Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review: Positive Penguins - An app about emotions

Purpose of App: Positive Penguins aims to help children face and respond to various emotions. Cute little penguins walk the user through what they are feeling, what caused them to feel that way, and to think of ways to correct this.

Strengths: Offers a dialog to help explore emotions and why someone feels a certain way. Questions are straight forward.

Weaknesses: Does not give any suggestions or offer strategies to help develop coping skills. Does not explain what the different emotions are.

Suggested Audience: Though this app claims to be for children, it is not one many young children would be able to fully utilize on their own. The content is intended for children 8 and up, but the interface of cute little penguins may only appeal to children much younger.

Star Rating Breakdown
Meets Intended Goal: 2
Entertainment: 2
Worth the Price: 2
Ease of Use: 3
Educational Value: 3
Level of Customization: 2

If you would like to try Positive Penguins ($1.99, iPhone/iPad 2x), please support Smart Apps for Special Needs by using the link below:



Many children have difficulty understanding emotions and why they feel a certain way. Most importantly, they may not be able to see how to change and improve their current emotional state. This app offers ways to delve into self discovery of emotions, but some children may find it difficult to utilize the purpose of this app by themselves.

Positive Penguins begins by asking the child how they feel, and giving them the choice of 12 common emotions. The child can then rank the level of the emotion with a sliding scale. It seems to make no difference in the app what they choose, nor is it explained what the scale is or how to rate their emotions. Next, the same paragraph is read no matter what emotion was selected or the level of that emotion. A more specific response could be beneficial. For instance, if a child selects "Angry" and slides the scale to the extreme right, then a dialog could state, "Sometimes emotions can be very overwhelming. Let's explore what happened to make you feel so angry today." Let the child know that they are being heard, that it is okay to feel that way, and that there is something they can do to address it.

Kids then design their penguin and pick from a few outfit choices to customize the character. Their personal penguin asks a couple of questions about what happened to make them feel the emotion they choose. Once the penguins ask what happened, the child can look at common thoughts which lists some examples. However, a child cannot click on any of the examples to use them. They must type from scratch. The app may work better if it offered the children common responses to choose from with the ability to add in their own if nothing else fits.

The child must also come up with their own ways to feel better. The penguins talk about how important it is to understand how you feel, what made you feel that way and to come up with ways to feel better. However, there are no examples or suggestions on how to help. The questions are identical, no matter the emotion or the child's response. The ending differs only by splicing together the child's responses into a form letter type response. Instead of this, perhaps the penguins could give real life examples. Such as, "When I was worried about a school project, I talked to a grownup about what I needed to do to finish on time. Do you think you would feel better if you talked to a grown up about what worries you?" For a positively chosen emotion, perhaps, "I am so glad that you are happy today! Now that you know what helped you be in such a great mood..."

For a $1.99 app, I would like it to unfold more like those old choose-your-own-adventure books; the books where you choose to go down a certain path and the story unfolds based on your choice. Right now it is more fill in the blank on a generic form letter. More specific feedback for the various emotions would do a lot to help educate kids on the subject matter.

The info for teachers and parents is semi-informative. It explains why it's important for kids to learn to be resilient and to challenge negative thinking. It also offers more resources on their website, although it does not link to it. The examples section shows 2 different example tracks of how someone may fill in the questions asked by the penguins. Having these examples integrated more within the app could help the child.

Overall, this app could be used by parents or teachers to help learn how to communicate and open a dialog with a child about emotions. The age range that would be drawn to playing with the penguins most likely would not be mature enough to honestly delve into their emotional state alone.  There is much potential with this app, but currently it falls a bit short of its goal.

From iTunes:


If you want your child to be successful, teach them how to challenge their thinking.

Positive Penguins is a fun educational app to help children learn to be more resilient and help them respond to the typical challenges they face everyday. It also helps parents work through these challenging situations with their child in a fun and non-confrontational way leading to a more positive outcome for both the parent and child.

One of the most important tools to teach children is that they have a choice in how they feel about situations and that no one can make them feel a certain way. We feel the way we do based on our ‘self-talk’ (or thoughts) and if children can learn to listen to their self talk and challenge negative thinking on a regular basis, they will be more resilient and have more opportunities to flourish and develop into more successful and happy adults.
The four positive penguins take you on an interactive journey to help you understand that feelings arise from your thinking and if you challenge your negative thoughts successfully you may be able to see things in a more realistic and even optimistic way.
Positive Penguins is most effective when parents or teachers guide the child through the fun journey. Older children (8+ years) can also use the app alone easily.

Parents and Teachers please like positive penguins on facebook for further information and resources

•Children learn that they choose how they feel
•The app provides a basis for a parent and child to work through issues or problems a child may be facing in a fun and non-confrontational way
•The app gives you the opportunity to help children develop their resilience and solve problems in a fun playful way
•The sound can be turned on and off
•Each challenge can be emailed to teachers or parents
•There are no in-app purchases or advertisements
•The app is fun, simple and easy to use
•Children feel empowered by solving problems themselves
•There is a fun game mode

Positive Penguins is a great resilience strategy for all children and teenagers.

Rachel H. just got back from watching the penguins swimming at the zoo with her kids.

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