Harvard Ed.D. Jim Gray Reviews Beep & Boop

Recently, Beep & Boop, the StoryBots app that turns good behavior into a game, was reviewed by Jim Gray. With a doctorate of Education from Harvard, Jim has served as Director of Learning at LeapFrog Enterprises, and advisor to PBS KIDS Next Generation Media as well as Stanford University’s Program in Learning, Design and Technology. Below, he examines the psychology behind Beep & Boop and shares tips for how parents can best utilize the app.

What is Beep & Boop?

Beep & Boop is a multi-purpose parenting tool. Use it to guide your child towards more positive behaviors, more often. Promote social-emotional understanding by labeling behaviors that deserve a beep or a boop, and talking about related thoughts and feelings (“were you ‘gloating’?”). Support children’s patience and impulse control by setting goals together and talking about how to achieve them. As an added bonus, you can foster young children’s mathematical understanding by showing them their score and how each beep/boop point brings them closer or farther away from their goals.

How does it work?

In its simplest use, Beep & Boop is a game to help parents teach good behavior:

  • “Beeping” encourages behaviors that parents value
  • “Booping” discourages behaviors that parents want to see less often — or have disappear altogether!

Scoring helps keep children motivated to win the game as they accumulate points to reach their goal. Psychologists would note that these game scores provide an “extrinsic” (external to the child) motivation for “good” behaviors. However, playing and discussing Beep & Boop as a family can also provide plenty of “intrinsic” motivation as kids and parents have fun together and talk about real feelings. Over time, these kinds of shared experiences help children internalize their parents’ values related to behaviors.

As a kind of social-emotional tool, Beep & Boop encourages families to clearly label important behaviors, discuss their impact on others (hitting hurts and makes me mad), to set goals, and to talk about how to achieve them.
This whole process can benefit children in several ways:

1) It provides vocabulary to identify and discuss their own feelings.

2) It promotes perspective taking as children think about how their behavior affects other people.

3) It supports “executive functions” like planning and impulse control that research has shown help children succeed in school and in life.

For more information on executive function, please see:

As a tool for promoting mathematical development, Beep & Boop is an opportunity for authentic learning because the scoring system is directly relevant to children. Each beep moves them one step closer to their goal, while each boop moves them one step away. The app display shows clearly how beeps minus boops equals their total score. When adults make “thinking visible” in this way, it helps children better understand the concepts involved.

For more information on making thinking or learning visible, please see:


When do I use it?

Are there bumps in your family’s daily routine? This is a good place to start using Beep & Boop. Perhaps your child doesn’t want to brush teeth in the morning, gets dressed very slowly, or doesn’t clean up toys. Maybe they whine to get their way or badger you for treats. Try creating a positive goal for your child to transform these annoying patterns into enjoyable games that everyone wins.
Score

It will probably take a little experimentation to find what works best for you and your child. As a general rule, pick rewards that your child genuinely values, and set the target score at a realistic level (start with your child’s age and adjust up from there as needed.). Consider picking the rewards together, letting your child suggest some, or other ways of helping your child take ownership of the process. This will help them be more engaged, and internalize the lessons more quickly.

Like any tool, Beep & Boop can be used in many different ways, and is best used together with other techniques already in your parenting “tool kit.” For example, if you currently use a formal “time out” for hitting or other dangerous behavior, you may want to continue with that, while creating a game of Beep & Boop for more positive alternatives (“use your words when mad”). And, don’t forget, the most encouraging “beep” may always be your positive attention and praise for your child.

Share your experiences!

We encourage you to share your experiences using Beep & Boop!

  • Where did you start?
  • How have you adjusted your approach?
  • What works best?

Here are a few real examples from the parents at StoryBots:

  • “If our three year old comes back from preschool whining more than usual, we check out why, give her some extra love and nurturance as needed, and remind her that she can earn a beep by getting through dinner with no whining (the “no whining while dining” game), and instead “uses her ‘big girl voice.’”
  • “When our twins take turns using a toy with no prompting from me, I give them a beep right then and there.” I think of it like “catching them being good.”’
  • I knew my daughter had really internalized the logic of beep/boop when she gave me a boop one evening for eating something from her plate, “that’s a boop, daddy” she said with a sad face. I haven’t done it since…


Jim Gray is a learning technology consultant, specializing in developmentally appropriate uses of digital media with children, families, preschools, and community settings such as museums and libraries. He has been a teacher of young children, researcher of innovative learning technologies, and Director of Learning at LeapFrog Enterprises. Academic credentials include a BA in Early Childhood Education, an advanced degree in Interactive Media Design, and a doctorate of Education from Harvard. He has been an advisor to PBS KIDS Next Generation Media and Stanford University’s Program in Learning, Design, and Technology. As the father of twin toddlers, he loves inventing toys and playful learning activities for his whole family. Learn more about Jim at his website.

Haven’t tried Beep & Boop yet? Download the latest version for FREE at the App Store here!

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