Top 5 Benefits of Yoga for Children, from a newly qualified Yogakidz teacher!

News Flash: I’ve just received my certificate through the post meaning that I can now officially say that I’m a fully-qualified Yogakidz teacher. Yay!

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Now the hard work of training is complete, the fun (and learning) can begin! I’ll be incorporating yoga into options that I already offer, such as the Mind Masters day, as well as offering yoga and mindfulness workshops lasting on average 1.5 hours, delivered to a single class at a time.

Wondering what a typical children’s yoga and mindfulness session looks like? 

Lessons typically begin with a basic breathing exercise and a gentle warm up, followed by a quick routine of Sun Salutations to warm up the muscles further. Then comes the main part of the activity, which might take the form of alphabet/partner yoga; yoga games; and/or my favourite, a yoga story, whereby they follow along to a story practising poses at key points. Classes finish with a little more breathing and a mediation/relaxation activity, guaranteed to calm the mind and body into a state of rest and ‘wakefulness.’

I’m so excited about yoga and the plethora of benefits it can bring into children’s’ lives. As much as it’s just a fascinating subject for children to learn and enjoy, the crowning glory as far as I’m concerned is the way that it supports children’s physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual health.

Whether you’re a parent, educator or just an interested party, let me explain some of the numerous benefits of practising yoga to children: 

  1. Yoga can be a highly engaging activity for children of any and all ages, including those with special educational needs. As a form of active, hands-on learning, it can be particularly engaging for children who don’t seem particularly well-suited to learning within the traditional classroom environment. To many children, yoga represents a breath of fresh air in an overwhelmingly academic, writing-based curriculum.Thanks to activities such as stories, the yoga itself becomes a vehicle through which you can teach cross-curricular skills and knowledge. Yoga stories with links to Science, Nature or History, for example, offer children a fun game-like way of learning that often proves more memorable to children than lessons learned in class.
  2. Perhaps the most obvious benefits are in that it gets children up and moving. As we’re told that the UK is facing unprecedented numbers of severely obese children, the importance of this can’t be understated. Yoga lessons encourage children to move, stretch and strengthen their bodies in a safe way. And while certain postures can be challenging, the lesson is structured in a way that it doesn’t feel like exercise but more like fun and games! Children can see and feel for themselves how exercise and stretching have the potential to make you feel better, stronger and happier.
  3. As much as it supports physical health, yoga can be incredibly useful in the way it promotes overall emotional and mental health. As children focus on their breath and the movements, there is little other space in the mind for negative thoughts and emotions. In this way, yoga acts as an ‘active meditation’, which children often find a little easier than straight-forward meditation, where you’re asked to focus on one thing only. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to mix in breathing, mindfulness, meditation and relaxation activities, which complement the yoga itself and only add to the good feelings and relaxation.
  4. The life lessons, messages and techniques, which naturally flow into yoga lessons with children, can be a key part of developing a ‘growth mindset’ and emotional resilience. Maybe it’s in the way they’re taught to notice how other children can stretch further than they can, and be completely okay with that.  Perhaps it’s the way they might listen to their body, learning to hear the difference between pain and discomfort (which we feel when we’re challenging ourselves.) One child may simply notice that when they exhale, they can move far deeper into a stretch than they believed they could initially, shifting their mindset from “I can’t” to “I can’t yet.” Students can’t help but soak up the ethos that oozes out of yoga classes; the self-acceptance and awareness, lack of judgement and open-mindedness, love and gratitude, willingness to try and make mistakes. Who knows… this might just make all the difference in the kind of adult a child becomes.little-girl-yoga.jpg
  5. As well as soaking up the yogic philosophy, children learn practical techniques that they can repeat independently when they need them, off the mats. I’ve heard countless anecdotes now from children who rely on different breathing and mindfulness techniques in order to sleep, calm negative thoughts, inspire confidence or just because they like the way they feel when they do them. Even a child that attends just one lesson, can take away the idea of tuning into their breath, sensations or emotions, increasing inner-awareness along with inner-strength.

If you’re a teacher or school leader looking to arrange some yoga/mindfulness workshops for your students, contact us to discuss options!

** Look out for more yoga-themed blogs and projects coming soon! **

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Top 10 Family-Friendly Mindfulness Activities: Summer Memories Ahead!

