Mindfulness apps are trending in a big way. Here are five we’re happy we downloaded.
There’s no shortage of mindfulness and meditation apps these days, promising to help you combat anxiety, sleep better, hone your focus, and more. We scoured the app stores to find the most popular, educational, and easy-to-use mindfulness apps that are available for free.
1) Insight Timer
Available for iOS and Android
Insight Timer is one of the most popular free meditation apps out there, and it’s easy to see why. The app features more than 4,000 guided meditations from over 1,000 teachers—on topics like self-compassion, nature, and stress—plus talks and podcasts. If you prefer a quieter meditation, you can always set a timer and meditate to intermittent bells or calming ambient noise.
Right from the beginning, the app feels like a community; the home screen announces, “3,045 meditating right now / Home to 1,754,800 meditators.” After you finish a meditation, you’ll learn exactly how many people were meditating “with you” during that time; by setting your location, you can even see meditators nearby and what they’re listening to.
Insight Timer doesn’t recommend step-by-step sequences of meditations to follow; it’s more like a buffet.
Despite its extensive collection, Insight Timer doesn’t show you a list of teachers—which would be helpful, especially since they feature experts like Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, and Sharon Salzberg. And Insight Timer doesn’t recommend step-by-step sequences of meditations to follow; it’s more like a buffet. But these drawbacks hardly matter in the face of all the tempting choices.
Available for iOS and Android
Aura is a meditation app with a simple premise: Every day, you get a new, personalized, three-minute meditation. The same meditation never repeats; according to cofounder Daniel Lee, Aura’s teachers are constantly recording new tracks.
To personalize the experience, Aura initially asks about your age and how stressed, optimistic, and interested in mindfulness you are. The daily meditation that appears also depends on your mood: If you’re feeling great, Aura might suggest “Your Brilliant Heart;” select stressed, and you might get “You Have the Power.” If you like the day’s meditation, you can save it to your library for later listening.
Aura claims to target stress, anxiety, and depression. If a short meditation isn’t enough, you can also listen to relaxing sounds or try their Mindful Breather feature, where you synchronize your breath to an animated circle that gently expands and contracts—surprisingly effective. The home screen encourages you to jot down something you’re grateful for, another tool for well-being.
Aura is straightforward and sparse, but that’s part of the beauty. Particularly if you’re just getting started, or you don’t have lots of time to meditate, the simplicity of one meditation a day could be just what you need.
Available for iOS and Android
Sleek and image-heavy, Omvana is a beautiful meditation app created by personal growth company Mindvalley. Its library contains thousands of meditations, and about 75 of those are free, from “Laser Focus” to “Cat’s Purr.”
According to cofounder Vishen Lakhiani, about 50,000 people around the world meditate to their popular “6 Phase Meditation” every morning, which is recommended for intermediate practitioners. (Beginners are encouraged to start with an eight-minute “Day 1” session.) The “6 Phase Meditation” guides you through different practices over the course of 20 minutes, including forgiveness, gratitude, and connection.
When you first download Omvana, your library includes about 10 meditations; to add more, it’s necessary to navigate over to the store, and then click on Top Tracks > Free or Categories > All free. Once you find a meditation you like, clicking the “Free” button will add the track to your library.
Like Insight Timer, Omvana is more of a grab bag than a guided learning experience. And much of its library is off-limits to the free user. But if you’re looking for a solid morning meditation, or you’re overwhelmed by all the choice on Insight Timer, you might enjoy Omvana.
4) Stop, Breathe & Think
Available for iOS and Android
If other meditation apps expect you to dive right in, Stop, Breathe & Think wants to help you get acquainted with mindfulness first. A section called Learn to Meditate explains what mindfulness is, why it’s beneficial, and what to expect when you press play on your first track. It even covers some of the neuroscience of mindfulness and the physiology of stress, in case you’re still skeptical.
If other meditation apps expect you to dive right in, Stop, Breathe & Think wants to help you get acquainted with mindfulness first.
Then, it’s time to get started. Stop, Breathe & Think features nearly 30 free sessions, many of which come in different lengths (and different voices—from placid Jamie to friendly Grecco). Most of them are short, up to 11 minutes, and you can choose to work around themes like Breathe, Connect with Your Body, or Be Kind. Or, simply set a meditation timer and find calm amid the silence or relaxing forest sounds.
