Bright Tomorrows app offers a lifeline of support to parents isolated by COVID-19

by Freya Lucas

August 27, 2020

As parts of Australia continue to practice isolation in response to either Government mandates or health and wellbeing concerns, finding engaging activities to help families keep children happy and healthy during social isolation is becoming an increasing element in early childhood education and care (ECEC) planning. 

 

An Australian app, developed by Telethon Kids Institute and Minderoo Foundation through their CoLab partnership, offers a customised library of tips and moments to help parents and carers build their children’s life skills from birth, underpinned by the latest child development science.

 

The Bright Tomorrows app, which has been promoted through a campaign featuring a lovable furry creature nicknamed Bobbie that represents activity in a child’s brain, is encouraging parents and carers to use this time at home to develop their children’s life skills.

 

Designed to translate early years research into tailored tips for parents, grandparents and those who care for children under the age of five, the app was made possible through collaborations with the Bezos Family Foundation, Raising Children Network, Better Beginnings, and Michigan University.

 

Free to download, the app now prioritises tips that are ideal for social isolation, such as activities to help children burn off excess energy indoors and ideas to help both children and parents manage difficult emotions.

 

Professor Donna Cross, CoLab director, said the Bright Tomorrows app is a valuable tool for families during this unprecedented time.

 

“As researchers, we know this is an exceptionally challenging time for many families, with changes in routines and much uncertainty about the future,” Professor Cross said.

 

“One of the things we can positively influence during this time is our children’s development. In fact, this period of social isolation provides a unique opportunity given the extra time we have with our children, to invest more in their growth and learning” she added.

 

Featuring ideas about ways in which parents, grandparents and carers can support children’s brain development and influence their emotional, social and physical wellbeing at a time when their usual support networks or routines might be unavailable, the app is “a trusted, science based tool that fits right in your pocket.”

 

Research shows the first five years of a child’s life are crucial to their development of core life skills, including attention and focus, responding to emotions, communication and relationship building, planning and routines, and taking on challenges.

 

These skills are important for children at any time, but their importance is magnified now during the COVID 19 crisis as kids manage emotions like feeling anxious, frightened or frustrated.

 

The Bright Tomorrows app includes a range of suggestions on physical activities parents can undertake with children to keep them actively engaged and developing their life skills while at home.

 

Minderoo Foundation co chair, Nicola Forrest pointed out that social distancing measures need not mean people feel isolated or alone. 

 

“Tools like the Bright Tomorrows app can help us to remain connected, informed and motivated during this challenging time” she said. 

 

The app hosts over 1000 activities which support in building children’s life skills through everyday tasks, such as gardening or cooking. These moments are customised to ensure families are receiving advice that is relevant to them and their children.

 

Each activity also gives families a brief scientific explanation of why these activities are helpful to brain development in a section called Brainy Background.

 

Ms Forrest said the app is designed to function like “your friendly local librarian.” 

 

“Instead of searching through a library for advice or ideas, the friendly librarian meets you at the door and offers you ways to engage with your children based on their age and interests and your priorities and values as a parent or carer. The app learns as it interacts with you so, as you continue to visit, the recommendations, or ‘meaningful moments’ as they are called in the app, will feel even more personalised to you and your family.”

 

The Bright Tomorrows app is free to download from the App Store or Google Play, with more information available here. 

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