Sesame mobile app provides families 'Big Moving Adventure'

Sesame mobile app provides families 'Big Moving Adventure'

by Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 2, 2014 – A child in a military family experiences an average of nine moves from kindergarten through high school, and a new mobile app called “The Big Moving Adventure” can help them through the rough spots.

Dr. Kelly Blasko, psychologist at the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, known as T2, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., discussed the development of the Sesame Mobile app, released in December, with American Forces Press Service.

“I’ve been working with military families now over the past three and a half years, and been looking at how to provide them with technology solutions to help them with common problems,” she said.

One of the things she learned in talking with military children and parents, regardless of time in service, is that moving is a constant, she said. “That’s their way of life in the military,” she added. “So when Sesame Street and myself looked at what was out there for these young children around moving, we didn’t find anything. And we know that smartphones and tablets are being used by preschoolers everywhere, and particular within military families, so we thought, ‘Well, why don’t we create a mobile app that kids [and] parents could take anywhere with them … when they’re moving to get some help with that process?’”

Moving can be exciting, Blasko said, but it also can be stressful -- particularly for young families.

The Sesame Workshop, has experience working with DOD, she noted, and with helping military families with deployments and homecomings.

“However, at T2, we are working with them because we have an interest in military families for kids of all ages,” she said.

“And we knew that Sesame Street really served the preschoolers well, so we started working with them. They have a website and several other apps to help children.”

Blasko said both T2 and Sesame Workshop identified the gap in resource for preschoolers and their parents to help with moving. “So we joined together to create this app,” she said. “So far it’s been very successful as well.”

Since its formal release to all major app stores in December, Blasko noted, it has been downloaded more than 130,000 times and has been featured as one of the best apps for children 5 and under on iTunes. “And that’s looking like, on average, kids are using it three to six times for each download, if we average it out,” she added.

“For young kids, routine is extremely important and so any move would disrupt the routine,” Blasko said. “Kids have to get used to their new home, [and] their parents are stressed with actual moving, and kids pick up on that.”

Children using the app create a Muppet friend whom they help through the moving process and note their feelings.

“That’s really helpful to the kids to identify feelings,” Blasko said. “It can be really informational for parents, because then they might see [signs that cause them to think] ‘Oh, my child is feeling sad.’”

“It gives the children a chance to express their feelings, and the parents to learn just where their child is with the move,” Blasko said.

The key parts of the app, she said, teach kids to say goodbye to their old homes and hello to their new home, and about meeting new friends. The app also helps them pack some toys for the trip and others into boxes that will meet them at the end.

“You know toys are really important to kids, so this is a way to say, ‘Oh, yeah, your toys are going to be at your new place,’” she said. “And that’s a sense of something they’re familiar with.”

Blasko said the Sesame Workshop app speaks to DOD’s commitment to military families. “There’s lots of challenges and lots of transitions that military families go through and moving’s just one and deployment is just one,” she added.

Tools like this can be a Godsend and far reaching to a lot of these military families, Blasko said.

Branch of service is immaterial to use of the mobile app, Blasko said. “We want to be all encompassing for all military kids,” she added.

(Follow Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallAFPS)

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