One night a few weeks ago when the girls were taking a bath, they got into a tiff over a bath toy. My 2-year old wanted the toy that my older daughter was playing with. My older daughter immediately responded by asking her sister to play “Rock-Paper-Scissors” to see who could have the toy, which was a pleasant surprise. My toddler is a little too young to play the game, which my kindergartner realized and said “You can be scissors and I’ll be paper, so that you can have the toy this time.” Read more
The inspiration for our mindfulness activity came from a fall art project that my younger daughter did in her preschool class, where the class made art with spices and herbs they had first smelled. For our home activity, I also added our own twist and brought back the blindfold, which was a hit during the “Blindfolded Fruit Tasting Game.”
The Simple Game
The first thing we did was pick our spices. We picked some yummy ones- cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. My girls and I smelled the spices first before putting small amounts in containers. And then came the fun part. We each took turns putting our blindfold on to guess what spice was in each container. We paused and took a deep breath in and deep breath out, and sometimes a second smell to make sure we knew what it was. We then had to share our guess after smelling the spice.
My 5-year old nailed all of them and got all 4 spice smells correct; my 2-year old was done playing after one guess. Interestingly, my husband and I both got nutmeg and cinnamon mixed up.
Some Messy Fun
Once we did the guessing game, then we used the spices to do some fun messy art. It did get quite messy, so it may be worth taking this game outdoors. Here’s the results of some of the artwork. All in all, a really easy and fun sensory game to tune into the sense of smell, and relax with some fun art after.
Last week my 5-year old walked in the door from school and was really upset because her sister got to watch a TV show while she was away and thought that her sister would get an “extra” show. She started crying really hard and what was a trivial occurrence had become a very big deal in her mind. I let her cry and told her that I understood she was upset, but that things aren’t always fair. If she needed to calm down that perhaps she could go to the Peaceful Place in the corner of her room to settle down. She walked into her room bawling her eyes out, and then two minutes later walked out completely calm and prancing around the house like nothing had happened. I was in complete awe. She seemed like a different child within just a few minutes.
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 thought 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.
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
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.