A progress page keeps track of how many days you’ve meditated in a row and your emotions, which you can record before and after each meditation. Plus, you can earn cute stickers: As a newbie, I’ve collected “Good Start” and “Tick Tock of Presence.” Stop, Breathe & Think is ideal for people who need some more structure and motivation to jumpstart their meditation habit.
Available for iOS and Android
The moment you open the Calm app, you might feel a sense of…calm. Relaxing sounds of falling rain play automatically in the background, but you could also opt to be greeted by a crackling fireplace, crickets, or something called “celestial white noise.”
The relaxation continues with Calm’s free meditations, a smaller selection than several of the apps above—16 in total, some of which come in different lengths, from 3-30 minutes. You can start off with 7 Days of Calm, or try their sessions on Loving-Kindness, Forgiveness, or the Body Scan. Plus, like many other apps, you can set a timer for silent meditation or meditate to intermittent bells. For nighttime relaxation, Calm features four free “sleep stories”: bedtime stories for adults on everything from science fiction to scenic landscapes to help you transition into slumber.
Unfortunately, some of the most interesting-sounding sessions, like Commuting and Emergency Calm, are locked unless you subscribe. (Calm’s subscription costs $4.99 per month when you buy a year—one of the cheapest out there if you decide to make the investment.)
Photo by Chevanon Photography from Pexels
The life of a two-year-old isn’t always easy.
One minute you might be happily coloring with your new markers, and the next your mom snatches them from your hand and scolds you for drawing on the wallpaper. At the moment, nothing can feel more devastating.
Anyone who’s parented a toddler knows what happens next. The young artist bursts into tears, possibly hits mom, throws the nearest object or runs away. Of course, as soon as she sees another cool, new toy, she’ll settle right down.
It’s perfectly normal to have a moody toddler, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Understanding what life is like in the world of a toddler can help you learn how to deal with terrible twos.
What is time?
Your toddler has a very limited concept of time. When he wants something, all he knows is that he wants it now. Not in five minutes, not in an hour (what’s an hour, anyway?). As such, when he doesn’t get his peanut butter and jelly exactly when he’s hungry, he may think he’ll never get his sandwich, even if you’re already in the process of spreading the jelly.
In some cases, the tears will stop as soon as you hand your toddler his lunch (or whatever it is he’s asking for). In many other situations, your toddler is making a request you can’t oblige. No, he can’t play with your kitchen knife. No, he can’t have candy before dinner.
Being told “no” isn’t fun, but luckily you can use that limited concept of time to your advantage, Parents explained. You can’t take him to the park right now, but he can play with his dinosaurs or his blocks. A new distraction becomes his new focus, and he’ll be happy once more.
Learning words takes time
Your toddler knows exactly what she wants. Unfortunately, she might not have the vocabulary to dictate that want. Even if she does, it might come out sounding like slurred and garbled nonsense. If parents had a nickel for every time they asked their child “what?,” they’d have very heavy pockets.
Not being able to clearly express their wants and needs is the source behind many toddler meltdowns. When your 18-month-old wants a cup of apple juice, but doesn’t know the word “apple” and can only ask for juice, she feels frustrated when she’s handed a cup of orange. She might yell, cry or throw the juice on the ground.
In time, she’ll learn the word “apple” and know how to ask for what she wants. Until then, be careful to communicate the names of her favorite items whenever possible to help her learn. When you pick up the apple juice, say “This apple juice is yummy” or “Do you want the apple juice?”
Additionally, teaching your child some simple baby signs can help alleviate language frustrations, LiveStrong explained. For example, to sign for “apple,” make your hand into a fist with your index knuckle extended. Touch the knuckle to your cheek and twist.
Emotional intelligence doesn’t come easily
When something has upset your toddler, all he knows is there’s a burning rage inside him. He might not know the words “mad,” “sad” or “frustrated.” He probably doesn’t know how to properly express those emotions, either; he’s only just developed them, after all.
Help your toddler learn about his emotions and how to display them. When his older brother knocks over his block tower, he feels mad. He might pick up his blocks and throw them at his brother. Tell your toddler, “That must have made you feel really mad.” Vocabulary will help your child understand that feeling mad is normal. Teach him that’s it’s OK to feel mad, but not OK to throw blocks.
