Hi Friends! I don’t know about you, but the monkey mind has been on complete overdrive as of late. One of my main goals this year was to practice being more present. I recently heard a definition of presence that resonated with me; being present is when your feet and your mind are in the same place at the same time focusing on the same thing. So simple, yet so difficult at times. This takes practice and intention and a lot of grace, but when we can model this type of presence for our children it can be a game changer in teaching the skill of mindfulness. Let’s take a minute to unpack this mindfulness thing....Doesn’t that word just sound so serene? But what exactly is mindfulness and how do we achieve it within this crazy busy world that spins us round and round? As a parent, I like the idea that mindfulness creates an opportunity to be present, gentle, attentive, compassionate and grateful for each moment. Doesn't that sound like a fabulous way to approach the challenges and struggles of parenting and “adulting” in general? More importantly it is an amazing skill for kiddos to embrace at a young age. I think of mindfulness practices as tools in my Mama toolbox that are available to help my little ones (and myself) navigate through some of our big emotions, frustrations, lack of focus and worry. Below are some simple practices (or tools for your toolbox) that we use regularly and my hope is that you will be able to use as well. 5 Simple Mindfulness Activities: 1. The Squish & Relax Meditation While the kids are lying down with their eyes closed, have them squish and squeeze every muscle in their bodies as tightly as they can. Tell them to squish their toes and feet, tighten the muscles in their legs all the way up to their hips, suck in their bellies, squeeze their hands into fists and raise their shoulders up to their heads. Have them hold themselves in their squished up positions for a few seconds, and then fully release and relax. 2. Practice with a Breathing Buddy: For young children, an instruction to simply “pay attention to the breath” can be hard to follow. You could have each child grab a stuffed animal, and then lie down on their back with their buddy on their belly. They should focus their attention on the rise and fall of the stuffed animal as they breathe in and out. (Teaching children about breath is so very important). 3. Mindful Nature Walks: Our family loves to be outdoors and we try to squeeze in at least one hike a week (weather permitting). One really neat idea is to do a “noticing walk.” You could have your child stroll through the trails (you could do this in your neighborhood as well) and notice things that they haven’t seen before. You could designate one minute of the walk where they are completely silent and simply pay attention to all the sounds they can hear — frogs, woodpeckers, a lawnmower. 4. Establish a Gratitude Practice: Gratitude is a fundamental component of mindfulness. Taking a moment of gratitude can be introduced at so many different times throughout the day. I choose to start the day with a moment to say one thing that I am grateful for and then ask my family members to do the same when they wake. You could do this at the dinner table or before bed as well. 5. Check your Personal Weather Report: I have had my kiddos use the “weather report” analogy to describe their current mood and feelings at a given moment. Are they sunny, cloudy, rainy, calm, windy, hurricane? This allows children to observe their present state without overly identifying with their emotions. They can’t change the weather outside, and we can’t change our emotions or feelings either. All we can change is how we relate to them.
Mindfulness APPS That I Love For Kids: Calm: Body scan feature, breath work and sleep stories. Headspace: Meditation with a specific series for kids. Smiling Minds: Love this one so much... It has specific lesson plans with guided meditations for a bunch of different age groups. Breathe Kids: These are short mindfulness videos that could be incorporated into a bedtime routine. I hope these activities and suggestions can help guide your family into a more mindful, focused routine. Remember that kids are kids and sometimes these activities will go swimmingly and other times (more likely) they will not. Go slow and do not have expectations (something kids teach us all the time). Mindfully, Jessie