sisterswithtabletAs parents, every week brings new reminders that our kids are still learning how to manage big feelings and social dynamics: public tantrums, private meltdowns, bedtime struggles, mealtime battles, separation anxiety, school fears, sibling rivalry and friendship dramas.

We’ve all been there, managing the moment and then searching for tools to support kids’ social-emotional growth: strategies that will help them understand their emotions, develop self-control, build empathy, and practice problem-solving.

One of these tools can be high-quality media, including educational apps. As Sara DeWitt, Vice President of PBS KIDS Digital, writes, “educational media can be a powerful tool for helping our children learn — and parents play an important part . . . Research shows us that watching, playing, and engaging with our children through educational media helps them learn.”

For example, I keep the Daniel Tiger for Parents app on my phone. It lets me scroll through the strategy songs from the show and keep my own “favorites” list,” a  list that currently includes “Morning Routine,” “Calming Down,” “Clean Up Routine,” and “Feeling Mad.” The lyrics are usually one line long — simple messages that my three-year-old can remember and apply. Recently, this song has gotten a lot of play and practice in our house: “When you feel so mad that you want to ROAR, take a deep breath and count to four: 1, 2, 3, 4.”

PBS KIDS and Sesame Workshop have designed several apps that support children’s social and emotional skills and offer helpful tips and advice for parents. Here are a few worth exploring.

Daniel Tiger for Parents
This handy app empowers parents and caregivers with strategy songs, helpful tips, and videos from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Is your child learning about sharing? Struggling with trying a new food? Working on what to do with mad feelings? Daniel Tiger for Parents has a song for that –  and many other scenarios. Available through iTunes, Google Play, and Windows Phone Store: Free.

Daniel Tiger’s Storybooks
The app offers a growing library of interactive stories narrated by Daniel Tiger that show Daniel learning little life lessons, such as sharing with friends and being a helper. Each book is available in both English and Spanish and includes a song, animations, and a simple game to encourage children to engage in pretend play.  Available through iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon: $2.99.

Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings
With this Daniel Tiger app, children can learn more about the feelings we all share. It features more than a dozen games about feelings, 18 animated Daniel Tiger songs for sing-along, a drawing easel for creative expression, and a “feelings photo booth.”  Available through iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon: $2.99.

Daniel Tiger’s Stop & Go Potty
Daniel Tiger and his friend Katerina Kittycat are like a lot of young children: they don’t always want to stop playing when they have to go to the bathroom. It can be hard to stop when they’re having so much fun. This app helps children practice self-regulation: stopping their play when they have to go potty and following important bathroom routines.  Available through iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon: $2.99.

Cookie Monster’s Challenge
Cookie Monster’s Challenge offers 10 brain-building games that are designed to help children practice and strengthen their self-control, focus, working memory and problem solving. Each game has 12 increasingly-challenging levels to keep children engaged and motivated. Available through iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon: $2.99.

Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame
This app asks children to help a Sesame Street monster friend calm down and solve everyday challenges. Kids learn about Sesame’s “Breathe, Think, Do” strategy for problem-solving, hear emotional vocabulary, and practice a calm breathing technique. The app is part of Sesame Street’s Little Children, Big Challenges initiative, which provides tools to help children build resilience and cope with stressful situations. You can access other Sesame Street resilience materials online, at  Available through iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon: Free.

Arthur’s Big App
In Arthur’s Big App, kids can join Arthur, Buster, Francine, and Muffy in a series of mini-games set all around Elwood City. Designed for children ages 6-8, these games focus on pro-social skills and friendship as they explore Arthur’s world.  Available through iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon: $0.99.

Wild Kratts Baby Buddies
If your child wants to learn more about taking care of animals, the Wild Kratts Baby Buddies app is a great place to start. This app lets kids learn about animal science while they feed, wash and protect a baby elephant, cheetah, crocodile, zebra and aardvark –  and learning how to care for others helps kids develop empathy.  Available through iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon: $1.99.

Additional Resources from PBS KIDS

  • To explore all of the apps available from PBS KIDS, click here.
  • PBS KIDS has also created hundreds of free online games to help kids learn and grow. You can browse them by topic or program.
  • Click here to watch video clips from your favorite PBS KIDS programs and to explore new shows.
  • If you are looking for more ways to support your child’s social, emotional, and character development, check out our new Child Development Tracker. In addition to helpful parenting tips, we offer an Activity Finder that will link you to videos, games, and apps.
About Deborah Farmer Kris

Deborah Farmer Kris spent several years as a K-12 educator and as an associate at Boston University’s Center for Character and Social Responsibility. She is a regular contributor for MindShift and the mother of two young children. You can follow her on Twitter @dfkris.

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