SEL-Tech: 10 Family-Friendly Apps for Fostering Social-Emotional Development

Our childrens’ social and emotional development begins in the home. Families and caregivers are the experts on their children and some of the most influential figures when it comes to cultivating social-emotional learning skills.

Research indicates that family members who reinforce and model the same SEL skills and competencies that are taught in the classroom can accelerate a student’s social-emotional development. Research also tells us that digital learning and multimedia tools can support the development of social and emotional learning skills. That is; we can take advantage of the digital tools that students are interested in using – such as tablets, smartboards, and computers – to cultivate safe and supportive environments in which key skills (such as empathy, kindness, and fostering a growth mindset) are reinforced.

Yet, it can be overwhelming for parents to know where to start—especially when it comes to technology.

Whether you are brand new to the term “SEL” as a parent or trying to take your child’s emotional intelligence to the next level, this curated list of ten family-friendly apps for fostering social-emotional development.

(1) Wisdom: The World of Emotions

Wisdom: The World of Emotions uses the fun backdrop of an adventure game as a strategy to help kids build their understanding of emotion vocabulary, and learn ways to solve challenges and problems through fun learning experiences.

(2) Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame

Sesame Street’s newest human resident, Mando (introduced in the fall of 2013), narrates while kids and a blue monster together tackle everyday frustrations — like struggling to tie shoes, dealing with separation anxiety, taking turns, and going to bed — and learn how to deal with them. Students must work through one problem before unlocking the next. Animated video clips show the blue monster’s problem, then kids tap his belly to help him breathe deeply and calm down.

(3) Peppy Pals Social Skills

Peppy Pals is a series of award-winning, language-free apps, books and movies teaching kids ages 2-6 about emotions and empathy through play. Peppy Pals Social Skills offers positive social-emotional learning themed videos, stories, and games in one large collection. Animal characters with distinct personalities have different adventures and demonstrate a variety of positive social interactions. The stories have a read-aloud option, so pre-readers can listen, and older kids can read themselves.

(4) wondergrade

This app approaches building children’s emotion regulation skills as a family endeavor. With wondergrade, caregivers can work alongside their child(ren) – learning to build emotional regulation skills while working towards being an emotionally well family.

(5) Social Stories

An amazing app for easily creating, sharing and printing educational social stories, visual schedules, and beautiful memories.

(6) Inner Explorer

Inner Explorer is a mindfulness platform designed to support mental health and well-being in schools and centers. The Inner Explorer Home Mindfulness app for families is designed to help parents raise mindful children – in the classroom and beyond.

(7) Harmony at Home

Harmony at Home is an online toolkit that helps parents, caregivers, and families practice vital social and emotional skills with students in grades pre-K–6.

(8) Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings

Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings is an early-education social and emotional learning app for preschoolers and kindergarten-age kids. Kids who are familiar with Daniel Tiger’s PBS series will recognize him as well as other characters and the songs. From the app’s main page, kids can tap one of four areas. In the trolley area, kids move the trolley by swiping a finger over it, then spinning the wheel to see which mini-game they land on. In the sing-alongs, they choose from 18 of Daniel’s songs by tapping a picture. In the photo booth, kids center their faces using the device’s camera, tap a “feeling face” icon, and then match their facial expression to Daniel’s. Kids can tap the drawing easel and use the art tools to draw, paint, and save creations. A calm-promoting activity is also provided.

(9) Bouncy the People Trainer

Bouncy the People Trainer is an interactive story that teaches social and emotional skills. Bouncy is a mixed-breed dog who survived abuse from a former owner and now trains people to navigate their own challenges. Kids start by designing their avatar, who appears in the stories, choosing from several diverse options of skin colors, eye shapes, and hair types. They then work through each of five levels, each building on the one before, to learn about Bouncy’s story, recognize their own emotions, and learn to believe in themselves, care, try, and persevere.

(10) Smiling Minds

Smiling Mind is a free mindfulness meditation tool developed by psychologists and educators to help bring balance to children’s lives.

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