Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2014
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Stop, Breathe & Think

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Appealing app guides meditation, promotes compassion

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Character & SEL

Subjects
N/A
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
5-12
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Pros: "Curated list" of meditations makes the app feel new and engaging with every use.

Cons: The cartoonish stickers seem to diminish the seriousness of the work at hand.

Bottom Line: An accessible, well-designed tool for making meditation an approachable daily practice for kids and adults, alike.

Teachers might use Stop, Breathe & Think as a class warm-up. The meditations are short -- the shortest clocks in at just three minutes -- and they might serve as a nice way to set the tone for a class period or an entire school day. The app also seems like a great choice for teachers to recommend to students who express feelings of stress or anxiety around school. For students with pronounced needs for anxiety and stress, no app is a replacement for a trained professional, and this app does not purport to serve any such purpose. But for students who needs a consistent, firm reminder to find their breath and gain perspective, this app has tremendous appeal, and it could be a welcome recommendation.

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Stop, Breathe & Think is a meditation companion for kids and adults that offers 15 brief, thoughtfully collected meditations to address a range of emotional states. The app's developer is a company called Tools for Peace, a nonprofit whose stated aim is to teach kindness and compassion. From the home screen, kids click "Begin" to answer a few questions about their current state of mind. In this check-in, kids select how they're feeling both mentally and physically, on a scale from "great" to "rough." Kids can then select up to five emotions from more than 80, and the app presents a curated list of meditations especially suited to the emotions selected. Alternately, kids can simply navigate from the home screen directly to a full list of all mediations. Upon completing meditations, users can earn stickers for their achievements (like completing multiple meditations) and track their own user trends, including total time meditating, top emotions, and their top meditation. For those who want to dig deeper into the theory behind this practice, the "Learn How to Meditate" section offers information on the practice's benefits and basic assumptions. An attractive diagram of the body's sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems lends an air of authority to the explanation. Stop, Breathe & Think is also available on the Web at http://app.stopbreathethink.org/.

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One of app's greatest strengths is its consistency. To begin each meditation, the same voice guides users through the same set of instruction, offering a helpful level of consistency as users try new meditations. The language throughout is simple without feeling condescending or mysterious, and its tone is neutral and inviting. Meditation can seem like something lofty and unapproachable, and this app demystifies that stereotype completely. This is most elegantly done on the main meditation page: whether the next meditation is "Kindness" or "Equanimity," the app offers a brief definition to give context and information about the meditation ahead.

Users can earn each of the 21 stickers for different types of achievements, from using a particular meditation several times to meditating for multiple days in a row. Just as meditation can address a range of needs, it's impressive to see that the stickers reward a range of positive meditation practices. It's also worth noting that the app has only a few rewards for simple practices and many more stickers for tasks that take days or weeks to earn. That's as much as a metaphor for the value of this app as anything else: there's great immediate value here, but the greatest rewards seem to arise from consistent, thoughtful use.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The Meditation Guide offers users the chance to reflect on their current state of mind by choosing words and images that best reflect their current mindset. The "curated list" always feels fresh.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Consistent, straightforward language takes meditation from intimidating to approachable. A strong focus on consistency of practice emphasizes the importance of dedication and perseverance, both in the app and in life beyond it.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

"How It Works" section contains information about the theory and practice of meditation, including references to science and spirituality. The developer's website and in-app explanations make the app especially easy to use.


Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

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