A few weeks ago Mindful Littles had a wonderful opportunity to host a mindfulness station at a local elementary school’s Wellness Fair. There were 4 other stations including yoga, karate and two different sports. During the fair every child in the school, about 400+ children in total, rotated through each station in 15-minute increments over the span of several hours. For our Mindful Littles station, we created a game called “Breathe through Bingo.” As I’ve noted in past posts, there’s lots of different and creative ways for kids to learn how to relax and breathe. Our bingo game included 16 different ways to breathe. We randomized these breaths on bingo cards using an online bingo card generator. A few examples included snake breath, ocean breath and belly breath. I even made up a few breaths including “Birthday Cake,” where you inhale the smell of a yummy cake and blow out the birthday candle.
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.
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
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
A local mom recently told me about an awesome game called Memory Yoga Game. It’s a matching game of yoga postures. Essentially, you place all the cards face down, and try to get two matching yoga postures. Once you find a match, you have to do the yoga posture to be able to keep the match.
One of my husband’s favorite games to play with our kids is Cloud Shape Game- a great way to tap into your imagination and dream up what object a cloud looks like as they float by. This last weekend I decided to add a bit more to the simple game and turned it into a mindfulness activity.
I found 15-minutes of mommy-daughter time with my 5-year old. We got a couple of picnic blankets, took a pad of paper and a pencil and went into our backyard. Before we even played, we just laid on the blankets on our grass, soaked in some fresh air and watched the clouds drift by, which was extremely relaxing and peaceful. Read more
I’ve learned from both girls that parents can introduce children to mindfulness as young as infants. While these itty bitty children may not fully understand how to use it in practice, the early exposure can help children feel compassion, help them stay calm and become accustomed to mindfulness techniques and language.
Most of the activities I post on this site are with my older daughter because my younger daughter is just 2. And while she is too young to actively participate in many of our experiments, in many ways just her presence during our activities has helped her already. I’ve also been deliberately trying some practices with her which I’ve listed below:
- Have her be the “healer”: Even a 2-year old can feel empowered to help others in need especially siblings or friends. If my older daughter is hurt or upset, I often ask my toddler to check on her sister and give her a hug. I get the ice, but then have my toddler apply it on her sister’s boo-boo; or I have my toddler get the bandaid. Now when her older sister is upset, she immediately goes to the freezer to ask for ice or asks me if she can bring her a bandaid.
- Role-Play & Name Emotions: We do role-play to act out and name certain emotions. My 2-year old already knows how to name sad, mad, scared, happy, love and expresses these now when she feels them. Often times in our role-play I’ll pretend I’m her little crying baby, and she then asks me what is wrong and says…”baby sad?” She rubs my face and then starts kissing me to make me feel better. Even at such a young age, she already shows an incredible capacity to empathize.
This activity is something that has been passed down in my family across generations- my grandmother did this activity my father, my father did it with me and now I have started doing it with my own daughters. It’s a very simple short practice during which your little lays on their tummy and closes his/her eyes. You then draw a letter, a shape or even a short phrase on their back with your index finger. They tune into your touch and the movement of your finger, and try to visualize what you are drawing on their back. Read more
Last night I organically discovered that a simple foot massage could become a “mindfulness practice” to help my daughters deeply relax after a bath or shower. We were doing their post-shower ritual to play one of their now favorite games: “Guess the Letter/Shape on my Back.” And once we started playing the game, I started massaging my girls with lotion- on their arms, legs and feet. Almost immediately after I started rubbing their feet, I realized that their eyes started closing and they had a slight grin on their face. They looked like they had quickly entered a very relaxed, drowsy dream-like state. Read more