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The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a period of social change for many of us.

Families encountered a range of new stresses, with their usual support networks – including teachers and carers – suddenly less accessible and few options for distraction or physical activity outside the home.

CoLab – Collaborate for Kids (a partnership between Telethon Kids Institute and Minderoo Foundation) was on hand to help with the Bright Tomorrows mobile phone app, which offers more than 1,000 everyday tips, personalised to each child, to help parents and carers build their children’s core neural capabilities from birth.

The free app was originally released in October 2019 but was swiftly adapted in April 2020 to highlight tips designed to help families cope with their newfound physical isolation – including activities to help children burn off excess energy at home and ideas to help both children and carers manage their emotions during challenging times.

CoLab Director Professor Donna Cross said the app was a valuable tool for families, especially during COVID-19.

“During a period of great uncertainty, one of the things we can control is our children’s development,” Professor Cross said.

“This period of physical isolation presents us with a unique opportunity to invest even further in our children’s health, development and learning.

“The Bright Tomorrows app offers ideas to help parents, grandparents and other carers develop children’s emotional, social and physical wellbeing. These highly tailored, easy ideas can be used during everyday activities and are especially useful for a challenging period when our usual networks or routines are interrupted.

More broadly, the Bright Tomorrows app focuses on building five core capabilities among children aged 0–5 years: attention and focus skills; the ability to respond effectively to emotions; relationship-building and communication skills; planning and routine development skills; and skills to help children take on challenges. The app is dual generational, with a section for parents called Grow offering ideas to help parents build their own life skills.

Supported by a media and digital campaign which aims to show families and carers the benefits of the app during extended periods of time at home, Bright Tomorrows has the potential to become a top-rated tool to support children’s health and welfare in Australia.

The app is free from the App Store or Google Play and has been downloaded more than 10,000 times since being launched in October 2019 in partnership with the Bezos Family Foundation, Raising Children Network, Better Beginnings and Michigan University.

What’s next?

The app will be promoted in a paid media campaign in regional Western Australia, supported by funding from the State Government through Healthway.

The Bright Tomorrows app features Bobbie, a remarkable little creature that represents a baby’s brain. Bobbie reveals the emotions, thoughts and responses that happen in a child’s brain when they experience meaningful moments. These meaningful moments, especially if they occur early and often in a child’s life, build strong brains – providing a strong foundation for their life.

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