Today we went outside for mindfulness and engaged in some autumn games and exploration! I had four mindful games set up in the front lawn that helped foster gross motor development and attention focus. The first game was leafy hide and seek. In two baskets I had some paint swatches and it was our job to find leaves of the same color. When we looked closely and compared the leaves to the paint swatches we realized that they were more than just one color of orange, reds, or yellows. The leaves were a wide range of maroons, tangerine, tan, peach, crimsons, and so much more.
A plus side to this season’s early chill in the air is frost! The ground was covered in a beautiful, delicate frost this morning. The kids were armed with magnifying glasses so they could get a closer look at the crystalline frost on the leaves and grass.
Another game available for the kids was pumpkin road! There was an assortment of pumpkins in the front lawn for the kids to carry carefully while balancing on a rope laid on the ground. This game is a variation of a walking meditation. The challenge is to walk slowly, and carefully attempting to touch both heels and toes of your feet on the rope.
With the abundance of apples left over from apple day we incorporated them in a mindful balancing game! Only using a large spoon, the kids had to scoop up the apples and carry them across the lawn from one basket to another. If you were really good with one, you could try carrying two at a time!
We learned a new way to take a breath that helps strengthen our torso muscles and diaphragm… a hot chocolate breath! We all pretended that we had hot chocolate with the most delicious goodies inside. The hot chocolate is too hot to drink though, so we smell our hot chocolate and then say “It’s ha-ha-ha-ha- hot!” letting out our breath in small controlled bursts with each ha. After doing that several times we take in a big slow breath, then blow on our hot chocolate slowly to cool it off. Now it’s ready to sip!
This Friday in Mindfulness we tickled our senses with some fall sensory experiences! I started Mindfulness by reading the story It’s Fall! by Linda Glaser. The story is chock full of words describing the sights, sounds, smells, and feels that are associated with the changing of the seasons.
After the story we had a “smelling circle” where I shared different spices for the kids to smell that all induce feelings of warmth baking season. Vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and coffee are just few that we passed around. I encouraged the kids to use describing words of the smells, or challenged them to think of something that the smell reminded them of instead of just saying “good!” The vanilla reminded a few friends of their mom, one kid of marshmallows, and another of the cookies with the cream in the middle. When we smelled the cardamom one kid shared excitedly, “My grandma puts this in pancakes one time!” Taking our time to smell all the different spices was also a sneaky was to slow down, focus on our breath, and notice where the air (and smells) enter our body.
To excite our sense of hearing I pulled our a basket with something inside and started rolling and shaking it around. The basket had a lid on top so we could hear it, but not see what was making the noise. This invited conversation around how we were feeling about hearing a noise and not knowing what was creating it. We noticed that many of us felt curious, excited, and interested in knowing what was inside. A couple of kids felt a little anxious and even a bit annoyed at not knowing. We did our best to describe what the noise sounded like just using the clues that the noise had to offer. What was it? A basket full of nuts! Everyone picked a nut out of the basket and we shared five characteristics of our little nut using our senses.
Another fall game that required our sense of touch… a pumpkin passing game! The pumpkin was heavy, so we had to be careful with our motions and handling the pumpkin. When we had the pumpkin the kids described how it felt. The older kids played a round two of the pumpkin pass by closing their eyes while passing the pumpkin! We had to be extra mindful of where our friends were and how we were handling the pumpkin without our sense of sight to help us.
Mindfulness at Home
Fall walks are a wonderful way to soak in the changing of the season. Make it a game and see how many signs of fall you can find! Maybe you see a squirrel gathering things to munch on, or newly fallen leaves on the ground. Even the change of our wardrobe to warmer clothes is a clue that fall is here!
Last week for mindfulness we read the story The Carrot Seed, by Ruth Krauss, and talked about how carrots start of as a tiny little seed, and then end up in our lunchboxes, dinner plates, and stomachs! The kids all held and “planted” a tiny carrot seed and then recognized the necessary things that it needs to grow! Water, sun, dirt, and pulling weeds around the carrots were all vital for them to grow strong and healthy. There is a lot of waiting involved, the little seeds don’t turn into carrots over night. The sun rises and sets many days before the carrot’s green tops start to pop out of the ground. The story doesn’t stop there though! Once the carrots are full grown, a farmer has to harvest the carrots and send them on a truck to the grocery store or farmer’s market. Families hungry for carrots take a trip to the store and pick out the carrots that they like best! “Now can we eat the carrots?” many kids asked eagerly. Now that we knew the story of the carrot we turned on our senses to appreciate what the carrot has to offer us. The kids described what they noticed about how the carrot looked, smelled and felt. When it was time to eat the carrot slices we chewed them slowly, paying attention to the texture, taste, and any other sensations (where the carrot was traveling in our mouth, how the carrot crumbled in our teeth). After all the talk of carrots a friendly rabbit hopped by to talk to the kids about bunny breaths! Bunnies sit very still and listen intently with their long ears. We practiced sitting still like a rabbit and listening to the sounds in our school. When we were ready we took three energizing sniffs, and then exhaled nice and slow.