Help your toddler learn about all his emotions, not just the negative ones. Help him identify when he’s happy, excited, sad, frustrated or mad. In time, he’ll not only learn how to determine his own emotions, but he’ll also start recognizing these in others – the first steps toward developing empathy, Parents noted.
Dealing with tantrums isn’t easy, especially when you’re in public or witnessing the third meltdown of a very tough day. It’s important to let your toddler know that throwing a fit isn’t the way to get what he wants.
Wait for him to calm down, then get to the bottom of the problem. In time, your toddler will develop a bigger vocabulary, a realistic concept of time and the emotional intelligence to stay calm, even when frustrated – it’s all a part of growing up.
Baby’s first steps mark an exciting time of transition to toddlerhood and a whole new world to explore! It also means your baby is ready for some proper footwear. We spoke to pediatric podiatrist Dr. Louis DeCaro, president of the American College of Foot & Ankle Pediatrics and a father of two toddlers, about what a mama needs to know when it comes to first shoes.
1. They’re for Protection
Unusually poor coordination, poor balance, and bad posture are some signs that a little one might have a developmental issue. Other signs are premature fatigue—if your child requests to be carried frequently—and exceptional clumsiness. If your child exhibits any of these behaviors, take him in for a screening. Pain is usually not the overriding symptom in pediatric podiatry cases.
2. Think Flexible
Above all, toddler’s first pair of shoes should be flexible, says Dr. DeCaro. It’s important to avoid shoes that are too stiff because they could impede foot development. Parents should also seek out shoes that are lightweight and made from breathable and natural materials.
3. You Don’t Have to Spend a Lot
It’s not necessary to buy very expensive shoes for toddlers, according to Dr. DeCaro. And while a recommendation from the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) indicates that the shoes are of good quality and developmentally appropriate, parents shouldn’t feel it’s essential to seek out shoes bearing their Seal of Acceptance.
4. It’s Best to Get Professionally Fitted
In an ideal world, parents would have their child’s foot measured with every pair of new shoes. Children have flat feet until their arches develop at about age four, and that can affect the way shoes fit, says Dr. DeCaro. Try to have your child’s foot measured and shoes fitted by a professional whenever possible.
5. At Home, Use the Pinky
If you’re unable to get your child’s shoes professionally fitted, you can check for fit by using your pinky finger—not your thumb—to gauge how much space your child has in the toe box of the shoes, Dr. DeCaro suggested. The shoes are well-fitting in that area when there is a pinky’s width of room between the tips of the child’s toes and the toe of the shoe. After the first few times of wearing, check your child’s feet for red marks or indents; if there are any that don’t go away after 10 minutes, the shoes aren’t a good fit and are probably uncomfortable.
6. Transition Shoes When They’re Running
Keep little ones in very flexible shoes until they start running a lot or playing sports—usually around age four or five. That’s about the time a child’s arch begins forming.
7. Kids Grow Fast!
On average, children’s feet can grow three-quarters to a full size larger every three to four months, according to Dr. DeCaro. He recommends checking the fit of your child’s shoes quarterly, or when their shoes are worn out, whichever comes first.
8. Screen Early if There’s a History
Genetics are the best predictor of future foot problems, Dr. DeCaro points out, so it’s important to get your child screened early if there is any history of major foot problems in your family. Parents with flat feet or other issues should take their child to a pediatric podiatrist as soon as their little one is walking.
9. Watch for Signs of Trouble
You’ve been dealing with Braxton-Hicks or “practice” contractions for a while now, but one day things are going to ramp up. That first real contraction is typically unmistakable. Try to relax and go with the flow—no amount of planning is going to make this adventure go exactly the way you expect. The good news? Baby is almost here!
10. Secondhand Are OK
Although many experts discourage them, Dr. DeCaro doesn’t have any issues with used and hand-me-down shoes. Secondhand shoes that are in good shape and fit well are fine for toddlers to wear, he says.
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Summer hasn’t even started and weather is getting very hot already. According to The Weather Channel, some areas of the U.S. have to wait until September to reach their highest temperatures. This means there’s plenty of time for fun left, but it’s also important to keep summer safety in mind. Here’s how to keep your child cool and cute:
Grab a light wardrobe
Kids’ fashion has come a long way, so you have the chance to get really creative. You can dress your toddler like a super-chic Anna Wintour in the making, or grab a sleeveless flannel shirt and some baby Doc Martens for a mini-punk look. Just make sure the clothes you choose are summer-appropriate. The right cuts and fabric keep your child cool and help prevent heat-related illnesses.
