One of my favorite pre-parenting stories is from a birthing course that my husband and I took before the birth of our first daughter. Like many first-time parents, we had signed up to be “better prepared” for what was to come. During this particular course we took, there was an exercise to simulate how to focus during labor. Each of us had to hold an ice cube in our hand for a certain amount of time without dropping it. If the feeling got intense, we were to breathe through the sensations and see how we fared. Somehow I had tuned out during the instructions about the purpose of the exercise. Almost immediately after the ice cube was placed in my hand, I reacted by dropping the ice cube on the ground and said “Ow! That hurts!” Clearly, I was not a fan of holding the ice cube. My husband looked astonished. If that was foreshadowing how labor was going to go, we were in trouble. Luckily though we survived labor, and to this day, my husband and I still joke about the Ice Cube Episode as one of the most memorable starts to parenting. Read more
This mindfulness activity is an idea from a local parent, and I tried it recently with the girls and they loved it. The activity is very simple and quick. You sit outside with your kiddos, get very quiet and try to hunt down or notice all the different sounds you can hear. 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.
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.
My girls and I played a game I named Superhero Mystery Game as a fun way to practice mindfulness by tapping into the visual senses while doing something quietly and slowly. We first put on capes and masks to become superheroes, and we gave each other superhero names: SuperHawk, SuperPrincessCheetah and SuperElmo. This really set the tone before we even began, and my girls were immediately engaged.
We then had to quietly tip-toe through the house trying to find clues in every room to solve a mystery. The trick was though that we had to use our superhero eyes and laser-beam focus to find clues in the house that we had never noticed before. We whispered to each other as we walked around super sleek and stealthy. Read more
I came up with this game to experiment with a mindful eating practice to tune into the present moment with a few key senses.
How you play
I took a single piece of fruit (a grape, a blackberry and a piece of pineapple) and put them each in a small dish. I then placed a blindfold over my daughter’s eyes and set the 3 dishes in front of her. She had to pick up a piece of fruit, pause, feel the fruit and describe the texture of the fruit. She then had to put the fruit in her mouth and describe the flavors as she was eating the piece of fruit very slowly. And then finally she had to guess what fruit she just ate, but she wasn’t allowed to tell me until she had gone through all 3 taste tests. Once she had tasted all three, she had to name the fruit and the order that she ate them in. My daughter loved the game so much that she wanted me and her younger sister to also play it afterwards. Read more
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