An Unordinary Game with my Itty-Bitty

I recently wrote in the post “Learning from my toddler how to practice mindfulness with curiosity” that my 2-year old and I do a weekly walk right before music class.  During our walks, she creates her own adventure- intrigued by the smallest ordinary things on our walk.  On one of our most recent walks, we stumbled upon several rocks in front of an office building.  And as is typical of my daughter’s fascinating exploration, she saw the bed of rocks and immediately stopped to inquire about them, to look at them and pick them up.  She found one rock that she thought was “bumpy” and I realized that we could start an impromptu mindfulness game to focus on our sense of touch and sight.

I asked her to find different color rocks, shapes and textures, and we began just collecting the rocks into different piles.  We found bumpy white rocks, gray smooth ones, reddish ones and even round rocks that she thouimg_6588ght were balls.  She loved finding the right match for her little piles and was laser-beam focused on the hunt.  With each new find, we intently looked at and felt each rock to make sure it was the right fit for each group.   My 2-year old had a total blast from an activity so simple and what most of us “bigs” would consider pretty boring.

Afterwards I realized that we only organically stumbled upon this game because we took the time to slow down and just be.  For that short period of time, we had no agenda, no worries but to just enjoy our walk.  I’ve been past rock-beds so many times in front of buildings and office parks, but never have I realized that we could create a spontaneous fun game from something so “ordinary.”  As parents, we often spend so much time and money on toys and things for our kids, but there’s so much that we can play with in our natural world if we just pause for a moment to do so.  Once again my 2-year old continues to teach me how “unordinary” our life can be…only if we let it.

One Word for the Day

In the book “Awakening Joy for Kids” as well as his adult course “Awakening Joy,” James Baraz (co-founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center) describes ten wholesome habits to create well-being in your life. One of his first recommendations is to set a positive intention for your day to “incline your mind toward a particular vision.”  By doing so, you are more likely to pay attention to ways that you are focusing on that intention and changing old habits that don’t help you achieve well-being.  In his book, Baraz cites a quote from Dan Siegel, who describes that “Intentions create an integrated state of priming, a gearing up of our neural system to be in the mode of that specific intention: we can be ready to receive, to sense, to focus, to behave in a certain manner.”  Read more

Learning from my toddler how to practice mindfulness with curiosity

A lot of the mindfulness exercises and games I do at home are activities that my older daughter actively engages in because of her age.  My 2-year old participates as much as she is able to, but I think we need a couple of more years for her to really get a lot out of our planned activities.  The other day, however, I realized that my 2-year old spends most of her day “practicing” mindfulness just by doing what she does best- exploring everything with intense curiosity and wonder.

We’ve started doing weekly walks right before her music class to just leisurely pass about thirty minutes we have together before her class begins.  During our walks, my 2-year old stops every few seconds- observing, commenting, touching all the things she sees in her sight.  She touches leaves, steps in puddles, pauses when she hears chirping birds.  She looks up and down, and asks “what’s that mama?” at almost every step, when she sees simple things like wrappers and cigarette boxes.  We don’t make it very far during our half-hour walk, but it doesn’t even matter- she has a blast.  Everything is a new wonder to her and she seems genuinely intrigued to learn more.

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Mindful Scavenger Hunt

This mindfulness activity that we did, a Mindful Scavenger Hunt, was one of the coolest ways to reinforce some mindfulness tips with my 5-year old, while having some fun together.  Yesterday I set up a simple scavenger hunt around the house using 10 clues.  My daughter would find a clue in a designated spot in the house, which would lead to the next clue.  Once she found all 10 clues, she found a small surprise at the end of the scavenger hunt.  For each of the clues and riddles, I deliberately focused on two things to reinforce a few key learnings.  Read more

A Peaceful Place for a Positive Time-Out

My husband got the book: Peaceful Piggy Meditation as a holiday gift for me and the girls, which is a children’s story about the importance of finding some peace and quiet during stressful and anxious times.  While the book is a good source of encouragement, meditation is not something I explicitly force my girls to do yet, as I’ve noted in previous posts.  For my children, it would be met with a lot of resistance, and I don’t want them to view meditation as another thing Mommy is making them do.  I want meditation to be something that they naturally start seeking themselves as they get older when the time is right for them. Read more

84 hygiene kits made with love and a jump-start to end the night

We had our second “Helping Haiti Kids” event yesterday which was another heartfelt event with local families. We had a wonderful turnout despite the super stormy weather. Our event followed a similar agenda as our first one in December, which you can read about here. Because of both events, we completed 84 hygiene kits and now every child in the Center of Hope Haiti school will receive a personalized hygiene kit- each kit showcasing a polaroid picture and special wish from the family who made the kit. Read more

A Scrappy, Tactile Art Project: Our Very Own Mandalas

Mandala coloring books have become a big trend, and rightfully so. These books are not only fun, but have a very soothing and relaxing effect on any artist- littles and bigs alike. The word ‘mandala’ is a Sanskrit word, meaning ‘circle’ and it “represents harmony, wholeness and the infinite nature of the universe.”   The mandala image is a series of concentric circles that contain different interlocking geometric patterns.

In order to color each shape in a mandala, you have to stay intently focused on the present, remaining very attentive and calm, so it makes for a great mindfulness activity. Researchers have studied the healing effect of mandalas and found that coloring a mandala for 20 minutes can have greater improvements on anxiety levels than free-form coloring for 20 minutes.  In another study participants who “created mandalas (versus those who drew static objects) demonstrated significant improvements in mental health, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress.” Read more