As Summer holidays kick off throughout the UK, I’m aware that not everyone is as giddy as teachers for this time off. For many parents and grandparents, as delightful as it is to spend time with their youngsters, keeping them constantly entertained (without completely giving in to their Fortnite addiction) can be problematic to say the least.

Yet, Summer can be an incredible time for all concerned, with memories made that last a lifetime.

Create a Summer to remember with these easy and entertaining mindfulness-based activities:

  1. Mindful Cooking, Baking and Eating: Making something with your child has the potential to be mindful and enjoyable for you both. As well as paying attention to the recipe, you can look curiously at all the different ingredients you’re using, exploring their colours and textures; noticing how they change as you pour, sieve and mix. You’re caring for the recipe and growing into something else – hopefully something else that’s delicious. Whatever you make, follow up with Mindful Eating (click here for my Mindful Eating script). With any luck, whatever you eat will taste even better because you made it together, with love and attention.watermelon-summer-little-girl-eating-watermelon-food.jpg
  2. Blind Taste-Test: This is a great follow-on from Mindful Eating, which children usually delight at! One person wears a blindfold and has to use their senses in order to determine what a range of everyday foods are. They’re forced to smell and taste foods with their full attention. You can extend this further by asking them to describe smells; textures; tastes; sweetness or bitterness; how taste changes as they eat and so on. For the truly adventurous, include some foods that you know your child doesn’t like. It’s good practice in accepting discomfort and it often produces some surprising results i.e. maybe we don’t hate sprouts carrots as much as we thought!
  3. Mindful Colouring: You can’t swing a cat these days without hitting a Mindfulness Colouring book. Whilst I’m certainly not an advocate of swinging animals, I do think that there’s a lot to be said for good old fashioned ‘colouring-in’. The key here is to really tune into the experience. Encourage your child to feel the pencil as it presses into different parts of the fingers; to listen to the sounds of the pencil strokes on the page, noticing how the sounds change; to pay attention to what they’re actually colouring, attempting to stay in between the lines. Depending on the age of the child, you could set a timer and try a minute to silent colouring for one minute out of every five.
  4. Mindful Listening ‘Sound Map’: Ask your child to close their eyes and try some Mindful Listening, preferably outside. They’ll naturally want to label what the sounds are in their minds – and this is fine – but ask them to follow this up with further curiosity. Ask them to notice whether the sound is near or far; long or short; smooth or sharp; loud or quiet; flowing or jumpy. After a few minutes of this listening, ask them to draw symbols on their blank page which reflect the sounds that they heard. You’ll see my own example below, resulting from a few minutes of Mindful Listening at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The symbols don’t need to make sense of anyone but you, but it’s useful to ask your child to explain why they’ve chosen particular symbols to accompany certain sounds. You can also extend this by adding colour or texture, perhaps categorising sounds in some way e.g. nature sounds/man-made sounds.20180720_140118-1543816872377096586.jpg
  5. Yoga: Yoga is a great way of trying some ‘Active Mindfulness.’ Often, children find this easier than meditation, because they focus on two things (breath and postures) rather than just one. As well as being a great relaxation tool, Yoga will also help children to build strong minds and bodies. If you’re interested, get to a local class over Summer and try it out together. If you’d rather try it at home, Cosmic Kids Yoga is always a big hit with the younger children. For older children, maybe try adult Yoga, but keep it short and basic. Tara Stiles’ Yoga channel has lots of good 5-15 minute beginner’s routines, suitable for older children. Just bear in mind that children’s bodies and muscles aren’t as developed as adults’ bodies, so make sure they know to challenge themselves safely, without causing injury.kid yoga.jpeg
  6. Make and use a Relaxation Glitter Jar: These are a lovely sparkly way to introduce formal meditation to younger children, the idea being that children simply shake the jar and watch closely as the glitter settles. Here’s just one of many useful instructional videos to help you actually make one – please take note to ensure the lid is glued on to avoid disaster. If you’re willing to experiment, you might like to create a few trial jars, adding different amounts of glue to different bottles – extra glue makes the glitter float for longer. The key is to start with short times, perhaps one minute per day. This can also be used as a ‘Calm Down Jar’ for children who struggle to control emotions like anger and anxiety.
  7. Get Outside: Mindfulness and the outdoors go hand-in-hand, basically because it allows us to explore different environments and senses. Here’s a link to the National Trusts’ ’50 Things to do before you’re 11 and 3/4,’ a checklist of activities that encourage an organised approach to Summer outdoors fun. Check out the advice and guidance to ensure you explore safely.girl outside flowers.jpeg
  8. Creative Gratitude: Gratitude is a key aspect of Mindfulness. Why not get creative with it?! If you’re not burnt out from making Glitter Jars, you might like to make a ‘Gratitude Jar,’ decorating as you wish. Every day, put a note in this jar, expressing what you’re thankful for. By Christmas, you’ll have 150 things that you’re grateful to have in your life! If you’ve had enough of jars, you might like to roll and stick your notes together, forming an appreciation chain. Too much? Try a Gratitude calendar or a diary for a more subtle approach. Whilst a one-off project is lovely, if you create something that’s appealing, visible and requires daily input, children will be more likely to maintain a daily gratitude practice, with good vibes that last a lot longer than Summer.
  9. Take up a new hobby: Trying something new naturally requires extra attention. Whether it’s taking up a new instrument, learning to sew or attempting to master a headstand, encourage children to fully invest in the moments they spend in this pursuit. Ultimately, this is just about bringing curiosity into whatever you do.
    What does this sound, smell, taste, look and feel like? How do my body and breath feel as I do this? What thoughts pass by my mind’s sky as I learn this new skill?
  10. Guided Meditations: Listening to a Guided Meditation is a great way of getting that holiday experience, without leaving your house. The New Horizons channel on YouTube has some fantastic clips, including adventures through Ancient Egypt and mystical gardens, generally ranging from 15 to 30 minutes long. If you’re looking for shorter clips, GoZen has a great range of stories and meditation practices with different aims in mind. For technology-savvy older children, teens and young adults, the Insight app offers a huge range of free meditations.

