A Guide for Parents.

Learn how to use the app to help your child.

What’s Kai’s Sanctuary about?

Kai’s Sanctuary is a story-driven app designed to help children learn to identify and process their emotions. It was created in direct response to the coronavirus pandemic – at a time children across the world are experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety – but the lessons it teaches are timeless.

Co-designed alongside leading child psychologists and paediatricians, the app focuses on building skills that children can carry with them throughout their lives. We’re releasing a simpler, first version now – but the app will continue to grow, and we’d like to invite you on our journey.

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Why should we use it?

The app currently contains the following science-backed gamified exercises:

  • deep breathing
  • body scan meditation
  • yoga and stretching

Each feature contains multiple levels of content, designed to help a child improve their skills progressively over time. It’s an antidote to fast-paced games that are anecdotally linked to hyperactivity.

The gameplay is comparatively slow and soothing. Future updates will include additional exercises.

How do we use it?

We’ve designed the gameplay to be soothing – achieving calm is a difficult business! Here are some moments where it may prove helpful:

  • use the body scan exercise when your child needs time to regroup themselves
  • try deep breathing to create calm early in the morning
  • enjoy yoga for pre-bedtime stretching

We strongly encourage parents to co-play. For best results, participate alongside your children. 

Breathing game 101.

In this game, children learn deep breathing – one of the simplest and most effective ways to relax. To play:

  • Press down your thumbs while breathing in, and watch the circle as it grows.
  • Breathe out and guide your swimmer using the arrows to collect marine animals!

The more you collect, the closer you’ll be to unlocking more baby swimmers over time. It’s best if you try to practice belly breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, with your child.

Here’s a guide. It goes like this:

  • Breathe in deeply while your belly rises through your nose
  • Breathe out while your belly falls through pursed lips

Ask your child: How can we belly breathe together? Does the breathing game get easier to do the longer we play? Why or why not?

How it helps: Studies show that deep breathing can induce improvement in both stress levels and mood.

Discovering body scan meditation.

This game helps children develop body awareness. This is the ability to understand how our bodies feel and move in space, but also how our emotions can affect them. It’s a useful practice for cultivating mindfulness – by helping us get in touch with where we hold stress, sadness and anger, for example.

In this exercise, children are faced with a guardian who isn’t feeling well. To play, tap each point and listen to Kai’s voice.

  • Sometimes, your child will have an audio cue simply announcing a body part on the guardian.
  • Or, Kai will ask your child to consider how they’re feeling.
  • In each game, your child will identify a few points where the guardians might need help. Here, they can use a scanner to find out what’s going on!

For example, a guardian’s upset stomach might be caused by nervousness. At the end, Kai will suggest a few activities the guardians can try for relief. These activities are precisely the same exercises your child can try when they find themselves feeling the same emotion.

Ask your child: Where might you feel worried? Do you feel it in your chest or your head? How about excitement? Where might you feel that – possibly as butterflies in your tummy?

How it helps: Studies suggest that mindfulness exercises like this one have an impact on the body’s response to stress.

Exploring yoga class.

Tala is the Sanctuary’s yoga instructor – and happens to be a sloth. Your child can put their own sequences together by selecting the ones they find the most interesting. Encourage creativity in their sequences, but know that they can’t put two of the same move right next to each other!

Explore Tala’s sequences: shown as animals ranked from least to most flexible! Over time, a child will unlock more yoga poses (increasing in difficulty) and sequences that are more complex.

Ask your child: Why’s it a good idea to stretch before bed? Which poses make you feel calmer? Which are more exciting?

How it helps: Body practices, like yoga, have an impact on helping children cultivate mindfulness.

Tending to your guardian.

By learning to tend to their guardian, children learn how to nurture themselves. Notice Kai’s gentle guidance during the Sanctuary garden scenes, when children drag earned items to their guardian. You’ll hear a little bit about how children can reflect on when their own bars are running low, and where they might seek help.

We’ve purposely avoided the overt use of currency – instead utilising treats as a method to help children consider the feelings of others. This is why a child’s guardian has moods that change over time – a concept we’ll explore in-depth in a future feature.

Ask your child: How does your guardian feel right now? What kinds of things can you do when you’re bored, tired or sad?

How it helps: This feature is designed to help children contemplate how others are feeling, and consider how they can better express their own emotions.

Self-reporting and Kai’s checklist.

Tapping Kai (the icon with a checklist) means that your child will be completing three exercises. Over time, helping Kai in this way – and completing each game in one session – will allow them to earn higher ranks in the Sanctuary, collect ecology-themed cards and discover more guardian treats.

Most importantly, before each session begins, Kai will ask your child to report how positive or negative they’re feeling by choosing a point on the slider. Second, your child will be asked to report how sleepy or excited they’re feeling. This self-reporting, based on a two-dimensional model of emotion, creates a more accurate picture of their mood. The game will also respond accordingly.

Ask your child: Are you feeling good or bad (valence)? Are you feeling really excited or sleepy (intensity)?

How it helps: The game will retain a model of their reported emotions and provide personalised suggestions. Reporting emotions helps children to name them – so that over time, they’re likely to develop a richer vocabulary to report how they feel.

So where can I find this app?

The app is due for release – completely free – across the UK in October 2020. We’re learning too! So, we welcome feedback from our community on our very first version. Please feel free to reach out to us anytime here.

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