Mindfulness at Home Talk about your food! Where did it come from? You can help your child fill in the blanks of the story. If you are eating applesauce you could discuss how the seeds in the apple could be planted to grow into a tree. Once the tree is old enough to produce apples someone has to pick them. The apples are picked and then sent to a factory where they are cooked and squashed into applesauce. Then they are canned, ready to go to the store where they are bought by you! Even better buy apples and make applesauce with your kiddos so they can see the magic happen.
Having a hard time getting your kiddo to eat green bean or any other tricky foods? Invite your child to be a scientist at the dinner table by noticing the attributes of your food (before you eat it!) What color is it? How does it smell? What does it feel like between your fingers? Did you know that your carrot makes a noise?! Show your child that when you chew food and listen intently you hear the noise that it makes! Eating food is an amazing, sensory tickling experience that we can turn into a fun family discussion!
Today in Mindfulness we talked about our anger, and what to do when our bodies are not being safe while angry. We also had a lot of discussion on what our faces and bodies look like when we are angry, and how we can tell if someone is angry by the clues their bodies show us.
We start circle by ringing the bell and taking a slow deep breath. When everyone is ready I pull out the story When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry… by Molly Bang. Before we read the story I ask the kids if they have ever felt really, really angry, and we take some time to share personal stories of feeling angry. Then we look at the cover of the book and I ask the kids how they can tell that Sophie is angry. They note that her brow is furrowed, her nostrils flared, and her mouth is small and straight/frowning. We practice making our best angry face and then take a look at everyone’s face to notice how their facial features change when they are angry. We also talk about how our bodies might feel tense, our shoulders scrunched, our chest and stomach feel tight, how we might show our teeth, or clench our fists. As we read through the story we take time to talk about the triggers that made Sophie angry, which of her actions are safe, and why or why not. When getting to the part where Sophie runs to her space place
(it’s in the woods on an old beech tree) we talk about how her parents know where she is going. We also talk about how we can make plans with our parents and teachers to find space when we are feeling so angry. While Sophie is in her space place she is still and notices the things around her, pays close attention to what she hears, and to what sensations she feels on
her skin. When she feels calm, and her body is safe she goes back to her family where they greet her with open arms. After the story we have some more discussion on how Sophie calmed her body, how it’s okay to feel mad and sad, but it’s not okay to be unkind or aggressive when we are angry.
My friend baby dragon came to visit to share a story with the kids about a times that he felt so angry, and what he does to have a safe body. Baby dragon tells the story of how he is building a block tower and some of his friends knock it over. Boy, is he angry! He feels like scratching, kicking, and hitting his friends, but he knows that would hurt them and not solve the
problem. What should he do? Baby dragon takes a dragon breath (breaths in long and deep through his nose, and then lets out his breath by sticking out his tongue as long as it can go and making a “haaah” sound.), and finds some space in his cave. While in his cave he takes three dragon breaths. Then he looks around the room, listens to what he hears, sniffs the air, and
goes back to check in with his friends when his body and voice is calm and kind.
The kids had some journal time with the prompted question, “What makes them feel angry, how they might look or act when angry, or what safe choice could they make when feeling so angry?” Being angry can be a natural reaction to certain stimulus and is okay! By journaling about our anger we acknowledge that it is a feeling that arises in all of us, and affirms that we have the power to choose how to safely act when we feel angry.
This week in Mindfulness we turned on our ears and practiced listening! We read the story A Listening Walk, by Paul Showers, and then took a stroll around our neighborhood. Being in the midst of the city we have a plethora of noises all around us! The kids noticed the sound our shoes made on the sidewalk, and how it was different from the noise it made on the grass. One friend told me that her shoes made a scuff scuff noise on the sidewalk and a shww shww noise in the grass. We also listened to the variety of noises the vehicle made passing by, different sounds made by birds, lawnmowers, voices of people, and so much more. When we made it back to our gathering spot by the tree we shared what we heard on our walk. We ended the lesson with a big breath with the bell, and a challenge to teach someone else at home!