 

Now… go make some memories! 🙂

 

 

 

 

QUICK READ: Top 5 tips to finish the term on a high note!

Though many people might assume that teachers are all laid about the staff room joking before a half-term draws to a close, in actual fact, my experience of this in both primary and secondary, has been a crazy rush to tie up loose ends, get organised for next year and basically do as much as you possibly can to limit the amount of school work to be avoided in the school break.

Teaching can be truly exhausting: even after a short half-term, you can find yourself crawling out of bed on a morning, clinging to a slither of hope that in a week’s time you’ll be binge watching ‘Vampire Diaries’ under the pretense of ‘learning to understand your students on a deeper level.’ If you do battle through the tiredness however, then the last week of any term can be a lovely time to enjoy your craft, really listen to your students and pat yourself on the back for every little thing that has gone well thanks to you.

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Here are my top tips to squeeze every bit of happiness out of your last few days of any term:

  1. Be mindful in the classroom – Be present in the moment when you’re teaching. Forget the ‘to do’ list. Feel your feet on the ground as you stand at the front. Notice sounds and smells and sights. Listen to your body. Be curious about the everyday happenings of teaching and learning.
  2. Enjoy conversations with the kids – Ironically, we’re often so busy teaching that we don’t have time to really talk to the students we teach. In this last week, when you’re potentially giving them ‘nice work’ that they can get along with, take the time to ask them what they’re doing over summer and just enjoy the chit-chat.
  3. Take stock of achievements – My dad always told me that teaching was a ‘thankless profession’; at this time of year, take the time to at least pat yourself on the back for everything that you’ve done over the course of the year. The charity, YOUNG MiNDS have some brilliant resources to support this. Click here for their lesson plan aimed at getting your students talking about their achievements.
    Click here for a poster full of ways that we can celebrate with the adults in school.I’ve written before about the power of a positive phone call home. If you do see progress, achievement or something you like (no matter how big or small) making a positive phone call home could have a big impact on how some families begin their Summer. It’s a low effort job with high rewards!
  4. Give thanks to those around you – I’m a firm advocate of ‘selfish gratitude’; being nice to people who you’ve taught/worked with/worked for or bossed around makes them and you feel really, really great. A card or a mini cactus, or both, go a long way.
  5. Get yourself to the staff room – In so many schools now, staff rooms are more like crypts, with only the odd ghost floating around with a lukewarm cup of tea and a 1970s text book. Take the time now to actually have a lunch break and have a laugh with your colleagues.

Have a great last week! 🙂

Top 5 Resources to Support Children, Teens and Adults with Social Anxiety

Sadly, ‘Social Anxiety’ is a term that many of us are increasingly familiar with, whether this relates to our children, our workmates, celebrities or ourselves.

