Apps and Sites for Creating Healthy Habits | Mix It Up

The following list contains a variety of options for the discerning tween who may be dabbling in money management for the first time or discovering how to make more informed food choices.

Ah, that elusive age range known as “tweens.” Not quite kids, and certainly not yet teens, tweens are at a delightfully exploratory age that is the perfect intersection of wonderment, growth, and development. Defined as children between the ages of eight and 12, tweens are pushing boundaries and earning more responsibility, but they still often need teacher/librarian and parental guidance when it comes to making smart media and app choices.

The following list contains a variety of options for the discerning tween who may be dabbling in money management for the first time or discovering how to make more informed food choices (Cheetos can’t be part of every meal, after all). There are apps that encourage mindfulness and ones that can assist with academic support. Most of the recommendations are free or available at a low price point.

 

Start Here

10 Cool Meditations for Pre-Teens and Teens

This article from DoYouYoga offers 10 concrete activities for practicing mindfulness. With options ranging from counting meditation to breathing meditation to “silent walking,” tweens and their caregivers (and librarians) can stockpile this little store of activities. Author Gopala Amir-Yaffe closes the article by stating that meditation is not for all tweens and teens, especially those who have been through trauma.
 

Health and Wellbeing

Headspace: Meditation (iOS and Android)
Free, with in-app purchases | Ages 10+
Gaining responsibility can be stressful. Tweens may benefit from meditation, which can support and strengthen healthy coping mechanisms during stress-laden times. Headspace’s free offerings include 10 lessons rooted in the “basics” of meditation. Additional packs (available with purchase) revolve around issues such as sleep, self-esteem, acceptance, change, stress, anxiety, and balance, among others. There is even a student-specific set of sessions: Distraction and Leaving Home (the latter of which would be suited best for older teens). Monthly access is $12.99, annual $94.99, and lifetime is $399.99. Stick with the free offerings for a while before exploring the paid options.
 

Three Good Things (iOS)
Free | Ages 10+
This very simple journaling app allows users to record “three good things” that happen to them each day. Practicing gratitude helps people cope better with stress, and helps to focus on the positive rather than the negative. And let’s face it: the tween years can be pretty stressful, and finding three good things, no matter how small, can help turn the day around and put things in perspective. While this is only iOS compatible, a similar app, Delightful, is available on Android.

 

Gulps (iOS)
Free | Ages 8+
Healthy habits should start early, and drinking water should be an easy task to master. Studies show that tweens should drink 1.5 liters of water per day (or seven eight-ounce glasses of water), and this simple app helps support that goal. Gulps sends push notification reminders to drink water every two hours, between a start and end time set by the user. Every time a drink is recorded, the water drop fills up, so tweens can see their progress. A calendar page allows for viewing monthly progress. Water tracking apps abound, but Gulps lacks the gimmicks that similar apps rely on.

 

Sworkit Kids (iOs and Android)
Free | Ages 8+
This workout app aimed at kids is filled with age-appropriate exercise routines that are fun and customizable. Users choose workouts from the categories of Strength, Agility, and Flexibility & Balance. They can also create a custom workout blending these categories. Choose a time range (from five minutes to an hour), and get ready to sweat. Exercises are demonstrated by a variety of real kids, and the moves are easy to follow. An excellent boredom-buster, and a way to get and keep tweens moving.

 

Organization & Finances

Ernit (iOS and Android)
Free | Ages 8+
When it comes to financial literacy in a largely cashless world, Ernit strives to subscribe monetary values to actions, and it largely succeeds. Chore trackers are in abundant supply in both the iOS and Android app stores. But it’s the customizable functions that set Ernit apart from other allowance apps. Parents set “tasks” for children to complete, and children can in turn request chores. Tasks can be assigned to be completed once, or repeated on any day of the week. Once a task is completed, parents give virtual money to their child, or withdraw money from the child if a task isn’t completed to satisfaction. A list of preset tasks is provided (e.g., “set the table,” “empty the dishwasher”), and parents may also create their own. Ernit’s interface is whimsical and somewhat gamelike, but also sophisticated enough to feel serious.

Chore Check (iOs )
Free | Ages 10+
For families that are ready to transition to a more advanced chore/allowance tracking app, Chore Check fits the bill. The app can be used by the whole family as a way to assign chores, check for their completion, and give an allowance after each job is completed. Grown-ups sign up and add their children, stipulating percentages of money to be spent, saved, and donated. Specific chores can be assigned to each child and allotted a dollar amount. Ambitious kids can steal a chore from their siblings (if the adult enables this function). Children check off completed chores, and adults validate. The free version does not include attaching bank accounts for the actual transfer of money, but keeps track of the money earned. If you choose to join Chore Check Pay in order to transfer money directly into bank accounts, there is a $9 per month fee.

 

Academics and (Somewhat) Scholarly Choices

Epic! (iOS and Android)
$7.99/month, with free options | Ages 2–12
Many parents and educators may already be familiar with Epic!, as some school districts around the U.S. offer free subscriptions to their students. Essentially, Epic! is a massive ­ebook and digital video library for children aimed at preschool and early elementary aged students. The offerings are robust, and it includes data on how much time a user spends reading, how many “pages” they’ve turned, and also tracks the number of books a user has finished. Without a gratis school subscription, it’ll run parents $7.99/month but the first month is free. It’s worth trying, especially for kids who may not be the most confident readers and would enjoy the privacy that ebook reading offers.

Prodigy (iOS and Android)
Free | Gr 1–8
Imagine a cross between a math textbook, “Lord of the Rings,” and the popular app Clash of Clans, and you’ve got Prodigy. The app developers have gamified math lessons in this fantasy quest. Users must utilize math skills in order to cast spells and beat opponents (Note: The math challenges can be tough—even for adults!). Parents can opt to receive emailed progress reports, and can also permit their children to play with friends (communicative phrases are preselected and provided in-app). If tweens are going to be sucked into a game on their phone, why not steer them towards an app that will complement what they’re learning in school?
 

Wizard School (iOS, Wonder Box on Android)
Free | Ages 8+
This is one of those apps that eschews categorization, and that’s one of the reasons we love it so much. Wizard School offers a safe environment for exploring curated videos on unusual topics like “Make a Dog Talk,” “Design a Ceramic Tile,” “Draw Like Picasso,” and dozens more. The app uses these “challenge topics” to invoke ideation, and then offers simple challenges to the user. Once a child completes a challenge, they can send a message with their creation to a friend or their parent through the app (friends must be pre-approved by a parent). What makes this app so interesting is that the challenge topics are framed purely as entertainment, when in reality many are scholarly in nature—space, science, health, people, and animals are just a sampling of challenge topics. Imagination, photography, kidpreneur, do it yourself, riddles & puzzles, design, and drawing round out the remaining topic areas. Older tweens could find Wizard School a tad juvenile, but if they look beyond the somewhat cutesy interface, they will be surprised by the amount of fun to be had.


Stacy Dillon is the lower school librarian at LREI in Manhattan; Amy Laughlin is the youth services outreach librarian at the Ferguson Library (CT).

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