Photo with thanks to www.calmfamily.org
During this time of slowing down, when families have more time on their hands and more time to spend together, this is a perfect opportunity for the whole family to explore and practice mindfulness together.
A daily practice of mindfulness can help to develop a calmer response to life for both parents and children, practised together it can be a beautiful bonding opportunity where parents and children can notice how it feels to spend some time being still and completely present in the moment.
By practising these activities with children you are introducing them to skills for life. You are encouraging your children to explore how to be more present, notice what is going on for them in the present moment and to take notice of the world around them, experiencing it through their senses rather than their analytical mind. You are helping children to develop the skills to calm themselves down, to develop better focus and to have a greater awareness of their actions. Even better, all these benefits are available to the parents that choose to practice these simple exercises with their children. Calmer, happier children and calmer, happier parents.
In this blog I have provided a variety of exercises so you can choose one or two that might be most appropriate to your child or you can take time to explore different exercises to find the ones that are most enjoyable for your family. Remember to gain maximum benefit from these exercises they should be practised once or twice a day every day.
At the end of each mindfulness session take time to discuss with your children what they noticed during the exercise. How did they feel? How did their body feel? Was it pleasant, unpleasant or neutral? I’d love to hear how you get one.
Stand completely still and watch the clouds in the sky. Notice how they move and change over time. You can do this outside or just looking through a window. We rarely take time just to look at the sky but it can be a beautiful calming way of staying completely in the moment and just noticing. Beware not to look straight at the full sun in the sky – if it happens to be around.
Watching Birds Fly
An alternative to watching clouds and one of my personal favourites. You can do this outside or looking through a window. Be completely still and just watch a bird flying across the sky noticing how and where it moves. Continue to watch the bird silently until it goes out of sight or lands.
Engaging Five Senses
In a safe garden or outdoor space encourage children to silently explore the space for 1 or 2 minutes at a time using each of their senses. So start by encouraging children to use hearing. Spend their 1 or 2 minutes just listening to any sounds that are around, noticing louder sounds, quieter sounds, constant sounds, sounds that come and go. They can stand still or walk around. Then you can all discuss what you heard and how it felt to just be listening. The next 1 or 2 minutes can be spent on sight, really noticing the plants, insects, and movement, anything that takes their attention when they really look. Discuss. Then use smell and touch. You can also use taste if you have older children and you have for example a herb garden where you can explain what it is safe to taste and what they should never taste.
Listening to footsteps
As you and your child walk slowly around a room or outside encourage them to listen carefully to the sound of their footsteps. If they are walking across different surfaces encourage them to notice how the sound might change. You may also like to develop this exercise with older children and invite them to notice the sensations of contact between their foot and the ground and how those sensations constantly change with every step.
Sit quietly and tune in to the rhythm of your natural breath, breathing through the nose if this is possible. Hold a hand out in front of you or rest it on your lap or a table surface, palm up. As your breath flows into your body allow your things to gently extend to your hand is fully open, as you breath out allow your fingers to fold and your hand to come back to a gentle fist. Stay with the flow of opening and closing fingers for a few minutes keeping as much focus as possible on how the breath feels and how it feels to open and close your hand. This can be a very calming exercise and is a lovely way of developing focus, stillness and awareness of breath. Again discuss what it felt like at the end.
Lie on your back and rest your hands gently on your tummy, longest fingers just touching. Take your awareness to how your tummy moves with every breath, lifting and expanding on the in breath and falling away and softening on the out breath. Notice how your fingers move with every breath maybe moving slightly apart on the in breath and coming back together on the out. As you lay still and focus on your breath and the rhythmic movements in your tummy, notice if your breath changes over time. Be interested in every single individual breath. Discuss how it felt to lie still and breath. Discuss any changes anyone noticed in their breath over time.
Hold a hand out in front of you and place your index finger from your alternative hand against the knuckle of your outside little finger. Breathing naturally through your nose trace your index finger up your little finger to the tip on the in breath, then on the out breath trace it down the other side of your little finger towards the base of the finger. On the next in breath trace your index finger up the ring second finger and down the other side on the out breath. Keep this movement going and when you arrive at the base of your thumb reverse the movement and trace all your fingers again in the alternative direction. This exercise encourages a focus on touch, sensation, movement and breath.