It’s a problematic issue, partly due to the fact that a good many people doubt its existence. It’s just another label; an excuse to ‘wimp out’ of life’s challenges. “I was shy at school!” they said, “They should just get on with it!”

As a sufferer myself, let me tell you that there’s a big difference between feeling anxious as you speak in front of others (the kind of anxiety that we’re meant to feel when we do something new/exciting/challenging/frightening) and feeling such a range of panic-like anxiety symptoms, that it eats away at your heart, soul and self-esteem every day. Telling someone like this to “get on with it” is like telling someone with clinical depression to “cheer up.”

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What can work, however, is a structured, CBT-style approach, that allows you to unpick the thoughts, beliefs and behaviours that you’ve consciously or unconsciously been participating in. I’ve battled this condition for a good part of the last 20 plus years, but for the last 8 years or so, I’ve been the manager rather than the employee.

If you’re struggling with Social Anxiety, or wish to support a child, teen or adult who is, take a look at some of the free or affordable resources that have helped me along the way:

  1. NHS Northumberland’s website has some incredible resources relating to all aspects of mental health. This free Social Anxiety workbook goes through the steps that a CBT practitioner would also approach. This is really invaluable for children, teens and adults.
  2. Another fantastic freebie from the NHS, this time from NHS Scotland, this Moodjuice Self-help guide for Shyness and Social Anxiety will offer CBT-style structured support for those in need. I’ve shared this with anxious high-schoolers in the past, who reported good results after working through this independently at home.
  3. Janet Espositos’, ‘In the Spotlight’ will teach you that you’re not alone, whilst also giving you strategies to support you in making positive change. Though this is more suited to adults, the activities and strategies in here would work for a parent and child working through this together. I read this book a day after my 26th birthday, 8 years ago, and while I know it’s a huge clique, it really did change my life.
  4. When you’re coping with Social Anxiety, the world can often feel like a very lonely place. Make it a little less lonely by connecting with others going through the similar things. Social Anxiety UK have a great forum that allows you to listen to others sharing their experiences and advice, as well as sharing yours if you wish. The site is restricted to children aged 13+ with certain areas within being limited to 16+. Parents – It is moderated and there are rules to follow, though you may wish to monitor this yourself too if you’re concerned about your child using this site.
  5. There are so many awesome TED talks linked to building confidence and self-belief, as well as talks related to general and specific anxieties and mental health conditions. But that’s a list for another day… For now, I’ll leave you with my absolute favourite, Amy Cuddy’s talk on body language. It’s inspiring, moving and will give you to practical strategies for the next time you’re feeling those nervous butterflies.

These talks and resources are no substitute for actual medical help and if you’re suffering, you should contact your local GP.

Unfortunately, a lot of adults and children, find that when they do seek help, they’re place on a rather long waiting list, becoming increasingly desperate and feeling hopeless. If this is the case, these resources might just offer you (or your child) support, guidance and comfort as you wait.

 

Head full of worries? Try this for instant calm!

A super quick read today, combined with a super quick, easy and effective trick to help you, or your child, feel immediately better when you’re stuck in a ‘worry loop.’

Take a look at this awesome freebie, the ‘Circle of Control’or even better, just grab a pen and a note pad and create your own! No need for it to be fancy!

Feeling overwhelmed and anxious can be incredibly exhausting emotionally. And it’s often completely pointless, because so much of what we worry about isn’t even in the realms of our control. We just need reminding of this sometimes.

Complete the sheet – again by yourself of with your child if you’re trying to support them – and decide what things you can control, and what you can’t. Take a look at this example of what a child might fill in here:

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See? Super quick but very powerful.

If the worries you’re having have elements that you can control, then take whatever small or big action you can to make that inner-worrier quieten down a little.

More often that not though, we give ourselves anxiety headaches about things that we are completely powerless to change; mostly always things that never even happen! When this happens and your mind is repeatedly drawn back to this useless worry, look at this sheet again, remembering that you cannot control this. And maybe switch your attention to something that you can control, like the breath.

The more you practise this, the less you’ll worry! 🙂


Are you a teacher, school leader or parent in Yorkshire, looking to get ‘healthy mind’ strategies like the one above in your school? See skillswithfrills.com to learn more about the Mindfulness/Wellbeing workshops/days that we offer. Alternatively, contact Jo on 07719330358, skillswithfrills@gmail.com or through our Facebook page to find out more!  