Today in Mindfulness we went outside for a 5-4-3-2-1 Mindful Scavenger Hunt! The goal was to see five different things, touch four different things, hear three, smell two, and then come to me for one taste! Connecting with your senses stimulates different areas of the brain’s prefrontal cortex and can help change the connections between the amygdala (fight, flight, freeze center) and activate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest center). When this happens our heart rate drops, breathing slows, and our blood pressure falls. The best part of this activity is that it can be done anywhere! In the car, at dinner table, on an airplane, or in the classroom. When feeling anxious, upset, or scatter-brained this activity can help connect with your body and get you “out of your head”.
Previous weeks in Mindfulness the buzz has been all about Spring! The Friday before Spring break we read the book And Then It’s Spring, by Julie Fogliano, and talked about what is happening to our Earth when spring arrives. Then we went for a short walk to look for signs of spring! We saw crocuses blooming, worm castings, slugs and ants under rocks, patches of green grass next to dead grass, heard birds chirping, and felt the warm sunshine on our faces.
Mindfulness at Home
Go on your own spring walk with your family! Slowly down and paying attention to the changing seasons is meditative and exciting at the same time. One family shared with me that when the weather is warmer and wet they like to go on “worm walks” to find all worms that surface.
Last week we read another book about Ahn, and how he takes care of his anger. In the story Steps and Stones, by Gail Silver, Ahn finds himself sad and then very angry when his friends choose not to play with him and say unkind things to Ahn. Ahn’s anger appears again, but this time to control his anger Ahn practices taking deep breaths while walking slowly and counting his steps. As he breathes and counts his steps, Ahn notices his anger getting smaller and smaller until it goes away… until next time.
With the chilly weather rolling in, we have been incorporating more movement into our Fridays to help with the wiggles!
Last week we tickled our sense of touch by playing Mystery box! I put an assortment of items in the box (ginger, pinecone, tomatillos, and chestnuts), and the kids had to guess what was inside with only using their sense of touch. We passed the box around, and described what we felt to our classmates. Friends came up with a wonderful array of description words! A few friends described the ginger as paw like, or that it felt like a hand. Other adjectives included pokey, squishy, marshmallowy, rough, crinkly, hard, and so many more! After everyone had a turn we opened the box to see what was inside!
On to the movement! Same lesson we did some mindful passing around the circle. First with a cup of water. The kids had to use very slow, controlled movements to pass the cup around without spilling any water. Next we passed a pumpkin around the circle, but with our eyes closed! While carefully passing I spoke to the children about trusting that the pumpkin would come your way in time, and about passing the pumpkin carefully so it reached their neighbor safely.
One more challenge! To end the class we lined up in two lines and passed the pumpkin to the neighbor behind us. Here was the trick! The kids had to alternate passing the pumpkin over their heads, and between their legs. If the friend in front of them passed the pumpkin over, then they had to pass it under. Once the pumpkin reached the end of the line, the person in the back brought it to the front to start over. Along with being mindful with how we passed the pumpkin, the alternating of passing helps develop cognitive flexibility. With two lines of passing the kids had to also focus on where the pumpkin was at in their line.
Mindfulness at Home
Mystery box is a fun and EASY game to play! Requirements: empty box with hand sized hole, items to put in the box. It is fun to put both familiar and obscure items in the box to keep the kids on their toes. The more variety the better! Let them have a turn putting items inside the mystery box for you to guess also!
Passing games require steady hand eye coordination, and patience to get an item safely from point A to B. If you are brave you can use a fragile item (eggs, glass cups) to help reinforce the need for careful hands and focus.
Creating games with rules that have changing variables is a great way to help kids develop their ability to quickly process incoming task cues. This could look like having two sets of rules for a matching game (if there are an even number of items match by shape, odd number match by color).
Today was a yoga day! We did a combination of fast quick movement, followed by steady still movements. To accompany our yoga today we used the book The ABC’s of Yoga for Kids by Teresa Anne Power. To personalize the lesson I asked the kids what the first letter of the name was, and then we found the matching yoga pose in the book. We ended yoga by hatching our own little eggs, and then resting them on our bellies to help them relax. As we sat on our eggs quietly, and then moved into a laying down pose we took big cleansing breaths and thought about what our little egg may have hatched into.
Mindfulness at Home
The egg hatching activity mimics a sitting meditation, and then moves into a shortened version of Shavasana. It can be a challenge to find the space and time to fit in still moments into our day. Having a task that requires your kids to be motionless can help facilitate this. Both of these positions are relaxing and helps promote calmness of the mind.
The last two weeks of Mindfulness have been all about feelings! Last week we read The Way I Feel, by Janan Cain. The book describes an array of emotions: silly, scared, happy, sad, angry, jealous, bored, disappointed, shy, frustrated, excited, and proud. We paused on each page to act out what our bodies and faces look like when we are experiencing these emotions, and discussed how our bodies feel. Here is some commentary on what the kids noticed about their bodies! “When I am angry my back teeth feel really tight together.” “Sometimes I pant when I feel excited!” “Sometimes I cry when I am frustrated.” “When I am bored I sit on my stairs with my hand on my face.” “When I am happy and smiling my eyes get squinty.” “I sometimes shake or yell when I feel scared.”
