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
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.
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
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