Freebie Meditation Script, for children and adults: Cloud-Thoughts

As I adventure further and further into Mindfulness for children, teens and young adults, I only become increasingly convinced as to how effective it can be for everyone. In my work with parents, school children and individuals through Mindful coaching, the following meditation has proven itself to be one of the most difficult, but also the most rewarding.

This meditation is aimed at children from 5+, but it has the potential to give comfort to absolutely anyone. If you’re trying this with a young child, try this for just a minute each day. Depending on age and concentration span, you can attempt this for longer. For an adult who is new to mindfulness, I’d recommend 4 or 5 minutes to begin with. If you wish, you might like to record your thoughts in this handy log.

You can learn a lot about the recurring weather patterns in your mind, after only a week of recording thoughts in logs like this…

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You might also start to notice just how these recurring weather patterns effect your daily habits, behaviours, social interactions and core beliefs. You may realise, as you take a step back from the inner-chatter, that things that you never even questioned to be untrue, suddenly seem like fake news.

Once you’ve put in a little time here, you’ll hopefully find yourself pulling back from your thoughts automatically. This detachment from your thoughts and the realisation that you are you, not whatever is passing through your head at any moment, is just invaluable. It feeds into everything that you are and everything that you do.

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Enjoy this child-friendly ‘Thought-Cloud’ Meditation: 

  1. Sit down comfortably and allow your eyes to close gently. Your brain should know what your body is awake.
  2. Take a few moments to notice your breath and any sensations happening in your body. Notice how your body feels where it touches the chair or floor.
  3. Just continue to breathe and notice with curiosity – no need to control or fix anything. We’re just looking in at what’s happening today, and noticing.
  4. Have you ever laid on the grass and watched clouds go by? This is what we’re going to try now, but we’re going to watch thoughts go by today, instead of clouds. Take some time here to let thoughts come into your mind. Is there anything that you’re excited about? Worried about? Happy about? Unsure about? Let a thought float around in your head like a cloud, just letting it be there.
  5. As you watch these thoughts, as if they’re clouds, you might like to imagine that you are lying outside on grass, on a sunny day, watching these clouds. It might help you to notice the different shapes and colours of these clouds.
  6. As you watch these thoughts, realise that they’re just thoughts. Just like clouds in the sky, they come in different shapes, sizes and colours, but they all pass by. As you watch, notice how they pass by.
  7. If you notice that your mind has wandered, and feel that you’re inside of the cloud rather than watching it, congratulate yourself for realising this. This is brilliant for strengthening your attention muscles! Now go back to watching your thoughts from a distance, remembering that you are not your thoughts. They are just thoughts and float through your sky.
  8. After a few moments, return your attention to your breathe and notice the sensations in your body. Now gently open your eyes and bring your attention back to the room, stretching if you wish.

Enjoy the clouds! xx

 

Mindfulness Hack – Follow these steps for Instant Calm. Anywhere. Any time!

As it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, I thought I’d share some quick steps to clear the brain-fog and find some instant calm.

Just a refresher in what we mean when we talk about developing ‘Mindfulness Practice’: it’s about consciously paying attention to something; or as John Kabat-Zinn (the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) puts it, Mindfulness is:
“The awareness that comes from paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

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As simple as it sounds, it’s easy to be put off by over-complicated explanations or misconceptions that you have to do yoga, eat vegan and have an hour spare each day in order to get anything out of Mindfulness.

Of course, none of this is true! Like anything, peace of mind is a simple or hard as you choose to make it. And you certainly don’t need an hour. It’s perfectly possible to fit Mindfulness into your daily, busy routine.


Follow these basic steps, and you can start practising Mindfulness right now:

  • Set an intention (decide what you’ll bring your attention to). For example, this could be your breath, surrounding, sensations in your body, thoughts, an unpleasant feeling in your belly, the food you’re eating etc.
  • Notice everything you can about the thing you’re looking at/listening to/watching in your mind with ‘the beginners’ mind,’ as if you’ve never seen, heard, smelt anything like it before.
  • Congratulate yourself if you notice that you’re becoming distracted and ‘drifting off’
  • Acknowledge this without judgement and let it go.
  • Return to your intention, exploring it with a curious mind.