We also discussed what things might trigger these emotions, and what can we do when we are having some big feelings. Some of the kids noticed that when they feel one emotion, another emotion might also come along for the ride. At the end of the story we affirmed that all of our emotions are part of us, and there are no bad feelings. It’s what we do and how we act when we are experiencing big feelings that is important.
A couple of classes were so engaged with our conversation about emotions that we spent the whole half hour reading and in discussion! The classes that had time played a quick round of Feeleez Charades. The kids picked a card with a cartoon depiction of an emotion, and they acted it out while their friends guessed the feelings.
This week we played Guess that Feeling! I showed the kids a variety of pictures kids, and we had to use the clues that were given on the children’s faces to guess what they might be feeling. We also talked about a few more complicated feelings like worry, lonely, and security. I asked the kids what could we do when we feel these things, or how could we help our friends when they are experiencing these emotions.
To help with the wiggles we did a few “eagle stretches”, where we stretched our wings up high, and side to side while taking big breaths. We also learned a snake breath where we took a big breath in, and then let it out slowly with a gentle hiss.
Mindfulness at Home
You can help promote social literacy at home by talking about what your face or body looks like when you are having some big feelings. When reading books pause occasionally to ask your child how the character in the book might be feeling, and what clues they give you by the way there face looks. Ask your kids if they can remember a time when they felt angry, sad, frusterated, ect., and share some of your own feelings stories with them as well! You can also use mirrors to show your children what they look like when they are experiencing some big emotions. Talk about what you notice is going on with their face and body language.
Welcome Back to school friends!
Our first two mindfulness classes have been such a breath of fresh air! Not only because I get to see so many excited faces, but because we have been learning about our breath! Last week Barry the Breathing Bug showed up and showed us how his body expands when he breathes in and get smaller when he breathes out. We all practiced our slow breaths together to see how our bodies do the same thing!
After talking about our breath, it was time to move! I started by playing hide and seek with the bell. Friends had to hide their eyes and listen for the chime as I hid around the classroom and rang the bell. This helps build listening awareness, and helps the children recognize where the sound is coming from so they can find out who rang the bell in their own classrooms.
Next, we started a game of freeze dance, but with the bell! We got to wiggle, move, and groove the way that felt best to us, but when the bell rang we all froze and took a deep breath. Games that switch from big exciting movement to calm bodies help with impulse control. Sometimes it’s hard to turn the sillies off when you are having so much fun, but the more we practice the easier it gets. This game also helps with practicing the skill of remembering to take a breath when it’s time to calm our bodies.
Today in Mindfulness we continued to expand our talk about breathing with a few more fun toys! We used a Hoberman Sphere (at MCS a.k.a. the breathing ball) to help the kids visualize how are stomachs and chest cavities get bigger when we inhale, and smaller when he exhale. We practiced synchronizing our breath with the breathing ball, breathing in when it was expanding and out when it was contracting.
In the class we also had an oil diffuser with a blend of peppermint, lemon, and eucalyptus filling the air. The smell helped us track our breath through our nose, sinuses, and into our lungs. Friends noticed the air felt cool going in through our nose, and warm after coming out.
Then we talked about how our breath can even control how our bodies are feeling. A new friend, Blueberry the Sea Turtle, brought a tiny ocean in a jar to share with the class. When our breathing was fast and heavy the waves of the ocean were crazy! Many friends commented that they felt a little crazy also after breathing with short quick breaths. When we slowed our breathing down the ocean waves became calmer and slower. Many friends recognized that their bodies did the same.
We found a open space in the classroom to lie down on our backs while Blueberry brought everyone an ocean treasure to put on their stomachs. We practiced making waves with our stomachs for the oceans treasures by inhaling to make our treasures rise – exhaling to make our treasure fall. The ocean treasure rode the waves of our breath for a few minutes before returning back to circle.
Mindfulness at Home
The games that we played in Mindfulness can be easily incorporated in you own home! Freeze dance is a great game for big silly movements when going outside might not be an option. It helps kids become aware of their own bodies, and the space around them. You can pause the music, use a bell or instrument, or some other verbal cue to signal when it is time to freeze!
Calming oceans breaths can be done with a favorite stuffed animal or any object. Tell your kids that you are going to give your stuffed animal a boat ride on their stomachs! Breathing in helps move the animal boat up on the waves, breathing out lets them surf back down.