is feeling

The Worrinots, £1.29 per month or £9.99 per year, Apple and Android

The Worrinots are four friendly monsters who help your child deal with their worries. If there’s something on their mind, they tap the ‘what’s up?’ bubble, and are invited to choose one of the monsters to help them.

They can then type or speak their problem, click on how it makes them feel – sad, worried, scared or angry – and tap to make the fear disappear. A message from their chosen Worrinot appears in their inbox, explaining how it has dealt with your child’s worries by stomping on them, ripping them up, jumping around or eating them.

There’s also a Worri-tips section where your child can read advice on coping with issues like anxiety, bedwetting and families.

The really clever feature is the companion parent app, Wotnot. This has to be downloaded to a separate device and enables you to see what your child has told their Worrinots, so you can keep track of how they’re feeling. You can also reply to their messages as a Worrinots character, so you can give them advice without them realising it’s you.

Best for building resilience through play

FOCUS On The Go!, free, Apple and Android

FOCUS stands for Families Overcoming Under Stress, and this app aims to teach resilience – a key part of mental wellbeing – to every member of the family. It helps your child develop five essential skills: problem-solving, goal-setting, communication, emotional regulation, and managing trauma and stress.

The Play section is where your child is likely to spend most of their time, with three different games, including Bear Necessities, where your child has to build a track to roll a ball from top to bottom of the screen, testing their problem-solving ability and perseverance, and Feeling Finder, where they have to find emotion words in a wordsearch and then rate them on a scale from positive to negative.

The Comic Creator function, where your child can build cartoon strips involving their own characters and storylines, will help them share their ideas and feelings.

There’s an extensive Resources section, with useful tools such as Feeling Foxes (expressive cartoon foxes with feeling words that help children name their emotions) and deep breathing and meditation exercises to work through with your child, along with videos and articles on subjects such as how to hold a family meeting.

The Resilience Surveys, which can be taken by you, your child, or the whole family, are also helpful in showing how you’re getting on with building resilience.

Best for EYFS and KS1

Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame Street, free, Apple and Android

Even young children aged two to five can become more aware of their own emotions. Breathe, Think, Do features your child’s favourite Sesame Street characters to help teach them skills such as problem-solving, self-control, planning and perseverance.

The colourful app shows a monster facing various everyday challenges, from battling with the frustration of trying to tie its shoelaces to feeling wobbly on its first day of school. In each scenario, your child has to help the monster breathe to calm down (by tapping on its belly), think of a plan (by popping thought bubbles: in itself a very soothing exercise) and then do it (by choosing which of three plans to put into action).

Once the monster is calm and has solved the problem, there’s a cheerful animation for your child to watch.

Parents will appreciate the helpful resources area, with information on handling issues from sibling rivalry to separation and divorce, and a guided breathing exercise to practise with their children.

Best for positive thinking

Three Good Things, free, Apple

Evidence suggests that if you write three good things down every day, your happiness and positivity increase. This simple little app is a great way for your child to record what they’re grateful for.

Each day, the app prompts them to think about what went well, with three boxes to type their comments in. They can add them all at once at the end of the day, or as they happen. They get to level up for recording their thoughts on streaks of consecutive days, and can look back at their history to remind themselves of the things they’re thankful for.

Over time, the app will train your child to look for things to appreciate and make the practice of gratitude a habit.

Best for KS2

Mindful Powers, £4.99, Apple

Overflowing with cuteness, Mindful Powers is a fantastic app for teaching your child to practise mindfulness. They own a loveable little creature called a Flibbertigibbet, who coaches them through the various guided meditations.

Before each task, your child has to soothe their Flibbertigibbet by spending a couple of minutes smoothing it with their finger. This repetitive sensory movement triggers the body’s rest and digest response, helping your child relax and focus; if they stop, the Flibbertigibbet makes their device vibrate until they carry on.

It then leads into a guided meditation, with an appealing, child-narrated voiceover and calming music. There are various different exercises to choose from, including Big Breaths, Head to Toe and 5 Powerful Senses; the first three are free, but you’ll need to pay to access the full suite. Your child earns rewards for their Flibbertigibbet for each exercise they complete.

A particularly nice feature is that the first two activities explain exactly what mindfulness is and why it helps, in appealing child-friendly terms: for example, likening the stress response to a pack of angry dogs. This makes it ideal for KS2 kids, who’ll be interested in the science aspect.

Best for practising mindfulness

Headspace for Kids, £9.99 per month, £74.99 per year, or £399.99 lifetime, Apple and Android

Headspace is one of the UK’s best known mindfulness apps for adults, and it has plenty to offer children, too. The theory is that teaching them meditation at an early age sets them up for life.

You can select guided mindfulness activities according to your child’s age: under five, 6-8 or 9-12. You’re then given a range of categories to choose from: Appreciation, Balance, Happiness, Sleep, Calm, Kindness, Paying Attention, and Wake Up.

The activities use examples and objects that are appropriate to your child’s age. For example, one meditation involves visualising a balloon tied to each limb and floating gently into the air; another uses their favourite toy as a prop, balanced on their stomach to help them focus on their breathing.

Meditations are short for younger children – as little as one minute – to reflect their limited attention span, and increase in length as they get older. They’re voiced by ‘Andy,’ who has a clear, no-nonsense manner that’ll help children understand what they need to do.

Your subscription also includes access to the full range of meditations for adults, so you can reap the benefits, too.

Best for teaching coping mechanisms

Powerme, free, Apple and Android

This app aims to teach children coping mechanisms that they can put into practise in everyday life, through a series of bitesize videos.

Each day, your child can choose how they’re feeling by selecting the most relevant rabbit emoji, from a range including angry, bored, stressed, tired, silly and weird. Powerme will then present them with a series of videos that aim to address their current state of mind.

The videos cover various different coping mechanisms, including physical activity (e.g. punching out their anger), meditation, breathing, visualisations and yoga poses that will help your child switch from stress to relaxation mode. The activities are designed to appeal to kids: for example, one breathing exercise involves them pretending to blow the house down. And as they’re no more than 30 seconds long, your child’s attention shouldn’t start to wander.

The voiceovers are clear without being patronising, and there’s an amusing dancing rabbit animation after each video. Once your child has watched a video, they can rate their feelings again, and if there’s still scope for their mood to improve, the app will suggest more clips for them to watch. You’ll also get a weekly report about your child’s emotions.