Your concentration muscles grow stronger by noticing when you’ve ‘drifted off’ and by repeatedly pulling attention back to your intention. So don’t beat yourself up when you inevitably lose focus. When I teach this to children, we talk about how this action is like a weight lifting rep for your brain; this is the stuff that really counts. Knowing this helps us to be a little kinder to ourselves than we might be, had we tried to control this.


You can use these steps anywhere – any time!

Facing a moment of overwhelming stress at work or home? Set an intention to focus on your breath for a few minutes. Currently being shouted at by a horrible boss? Why not really pay attention to the tone of their voice, the expression, the volume? Take the focus away from how this is making you feel and instead really pay attention to them. Out for a morning run and listening to your brain scream at you to quit? Send your attention to the physical sensation of your feet on the floor.

running-573762_1920.jpgJust play around and experiment with your attention. See what works and what doesn’t; how you feel before and after. Then do more of things that make you feel good! 

These steps are also incredibly effective for children, who need shorter spans of concentration (especially younger children and/or children who are completely new to this.) Just by asking them to pay attention to their food when they eat; encouraging them to use their senses and describe tastes and smells and textures afterwards, you can develop some really beneficial habits at the dinner table. And this is just for starters! 

In an increasingly busy and ‘stressful’ world, it’s good to know that we each carry with us the ability to be mindful.

At any point in time, we can choose. 

Choose to breathe. Choose to watch. Choose to listen.

Choose to be. 

 

 

 

Become a Zen Master with these Mega Mindfulness Resources!

Mindfulness can be defined as the act of consciously focusing on the present moment, while accepting one’s  feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations; with compassion, without judgement.

As stress levels rise, the number of mindfulness-related books, sites, magazines, apps, games, retreats increase daily. And whilst some of these items have a definite stink of ‘fad’ among them, there are also some really valuable resources available that will support you and your family/colleagues/staff/students on your quest for more zen.

Here’s 5 of the good ones:

  • ‘A Mindfulness Guide for the FRAZZLED,’ by Ruby Wax, available for under £7 on Amazon right now. Comedian Ruby Wax has been pretty open about her struggles with mental health, and now with an MCBT (Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) degree from Oxford under her belt, she’s written some pretty inspiring stuff. Ruby offers an honest and comedic perspective, along with a ton of practical tips and information. Included are a 6-week Mindfulness course, along with specific chapters aimed at parents. This book is a must when it comes to mindfulness. I’ve already got her one, ‘How to be Human: The Manual,’ lined up and ready to go!
  • ‘8 Minute Meditation: Quiet your mind. Change your life,’ by Victor Davich (Currently under £14 on Amazon.) This 8-week programme is full of practical information and guidance to help you make your practice consistent and effective. I first read this a few years ago when I was just venturing into mindfulness, and a big part of me believed that in order to really find my headspace, I’d probably need to devote an hour a day to sitting in lotus position, or perhaps spend three-months at an Ashram in India. Eat, Pray, Love your heart out. This book offered me an alternative and much more realistic schedule of 8-minutes daily practice (a lot harder than it sounds!) that I could comfortably slot into my busy life. If you prefer a less anecdotal approach, this book offers a well-structured, text-book style course, sure to bring that little more peace into your day.8 minute mindfulness.jpg
  • ‘Mindfulness On the Go’ card-set by Anna Black, currently under £13. These activity cards come in a beautiful box and won’t look out of place on any kitchen worktop or office desk. There are 54 beautifully designed cards, split into Practice and Activity cards. The Practice cards are mini-meditations that you can do when you’re out and about (you could easily fit the pack into your bag, or select one to keep in your purse/wallet.) The Activity cards, on the other hand, tend to focus on setting intentions for the day and increasing awareness of your daily habits. I love these cards because not only do they look pretty, but they encourage me to actually practise mindfulness and not just forget about it as soon as my ‘to do list’ starts to ramp up.
  • Mindful Kids’ 50 Activity-card set’ by Whitney Stewart and Mina Brau. I’ve mentioned this one before, and it’s just an absolute bargain at under £8. If you’re a parent of young children, struggling to fit in mindfulness around the kids, then why not include them in your practice? You’ll increase your own chances of success dramatically, while at the same time setting them up for a calmer, happier day. The cards are divided into 5 categories, summarised as confidence building; handling challenging emotions; sharpening awareness muscles; acceptance of yourself/the world; rest and relaxation. The activities are great fun for adults and children, most relying on imagination alone. If nothing else, you’re bound to create some precious family memories. Remember when mum tried to ‘be a tree’ and fell over?!