When shopping for a summer wardrobe, choose loose, breezy fabrics made from 100 percent cotton. Avoid dark colors like black and navy; such hues absorb heat, increasing your little one’s body temperature. Opt for sturdy footwear with thick soles, especially if your toddler likes to climb and explore.
Also, if you plan to stay home all day and aren’t expecting any visitors, feel free to let your child run around naked! Just make sure to lather your baby up with sunscreen before going into the backyard – clothes or no clothes. The Environmental Working Group has a list of 19 baby sunscreen products with top ratings, so your summer safety regimen won’t include any harsh chemicals.
Guard against bugs and poisonous plants
Bug bites and the itchy, inflamed skin they leave behind are probably the least-liked aspect of summer. What’s worse, the number of insects infected with diseases is on the rise. This past June, a press release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced an increased number of disease-carrying mosquitoes were seen across the southern U.S. this year. These insects are known for spreading Zika virus, West Nile virus, Dengue fever and many other illnesses.
If you live in a grassy or wooded area, you must also look out for ticks. These pesky bloodsuckers are notorious for spreading Lyme disease, which affects the joints, heart and nervous system if left untreated. Additionally, toddlers that are allergic to bee stings need to be exceptionally careful in spring and summer.
To keep your toddler safe from insects, coat your child with an insect repellant. The brand you choose doesn’t matter, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends repellant with at least 10 percent DEET, the active ingredient. A higher concentration doesn’t increase your child’s protection; the repellant just lasts longer. A product with 10 percent DEET lasts for about two hours, while one with 30 percent lasts around five hours.
Below are a few other bug safety tips:
- Ditch scented soaps and sprays, which might attract insects, for fragrance-free versions.
- Avoid areas where bugs tend to nest, including pools of water (mosquitos), summer-blooming flowers (bees) and wooded areas (ticks).
- Stay inside during mornings and evenings when gnats and mosquitos are most active.
Prevent heat-related illnesses
According to the CDC, children under 4 are most at risk for developing a heat-related illness. These ailments include heat rash, sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and symptoms range from small red blisters to nausea, headaches and possible loss of consciousness.
Of course, as with any medical condition, prevention is always best. Use the following tips to improve your toddler’s summer safety and avoid heat-related illnesses:
- Dress your toddler in breathable, lightweight clothing that’s light in color.
- Use cool, but not cold, water when bathing your child.
- Stay indoors when it’s overly sunny and warm. Sunlight is strongest at noon, but the temperature doesn’t reach its peak until about 3 p.m.
- Give your toddler plenty of access to cool (not cold) water.
- Never leave your child in a parked car, even if the window is open.
Enjoying the last bit of summer
Summer is officially over by the end of September. Choose the right clothes, grab a bottle of baby sunscreen, protect yourselves from bugs and heat, and you’re all set to enjoy the season safely.
If we had a genie’s lamp, “better sleep for everyone in the family” would definitely be at the top of our wish list.
But until that magical day arrives, we did the next best thing. We spoke to a real-life newborn sleep whisperer – Ingrid Prueher, a pediatric sleep consultant, lactation counselor and founder of BabySleepWhisperer.com. She’s a former Wall Street analyst who became a sleep aficionado after the birth of her second son. He kept waking up every few hours at night, so Prueher used her love of data and research to get him in a good bedtime routine. Now she’s on a mission to help families around the country get in tip-top sleep shape too.
Prueher uses a “five-layer cake” approach. That means laying a solid sleep foundation and then applying a training method, aka the icing. With a little groundwork, good sleep can become a reality.
“My youngest client has been a day old and my oldest client has been 71 years old,” Prueher says. “It’s never too late to get healthy sleep habits in your life and make sleep a priority.”
Here are some of her tips for cracking the code to a better night’s sleep for your newborn.
1. Go back to square one.
Baby’s cranky during the day, waking up multiple times during the night and can’t fall asleep without you. To get sleep back on track, Prueher says to start from scratch. Concentrate on sleep for a good two weeks like when baby first came home from the hospital. Use that time to get nap and feeding times running smoothly, perfect the nursery and eliminate negative sleep associations, like being rocked or fed in order to fall asleep.
