There's recently been an explosion of interactive apps for young children. Currently, there are over 400,000 health apps that claim to be beneficial to your kids. But doctor's point out that the overwhelming majority of those have absolutely no scientific basis to them.
Now there is a new app developer call an "un-app," and it's been reviewed by doctors at Seattle Children's.
It was developed by an artist named Catherine Mayer. For years, she’s done work with kids through her interactive art programs. Not long ago she noticed that kids aren't looking at a canvas anymore but screens on a tablet. That's when she decided to create something that could give kids a digital break. An app called L.A.U.G.H., an acronym for "Let Art Unleash Great Happiness."
"My idea was how can you make something that they're going to use and pick up actually be something that can give them a respite and create positive energy, calming, and mindfulness," says Mayer.
She had seen video games that have young minds jumping around to follow the action, and she wanted to make something that wouldn't over stimulate.
"In my mind, it's so simple: you slow down, you learn to look; you don't think about everything else that you're doing starts to slow down," explains Mayer.
But Mayer didn't launch her app immediately; she wanted to have medical evidence to back up her ideas, so she went to Seattle Children's for support. She met with Doctor Dimitri Christakis, who is the Director of the Center of Child health behavioral development at Seattle children's research institute. He was interested in the app and immediately got on board bringing children into the research lab to study how the app affected them. His study showed kids using the LAUGH app had more focus more concentration and better cognitive engagement.
"I think what's distinguishing and frankly Admirable about the laugh app is that it really is mission driven. The point of this app is to try to help children to focus and to relax, and unlike most existing apps there's an attempt to bring science to bear on it," says Dr. Christakis.
Mayer says she accomplished her goal after evidence showed the LAUGH app was working to relax kids by reducing their heart rate with breathing exercises. In fact, she is already looking ahead to develop more adventures for kids and adults.
"We already have multiple next adventure updates that were already in the process. The adult version which is going to be way better than a coloring book, it will be out in about 60 days, and it will have a few more things that will happen in addition to the children's," says Mayer.
Creators of the L.A.U.G.H. App call it the Un-App App because of how it engages children.