  • ‘In the Moment’ magazine isn’t cheap at £5.99 per monthly issue, but it’s a worthwhile luxury if you’re feeling inclined to spend. The act of sitting down in silence and reading any magazine or book is brilliant me time/mindfulness, but this magazine takes it to a whole other level. It’s crammed full of zen-inspiring articles and interviews, along with practical tips, activities and pull-out resources. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also produced on beautiful paper – I find myself repeatedly going into the present moment, feeling the touch of this beneath my palms. Reading this magazine in all together a lovely experience. You can save money by subscribing online, or pick it up monthly on most supermarket magazine stands.in the moment mag.jpg

Bonus Freebies:

Wanting to ‘up your attention,’ without the expense? Get yourself on YouTube! Just searching for mindfulness or meditation will bring up a ton of results, and though you will have to wade through lots of cheesy/annoying/awful clips, you might just find something that works for you. Here’s a link to some brilliant audio meditations from Professor Mark Williams. I’ve had a lot of success with these!

The same attitude can be applied to the app store. Read reviews before you download, and expect free apps to throw ‘in app purchases’ your way. I’m a big fan of the Head-space app, described as a ‘mindfulness coach in your pocket.’ This app gets bigger and better every year – unfortunately, so does the price! At present, the first course of 10 beginners sessions are still free and definitely worth a download. These babies lasted me over a year and some of the animation clips have really stuck with me.

Enjoy! xx

Would your students benefit from a Masterclass in Mindfulness? ‘Mind Masters’ is ready!

Having completing my Mindfulness teacher training with the British Mindfulness Institute, I’ve been increasingly impatient to get a mindfulness workshop under my belt.

Yesterday, I taught a full day of ‘Mind Masters’ for the second time and I’m thrilled with how it went.

This masterclass in mindfulness works fantastically, either as a follow-up to ‘Wellbeing Warriors’ or as a standalone day’s learning experience. ‘Mind Masters’ lasts the full teaching day, though a compressed version can be taught as a morning only, or as hour-long workshops to different groups/classes. It’s well suited to key stage 2 pupils of any age, and easily adapted below or beyond this age range.

The aim of the day is to introduce children to the different aspects of Mindfulness and the art of really paying attention. If you weren’t already aware, the countless benefits of consistent mindfulness practice in children include improvement of self-awareness, self-regulation skills, mental health and social connectedness.

According to the BMI, the advantages of regular practice for children can include:

  • Increased ability to orient attention
  • Increased working memory and planning and organization
  • Increased self esteem
  • Increased sense of calmness, relaxation, and self-acceptance
  • Increased quality of sleep
  • Decreased test anxiety
  • Decreased ADHD behaviours- hyperactivity and impulsivity
  • Decreased negative affect/emotions
  • Fewer conduct and anger management problems

There’s something for everyone! 

Here’s what we’ll cover throughout the day:

We begin with an introduction to Mindfulness and discuss the benefits, as well as covering rules and expectations for the day.

Throughout the morning, we take part in a range of activities which allow us to switch off our auto-pilot and really ‘step into the moment.’ Included are observational tests and sketching; a ‘What’s that Sound’ quiz and Sound Mapping; activities based on listening to our emotions and meditations; touching, smelling and tasting games, with the odd grape and blindfold thrown in. It’s endless fun! At the end of the day, we bring everything together with some Mindful artwork, before wrapping up to recap what we’ve covered and how we might use this.

The skills and content covered offer students a refreshing ‘day out’ from their regular curriculum, and they’ll enjoy the mindful games, activities, quizzes and artwork, whilst gaining valuable tools to support them mentally and emotionally both at school and at home. As we focus on strengthening those all-important concentration muscles, we’ll also boost our writing, speaking, listening, collaborative and artistic skills.


Interested? Call 07719330358 or email jo@skillswithfrills.com to find out more!

5 Awesome Resources to support Children’s Mental Health

Recently, a few people have asked me about different resources that might help their students or children with anxiety and mental health. In past blogs, I’ve shared links to some brilliant free NHS resource packs for children, relating to a whole host of mental health problems. Click here if you want to go back to this.

If you’re willing to splash a little cash however, there are some really creative, beautifully-made and effective resources to use with your students or children.

This post contains no affiliate links – just good old fashioned sharing of what I’ve had success with; so that others might enjoy the same with their classes/groups/children.

