Mindfulness for Kids: Summer 2020

This week marks the thirteenth of what will be twenty weeks of teaching mindfulness online. Because 2020.

It’s been an exhausting but fascinating journey. Somehow, I’ve learnt enough in the way of video editing skills that I can watch back earlier clips with a mixture of embarrassment (at putting out such low quality content) and pride (at now being able to spot low quality when I see it… and knowing that I can do better.) 

I have zero YouTube plans post-project and no real idea of how this might/might not play out down the line, but I do feel like there’s potential here in terms of teaching and reaching kids. In some ways, I feel like these videos speak their language; like certain techniques and information might make more sense to children in the way they play out on screen as opposed to an adult describing this at the front of the class.

For now though, we’re on summer holiday time in the UK so from Monday 20th July, sessions will be shorter, snappier and geared towards practical activities wherever possible. There’ll be much less of me (the onesie is calling!) and I’m switching from B.E.A.S.T mode sessions to weekly themes as follows:

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I think that in any summer holidays, there’s room for some children’s mood to slide into boredom, worry, insecurity and general negativity. This year, the risk of this seems higher than ever. Therefore, some activities based on kindness, gratitude, mindfulness and confidence-building might be just what the doctor ordered. Click the link below to learn more:

It’s been such a turbulent year. So unsettling. I can’t even wish you a happy summer without hearing at least some sarcasm.

I guess instead I’ll wish you happy, peaceful, mindful moments this summer.

Because that’s all we have, really. The moment right in front of us now.

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! 🙂

 

 

 

 

Teacher Wellbeing: Current events are crazy…but summer is still beautiful.

Yesterday was some day. Even by recent standards, waking up to news of tragic events in Nice would be shocking enough, but throw in a military coup in Turkey too and it’s beginning to feel apocalyptic.

Things are beginning to feel very unstable and unfamiliar, and a little frightening. I can feel something in the air; a group tension growing increasingly thicker…waiting for the next upset. Will this next one be worse? Will it be close? Will it hurt them or their loved ones?

But… we are still here. There is still some normality; there is still a great deal of goodness and hope all around us.

For many children and teachers, it’s the first day of summer holidays – a day when we wake up and we really hear the breeze outside, and birds chirping, and the soft hum of cars on the road, and the sense that summer is finally here with all wonder that it brings.

I can feel that in the air too.

3 things teaching gift

A treasured gift from a wonderful trainee teacher years ago.

Of course, it’s okay to be upset by current events; it’s okay to feel a little scared; it’s okay to nod along when your cantankerous elderly relatives moan that ‘the world is going to hell in a hand basket.’

But don’t be consumed by it.

When you’re learning to drive, your instructor always tell you – look at where you want the car to go. Because wherever you look, that’s where you’ll drive. If you stare intently at the hazard ahead, gripped with panic, you’re going to drive into it and crash. If you look at the road ahead but keep the hazards in sight, you might worry a little as you drive, but you’ll get to where you’re going in one piece.    

The only solution is to look at the road ahead; to keep driving.

The only way to fight hate is with love and hope.

I’ve no doubt that the road ahead is going to be bumpy – at points it might be bloody dangerous – but that doesn’t mean we can’t wind down the car window and listen to the birds singing, and feel the warmth of the sun as we drive on.