Calling all parents … Want some great stuff to help reinforce positive character traits with your kids NOW? Per Part 1 of our discussion on Positive Psychology (see post here), a new media movement is emerging to help our kids develop a long list of critical skills related to their happiness and well-being, including gratitude, resilience, positive relationships, and empathy. Our resource set below lists some of the best-of-the-best thinkers, producers and researchers who are creating some of this positive-mindset driven content.
Prior to the recent emphasis on Positive Psychology in new media, many of us (and our kids) have benefited from positive media on good old-fashioned television shows. Think Bob the Builder (“Can we Fix it? Yes we Can!”), Dora the Explorer and of course the gold standard: Sesame Street. All of these shows have taught children about the importance of cooperation, conflict resolution, optimism and empathy for many years.
But children’s media has come a long way since 1969 – today’s digital content offers custom interaction for each child, on-the-fly decision making, and progressive learning levels that provide parents and teachers with rich new educational and entertainment opportunities. Now we even have Kid President as both an inspiring and comedic role model for children (more on him below)! I am optimistic about this new age of kids' media development and the efforts to leverage digital content to help us raise happy, healthy children using positive psychology.
At SmartFeed, we surface the latest games, apps, and movies that will help foster positive emotion, engagement, resilience, kindness, creativity, and more - and we hope to use the demand for this content from our parent community to influence and support content creators to keep creating more and more of this great content.
Here’s our list of some of the top people and companies leading the charge in building positive mindset concepts into kids’ apps and games and crafting storylines engineered to inspire:
Ms. Doran is in the movie business and her impressive resume includes production credits on “This Is Spinal Tap,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “The Firm,” “Sense and Sensibility” and “Stranger Than Fiction.” She was President of United Artists Pictures at one time and is now an independent producer.
After reading the book “Flourish,” by Dr. Martin Seligman, she began rewatching films through the lens of Dr. Seligman’s PERMA framework for the five essential elements of well-being. She speaks about her examination in this TED talk here.
Ms. Doran now works as The Script Whisperer™" — providing consultation on high priority script development and working closely with filmmakers and studios to share ways for incorporating PERMA concepts into screenplays. As she says, “A lot of people seem stunned [that ending with a character who survives loss] might be both the more inspiring and the more commercial way to end a movie.”
Hawkins' If You Can company aims to use video games to teach children social and emotional learning (SEL) skills. The goal is to equip children with skills to help them handle bullying and manage challenging emotional and academic situations. The game “If….” which is aimed at children 6-12 is set in a rich, interactive fantasy world with fully voiced characters that unfold across chapters. Some content is free and there’s also an option for a full subscription that includes access to a Parent Dashboard and offers new adventures each month, delivering a complete Social & Emotional Learning curriculum. The If… game is available on iTunes.
HopeLabs’ work focuses on the research and development of new social technologies to promote human resilience and improve both psychological and biological health and well-being. Read more about them here.
HopeLabs has collaborated with UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center to launch Greater Good in Action. Synthesizing hundreds of scientific studies, Greater Good in Action collects the best research-based methods for a happier, more meaningful life—and puts them at your fingertips in a format that's easy to navigate and digest.
And HopeLabs has also collaborated with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence to develop the Mood Meter app, which is designed “to build emotional intelligence to last a lifetime.”
Heart-Mind Online is an organization developed by the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education. By sharing current research, scientific knowledge and best practices related to social and emotional development, the Dalai Lama Center supports the adults who can help children feel secure and calm, approach situations with curiosity and confidence, solve problems peacefully, and get along with others. The site is a “collection of resources [that] builds capacity in individuals and communities to support the Heart-Mind well-being of children, and promotes their positive social and emotional development.” Explore the resources here.
Heart-Mind Online recently released the Heart-Mind Reading List which includes an incredible collection of some of the best chapter books for grade-school kids that focus on:
Download the reading list here!
Soul Pancake is a unique kind of production company that releases thought-provoking (and laughter-provoking!) videos each week. According to their website: “Our brain batter of art, culture, science, philosophy, spirituality, and humor is designed to get people talking, sharing, and engaging with this crazy, exciting, creative journey that is life.”
Some of their content and shows include: Kid President, My Last Days, Metaphysical Milkshake, The FlipSide, Science of Happiness, Art Attack, SubCultures and more! Kid President is especially popular with kids! Check out his pep talk here.
Soul Pancake also incorporates Dr. Seligman’s PERMA ideas – check out this video The Science of Happiness that goes deep on that ever-important topic: gratitude!
Whyville is a virtual world where children ages 8 to 15 play, explore, create and learn together. From solving math puzzles to protecting coral reefs, from programming robots to running virtual businesses, Whyville's citizens, known as Whyvillians, collaborate, compete and share.
Whyville has a currency (clams!), an economy, a newspaper (The Whyville Times) and even a Senate. The richness of the virtual world fosters creativity, initiative, critical thinking and entrepreneurial spirit. Numedeon is also exploring how social emotional skills practiced during game play can address math anxiety and benefit the learning process. Learn more here.
Stop, Breathe and Think (SB&T) is for anyone who wants to learn hands-on techniques to develop and apply kindness and compassion in their daily lives, by practicing mindfulness and meditation. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day with work, school, family, relationships, stress and worry. Mindfulness and meditation can help us meet the turbulence of our lives with kindness and compassion, and allow us to find peace of mind no matter what’s going on.
Documented studies have shown that kindness and compassion have all sorts of positive side effects. They lead to increased happiness and good feelings, a strengthened immune system and a healthier heart, in addition to more positive interactions and relationships. Mindfulness and meditation have been proven effective in managing stress, anxiety and depression, which can interfere with our ability to be kind, and can negatively impact our relationships and our performance at school or at work.
Learning Games Network works with developers, researchers, content experts, learning specialists and the learners themselves to develop transformative games that entertain. Whether used in formal or informal educational settings, in the workplace, or at home, games can significantly help people acquire new knowledge and complex skills, thereby advancing learning opportunities for people of all ages and improve outcomes across a broad spectrum of society.
Quandary is a free, award-winning game that engages kids in ethical decision-making and develops skills that will help them recognize ethical issues and deal with challenging situations in their own lives. Though the game’s setting is a futuristic colony, the genuinely tough situations that players encounter are translatable to the ones they are likely to face day-to-day, and enable players to develop skills such as critical thinking, perspective-taking and decision-making. Quandary provides a framework for how to approach ethical decision-making without telling players what to think. Who is Quandary for? Quandary is available to all, but specifically aimed at kids aged 8 and up to play at home, on their own, with friends or with family. The game is also valuable in the classroom, and has been mapped to the Common Core State Standards in reading, listening and speaking. Learn more about Quandry here.
Character Lab is a nonprofit on a mission to develop, disseminate, and support research-based approaches to character that enable kids to learn and flourish. In their own words, “We are a small team of researchers, designers, and educators who are working to do three things: Discover the ideas and strategies that build character. We co-design and fund research about character with a K–12 classroom in mind, and directly connect researchers with those who work in schools. Translate those good ideas to useful products. Using research results, we produce and curate practical tools for teachers and families. Do everything we can to ensure that people who work with students do what the research says is best. We partner with researchers to scale and replicate the best ideas for schools and homes. We believe that character skills are malleable. We believe that character may matter as much as academics to succeed in life, and that character development can enhance academic performance. We believe that research by educators and scientists in partnership can lead to character development activities for teachers, families, and students.”
Check out their character building apps here.