These resources aren’t a substitute for medical help where it’s needed – where there are genuine concerns about your child’s mental health then please consult a health care professional. Sadly, I know that there are a lot of deeply concerned and frustrated parents (and children), whose child has been on a waiting list  for the last year and a half to speak to such a professional. When you’re forced to wait, but desperate to support your child in the meantime, these resources will provide much-needed guidance and support. Similarly, educators who build resources like these into their teaching, will certainly support students’ already suffering with mental health problems, and hopefully arm all students with a little more emotional resilience, needed for a healthy response when they inevitably hit one of life’s ‘bumps in the road.’

Here are 5 Awesome resources that won’t break the bank:

  1. Andrea’s Harms’ The Mood CardsPresently, these are under £12.00 on Amazon.co.uk and they’re worth every penny. As well as being appealing to the eye, these cards offer a mix of CBT, Mindfulness and Positive Psychology. The idea is children are invited to choose a card which relates to how they feel at the time (or they can choose at random but I’ve not found this nearly as effective.) They then turn the card over and answer questions relating to their mood overleaf, or read out a positive affirmation, or both. This stays on just the right level of cheesy and it allows for child-led emotional intervention. Effectively, they’re coaching themselves. Side-note: The cards work for adults too! I’ve successfully coached myself out of frustration or anxiety a few times, using these fabulous cards.
  2. Lily Murray and Katie Abey’s, No Worries! activity book: Labelled as an interactive self-care work-book for children aged 7+, this lovely resource allows children to colour and doodle their way to happiness. There’s a real mix of activities, encouraging children to focus on feelings like gratitude and awareness of the moment, whilst also reflecting on their own emotions and feelings. Plus, there’s actually some factual information and practical activities thrown in. The best bit? Though directed at supporting children with anxiety, it’s still just a fun activity book, which should reduce resistance from children where there is any. Did I mention that it’s currently under £7 on Amazon? I loved this book so much, I couldn’t resist the sequel, Hello Happy! no worries hello happy.jpg
  3. Enchanted Meditations for kids CD by Christiane Kerr: This audio CD is a big hit, particularly with younger children. Yoga teacher and owner of a soft, soothing voice, Christiane Kerr, takes children on a guided mediation journey. Travel with your class on an underwater dolphin ride; chase butterflies around a secret garden; fly away on a hot air balloon ride. Yes – this one is significantly more cheesy; hence why it’s more effective with children 11 and under. It’s a brilliant tool for parents wanting to support their children in relaxing/falling asleep or teachers wanting to introduce formal relaxation. Currently, this audio CD in under £9 and seriously, it’s worth it’s weight in gold. When I’ve used this consistently with classes, I’ve found children to be calmer and more relaxed (even after lunch!), and quicker to concentrate. It doesn’t hurt too, that they soon look forward to this as ‘down time’ for their minds.enchanted meditations.jpg
  4. Mindful Kids’ 50 Activity-card set by Whitney Stewart and Mina Braun: There are some incredible Mindfulness-related products currently on the market, and this card-set is one of the best. It’s beautifully designed, currently available for less than £8, and is a super effective tool for teaching mindfulness and emotional resilience to children. The cards are divided into 5 categories, which I’ll summarise here to be confidence building; handling challenging emotions; sharpening awareness muscles; acceptance of yourself/the world; rest and relaxation. Activities are accessible and enjoyable for all, most solely relying on imagination. A few activities require two or more people and a few resources, but they’ll still fairly easy to put into action. For any parent or primary teacher wanting to establish a regular mindfulness routine with their students (with a few yoga poses thrown in) these card sets provide creative and varied opportunities to do so.
  5. Starving the Anxiety Gremlin by Kate Collins-Donnelly: When I look through these books, I can’t help but wonder how different my life might be today, had I worked through these as a child or angst-ridden teen. There’s a book for children aged 5-9, currently under £12, or for a similar price, one for children aged 10+ which would probably would with children up to 13/14. Effectively, this book takes children through the stepping stones of a cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) course. The book is packed full of really useful linformation about anxiety and its effects on the body and mind, along with really useful and structured activities aimed at ‘starving the anxiety gremlin.’ For parents or adults in school, working with anxious children, this book is a must!anxiety gremlin.jpg

If you do have any success with the resources above, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have I missed something unbelievably good? Tell me in the comments below!