Apps to help younger kids with self-control

By Common Sense Media

Expert reviewed by Jamie Martin

Apps can be a helpful tool for young kids who struggle with self-control. Certain apps can encourage kids to think before they act, keep their emotions in check, and stay focused on specific goals. Explore these options.

Price and availability may vary but were accurate when updated on November 8, 2021. Understood does not endorse or receive financial compensation for the sale of any of these products.

Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings

Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings can help kids identify and express emotions through fun games and songs. The app offers a bunch of activities. In one, kids can draw different feelings. In another, they sing about them. They can also step into a photo booth and pose for pictures showing different emotions. Each activity helps kids learn about emotions and strategies for how to handle them. This app from PBS Kids is best suited for very young children.

Price: $2.99

Available for: iPad, Android tablet, Kindle

Breathe, Think, Do With Sesame

This free app from Sesame Street helps teach self-control, planning and problem solving. There are five activities in the app: putting on shoes, saying goodbye to parents, fixing a block tower, waiting in line, and going to sleep in the dark. In each, kids have to help a cute, animated monster calm down by breathing slowly. Then they pop bubbles to help the monster come up with a plan for the situation. The strategies often involve self-calming practices, like asking a parent for a hug. This app is best for younger grade-schoolers.

Price: Free

Available for: Android, iOS

Tico Timer

Most mobile phones and devices have digital timers that display minutes and seconds. Instead of numbers, Tico Timer uses shapes to represent time passing. If kids set the timer for two minutes, they may see a slowly shrinking circle or squares that disappear. Tico Timer lets kids select the time, music, and different kinds of timers. It’s good for kids who need breaks and time limits to help them wait or transition between tasks.

Price: $0.99

Available for: iOS

Zones of Regulation

This app is based on the “Zones of Regulation” curriculum, designed to help kids self-regulate and build emotional control. It focuses on four emotional zones: red (out-of-control emotions like anger); yellow (controllable emotions like frustration); green (calm emotions like happiness); and blue (down emotions like sadness). This app helps kids think about what zone they’re in and how to move between the zones. To play, kids create and name an avatar. Then they move around, answer questions, and earn tokens. Kids who struggle with reading may need help with this app.

Price: $5.99–$9.99

Available for: Android, iOS

Choiceworks and Choiceworks Calendar

Choiceworks is a platform for kids who need support with and social skills. The app covers three topics: schedules, waiting, and feelings. Kids (or parents) can create visual boards for each. Kids can create a picture schedule of their day or a storyboard of what to do when they’re waiting or if they feel angry. A more advanced calendar app — Choiceworks Calendar — is also available.

Price: Choiceworks ($14.99), Choiceworks Calendar ($9.99)

Available for: iOS