Sparks of Mindfulness
Mindfulness can be described as a form of brain hygiene. It is a skill everyone can learn, and a powerful tool adults and kids can use to lead healthier, happier lives. It’s the awareness that arises from being present in the moment, on purpose, and without judgment, and it promotes being conscientious and caring in raising children. Our devoted teachers practice it daily at our preschool.
Teaching children mindfulness may sound like a difficult task, as it may seem such an abstract concept. In reality it is the exact opposite. It is a skill that grounds you, connects you to the moment, and calms you down. And what’s more, it can be super easy. Simple mindfulness exercises are not something extra, they are not something to add to the portfolio of extracurricular activities. They are rather the essentials, skills that provide the basis for future growth. They teach our children how to calm themselves, how to focus and pay attention, how to manage their behavior and their emotions, and how to practice compassion and kindness. They can also help kids cope with and release anxiety and stress. And let’s face it, in this fast-paced world of ours, where we are constantly on the go, we could all use the time to just slow down and become more conscious.
Practicing mindfulness is especially useful for kids, who soak up new information like sponges. Teaching them this skill can impact their development, as strengthening capacities to focus attention is best in early childhood. Studies have shown that regulation of attention is fairly well matured by the age of 7. So why not start early, and equip our children with the gear they need to lead successful lives in every sense of the word?
There are 3 R’s of early learning; Reading, WRiting and ARithmetic skills, however, there is another R that is equally as important, even though it may often be overlooked, and that’s Reflective skills. The fourth R plays an important role in overall development of children. Getting in touch with your internal world and knowing how to transform it is what mindfulness is all about. It helps children to become kinder to themselves and others, more empathic, it helps them regulate their emotions better, to focus their attention, and it has been shown that social-emotional work impacts academic success as well.
If all of this sounds a bit overwhelming, like it’s just another thing to add to your already overflowing plate, whether you’re a teacher or a parent, let me show you how easily you can incorporate little moments, sparks of mindfulness, into your daily routine, without disrupting it, but rather making your day calmer, more positive, and just better. The little moments of mindfulness are short kid friendly activities and when done consistently they can be a powerful tool to improve our children’s day-to-day well-being. They are simple to do, take very little time, and what’s best, they are completely free, and you can do them anywhere – in the kitchen, in the car or in the park.
It takes only a couple of slow breaths, as controlled breathing sends the brain a signal that all is well, which calms the nervous system and slows the body’s stress response. As you repeatedly practice that state becomes a trait – “Neurons which fire together, wire together”, and that is how mindfulness can train the pre-frontal cortex that helps keep the whole system in balance. Taking one minute to use mindful moments, calms down the whole classroom. But in order for this to work, it’s important that it is done in the positive manner (never as a punishment), and that kids like doing these exercises, therefore they should be enjoyable and fun.
These simple exercises, little moments of mindfulness, are for everyone. No expertise needed. What is important to remember is to keep it short, to make it age appropriate, and to practice consistently.
Here are some of the exercises you can do:
Start by taking a deep breath in through your nose, and let it all the way out through your mouth, and then…
- Rainstorm – Mimic a storm using your hands and feet: how it starts, gets louder and louder, and how it slowly passes.
- Hot chocolate – Imagine you have a cup of hot chocolate in your hands. It is still too hot to drink, so we will blow on it by taking a deep breath through our noses and slowly blowing on the hot chocolate.
- Get your grumpies out – Make the grumpiest face you can, or if you feel sad or angry today, make your best sad or angry face. Take a deep breath in through your nose and blow all those bed feelings away through your mouth.
- Kindness – Think about something kind you did for someone, or how about something kind someone did for you recently? How did that make you feel? Now think about something kind you haven’t done yet, but you will the next time you have a chance. Try to remember to do that kind thing whenever you can.
- Superman & Wonder Woman – Stand straight and strong, with your feet just wider than your hips, your fists clenched, and your arms reached out to the sky, stretching the body as tall as possible (Superman) or with fists placed on the hips (Wonder woman). How do you feel? Say it in your mind.
- Spidey senses – Turn all of your senses on: smell, sight, hearing, taste, and touch. What do you notice? What is going on around you? Note it in your mind.
…. And you can find many more here Mindful Moments for Kids
Giving our children the opportunity to grow and make positive changes now will encourage them to impact the world in a positive way when they grow up, and even if it sounds a bit tacky, I can’t help myself but to end this article with a quote:
“Be the change you want to see in the world”
Siegel, Daniel J. and Mary Hartzell. 2013. Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin
Siegel, Daniel J. and Tina Payne Bryson. 2012. The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. New York: Delacorte Press
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