“In their first three months of life, you want to help them transition from the womb into our world. After that point, if your child has never slept well, start with some basics,” Prueher says. “Treat it like you’re back to newborn days where you stayed home and focused on all of these things.”
That doesn’t mean never leaving the house or taking an extended staycation. But you might have to press pause on play dates and limit baby’s jam-packed schedule until they’re sleeping through the night. Because baby’s first and second naps are so mentally and physically restorative, Prueher suggests saving errands until second nap is over.
“Change your mindset and make sleep a priority, so you can find what the natural rhythm of the child is,” she says.
2. Know thy baby.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Prueher is a huge fan of analytics! She recommends taking note of everything surrounding sleep, from diet to mood, then looking for trends in the data. Knowledge is power when it comes to figuring out your baby’s best sleep. Be on the lookout for clues. For example, if baby’s really happy, then starts staring off into space, it may be a way of saying, “Hey guys, I wanna go to bed!” Watch for signs of sleepiness like heavy eyes, redness in the face and even hyperactivity.
“Things like tugging on their ear, yawning a lot and starting to get cranky means the child is starting to get in an overtired state,” Prueher says. “But parents aren’t necessarily going to know that right away, so I want them to start logging it because then they start learning.”
3. Designate a sleep zone.
Life is unpredictable, but baby’s sleep shouldn’t be. Until your child’s in a good place sleep-wise, limit zzz’s to one area of the house, like the nursery. No napping wherever baby’s heart pleases. No dozing off in Mom’s arms or the stroller.
“Just for reset purposes, I don’t recommend having the child sleep everywhere,” Prueher says. “Give them a place to rest. A true place to rest. They will become more flexible later on once you teach them to actually sleep.”
4. Make sleep a team sport.
Setting up a routine and establishing positive visual and verbal sleep cues (pulling down the shades, reading a book, coming up with a catchphrase like “It’s time to go to bed!”) are great. But none of it will matter if Mom follows one routine at night, the nanny follows a different one during the day and Grandma does her own thing on the weekends. Get everyone in on the sleep plan – yes, even Grandma! – so that baby’s not caught off guard.
“Anyone who takes care of the child at the parents’ home should be on the same page. You don’t want to do different things because you’re only confusing the child,” Prueher says. “It’s not about everything being exactly the same every single day all day long, but there’s got to be some predictability.”
5. Don’t underestimate the power of milk.
Milk matters. It really, really matters, even when baby starts eating solids around four to six months. They’ll need less milk as they get older. But if baby’s still waking up in the middle of the night to feed, it could mean they’re not getting enough milk during the day.
“A lot of what I see, especially after the doctor has given the okay for the child to start having solids, is that parents just jump into the solids way too fast,” Prueher says. “The child will get to the point where they just eat solids all day long, but then look for milk all night long.”
They might be looking for more than just milk, though. Multiple nighttime wakeups may also indicate a negative sleep association.
“If a child has 10 ounces typically and when they wake up at night they only have two or five ounces, you know they’re not waking up to feed, they’re waking up out of habit,” Prueher says. “And that’s because a sleep association is there – ‘feed to sleep.’”
Prueher advises taking note of how many ounces baby normally consumes or how long they breastfeed, then comparing that to their feeding rituals at night. That’ll help determine if the behavior is driven by a need for milk or a need for you.
6. Practice what you preach.
Infants are like small, very cute detectives. They can tell when parents are wishy-washy about sleep or don’t mean business. “Think about the people you trust in your life,” says Prueher. “They mean what they say and they follow through.”
As babies get older, they could even be affected by your own not-so-great sleep habits. If you don’t take sleep seriously, why should they? “Children learn visually, they will pick up on it,” Prueher says.
7. You do you.
Every baby is different with varying sleep needs, cues and habits. Prueher’s first son was a “stellar sleeper.” Her second son? Not so much. That’s why it’s important to figure out what’s best for baby and you. Even if that means ignoring tips from your well-meaning next-door neighbor.
“When you get advice, you have to take it with a grain of salt,” Prueher says. “It’s all about finding what works for your child.”
If you still need tips for getting your baby to sleep, the Nanit baby monitor offers customized sleep tips based on your child’s sleep patterns. It’s like having a sleep expert in your home.