It’s no secret that staying at home has led to mounting stress for both kids and adults. As parents adjust to working from home, they also have to find ways to keep their children educated and entertained, and it can be tough for them to navigate the new normal.
Enter Ninja Focus – a mindfulness app that helps kids cope with stress and better understand their emotions. It inspires children ages 3 to 8 to focus, be more compassionate and sleep better via videos that offer step-by-step breath work, yoga poses and sleep meditations. Especially useful during the coronavirus crisis, it helps manage anxiety and improve concentration when doing schoolwork at home.
Kamala Alcantara is Ninja Focus’s founder and chief content officer. She also serves as the voice for the app’s mediations. Alcantara spent some time teaching Spanish to young students in Europe and Africa before settling down in Scottsdale to focus on developing this unique digital tool in August 2019.
“I loved to implement meditation, yoga and mindfulness in almost every class and it had such a major impact on the kids’ education, learning and attention,” she says.
She studied neuroscience and early childhood education at Harvard, where she had the opportunity to work in a lab that optimized technology for the classroom. She has been implementing yoga and meditation in her personal routine for the past decade, which led her to pursue her yoga certification.
“I took elements of my user experience, early childhood education and my passion for meditation, mindfulness and practicing kindness and compassion, bringing it to a platform that we could disseminate to children,” she says.
Her vision for the app is to motivate millions of kids of all backgrounds to be kinder, happier and to have fun while learning to regulate their mood.
“There’s so many physiological and neurological benefits that kids, no matter the socioeconomic status of their parents, are able to implement these strategies,” she says. “That was the vision, really to help give back to parents and to increase kids’ focus, help them sleep better and then also to foster positive behavior. All of those things can be achieved through mindfulness, meditation and yoga and the content that we’ve presented on the app.”
That content has allowed both kids and parents to de-stress during a difficult time. The app is currently free, making mindfulness and meditation accessible to everyone.
Alcantara recently ran a research study where she talked to parents and kids about what kind of content is best suited for their needs. Before she even created the app, she collected information not only from neuroscience research, but from kids themselves.
“Kids are the ones who told me they wanted a world map, who wanted a daily quest, who wanted trophies, who wanted music and bedtime stories,” she says. “I really listened to the kids, so it’s a kid-centric app.”
Kids also chose the app’s mascot, “a loveable, cute little ninja bunny.” The platform’s positive influence on children’s behavioral issues also isn’t lost on parents.
“A lot of the feedback is very positive,” Alcantara says. “We have parents that say it takes their kids normally two hours to fall asleep and now they’re out in five to 10 minutes.”
For Alcantara, the platform is very personal.
“As a child, I wish I had this meditation. I wish I had someone guiding me through these really tough emotions,” she says. “I grew up in a household where it was not OK to be angry or sad. A lot of the motivation for creating emotion-based meditations was to help those kids where maybe their parents don’t know how to talk to them about emotions.”
Ninja Focus adds new music, meditations and bedtime stories every week. “And we are not done yet,” Alcantara says.
In the future, she hopes to host live meditations on social media and come out with a plush toy.
“The opportunities are endless,” she says. “We’re just getting started.”
Ninja Focus is available for iPhone and Android. To learn more, visit ninjafocus.com.