The right kind of screen time can help get your kids healthy.
Published: December 23, 2021
By: Tanni Haas, Ph.D.
Looking for apps that go beyond simple screen time? Encourage your kids to download an educational and enriching app — or three. Here are some suggestions, and the best part is that they’re all free.
Eat-And-Move-O-Matic (Available at Apple Appstore; Age range: 9-18)
If you want your kids to understand the consequences of their food choices, Eat-And-Move-O-Matic is the right app for them. Created by the Learning Game Lab at New Mexico State University, the app teaches kids to be aware of what they eat or drink. It allows them to compare the calories in their food choices with the type and length of time you need to do activities like biking, running or walking to burn off those calories.
Monster Heart Medic (Available at Apple Appstore; Age range: 9-12)
Monster Heart Medic teaches kids about a topic few other apps cover, namely the cardiovascular system and how to stay heart-healthy. Created by the University of California, Berkeley, the app features a friendly monster named Ragnar who suffers from cardiovascular problems and needs help. Kids help Ragnar by running various diagnostic tests to figure out what’s causing the problems. The app also has tips for leading a healthier life from reputable organizations like the American Heart Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.
Nature Melody (Available at Apple Appstore; Age range: 5-18)
If there’s one thing kids need to lead healthy lives, it’s a good night’s sleep, and the app Nature Melody can help. It functions as an alarm clock and has more than 30 soothing, nature-inspired sounds to wake your kids up slowly and gently in the morning. The app can be used in the afternoon and evening, too, using the nap and a sleep timer function, for a stress-free end to their day.
NFL Play 60 (Available at Apple Appstore, Google Play; Age range: 5-18)
If your kids love sports, especially football, but it’s hard to get them to do any actual exercise, NFL Play 60 is just the right app for them. Created by the NFL, in collaboration with the American Heart Association, the app lets kids pretend that they’re professional football players. But instead of simply making their on-screen avatars run and jump, they have to get off the couch and actually run, jump, catch and turn to make their avatars move. The app lets kids count the steps they’ve taken while playing the game.
Space Chef (Available at Apple Appstore; Age range: 5-12)
If you want your kids to learn to eat well, encourage them to download Space Chef. Created by the maker of the Monster Heart Medic app, Space Chef teaches kids important facts about healthy foods. And it goes one important step further: it has more than 60 easy-to-make and kid-friendly recipes that encourage kids to eat healthily and to take responsibility for their own diets.
Stretch Break for Kids (Available at Apple Appstore; Age range: 5-12)
Do your kids spend hours at a time hunched over their laptops or phones without getting up? If so, encourage them to download Stretch Break for Kids. The app has various stretching exercises designed to relax the neck and back muscles that are most affected by bad posture and repetitive strain. The exercises are demonstrated by other kids, who prompt viewers at intervals to keep moving through the exercises.
Super Stretch Yoga (Available at Apple Appstore, Google Play; Age range: 9-18)
Besides meditation, a great way for kids to relax their minds and bodies for optimal health is to practice yoga. Super Stretch Yoga, created by a well-known yoga instructor, teaches kids yoga through video demonstrations by other kids, with a focus on breathing and movement. It’s narrated by a character named Super Stretch and features 12 different poses with different skill levels. Kids can use the built-in camera to take pictures of themselves doing the various poses.
Three Good Things: A Happiness Journal (Available at Apple Appstore; Age range: 5-18)
It’s a well-known fact that mental health is impacted by a sense of well-being. If your kids need a little boost and happen to enjoy writing, encourage them to download Three Good Things: A Happiness Journal. The app helps kids think more positively by writing daily about three good experiences they’ve had. The app has a feature that lets kids upload and share their writings on social media.
Tanni Haas, Ph.D. is a professor in the Department of Communication Arts, Sciences, and Disorders at the City University of New York – Brooklyn College.