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.
Another sign video!
Hi friends! Here are a few videos to catch you up on some of what your children have been learning with Carrie during sign time. Enjoy!
I love… activity:
Last weeks mindfulness we talked about kindness, and the little ways we can give gifts of kindness to others. Kindness can be as grand as making a special breakfast for someone, or as simple as just listening to a friend. We read a book called Acting with Kindness that showed many different examples of real people doing kind things for others. Then we went to work to put some kindness into action! I had three different stations set out where kids could make a kindness creation to give away. The catch was that they didn’t know who their present was going to! At the end of mindfulness all of the classes came together to exchange presents with another person who had their matching symbol. Friends were a little unsure at first at giving away their beautiful creation to a random person rather than their loved one of choice. Once we were all together and exchanges were made, uncertainties melted away and were replaced with feelings of happiness. When I asked the group how they were feeling after the exchange kids cheered and said good!
Mindfulness at Home
Any time is a good time to give gifts to neighbors or people in the community. Pictures, cookies, homemade jewelry, you name it! It’s easy to give presents to loved ones, so maybe try and challenge yourself and your kids to make a donation or present for someone you are less familiar with. I have fond memories of getting cupcakes from my new neighbors when I was fresh to my neighborhood.
This week in mindfulness we had the pleasure of having a young man named Jess come teach us some of his native Blackfoot language. Friends had to be mindful listeners to recognize some of the different words and repeat and respond to them. Jess brought in a few items in his magic bag, and had some animal friends sing counting songs with us. At the end of the lesson the kids were asked to draw a picture of one of the things that was the most memorable during the lesson.
Mindfulness at Home
Talk about different cultures and languages! Part of being mindful is the awareness that people look, act, and communicate in so many different ways. It’s a great way to celebrate our humanity by recognizing and learning about our differences in a non biased way.
Last week’s mindfulness we read a short but sweet story by Eric Carle, called Little Cloud. In the story a small cloud breaks away from the other clouds to change into some different things. Little cloud is then beckoned by the other clouds to come join them. Little cloud rejoins the other clouds, and together they rain! After reading the book we had a discussion on what little cloud was good at. Everyone agreed that little cloud was great at changing into different things. We then talked about what happened when little cloud rejoined the group of clouds… it rained! I asked the kids why rain is important, and many replied that it helps plants grow, and that people and animals need water to be healthy. We used this story as a metaphor for our school and our community. I brought our our own MCS cloud (which was actually a mass of cottonballs) and told the kids that just like little cloud they were all great at different things. When we all bring our gifts and talents together we achieve great things and help each other grow! I went around the circle and asked each kid to think about what they were really good at, and then gave them a piece of our MCS cloud to remember that they are skilled individuals who help each other grow when we work together. We ended this circle by doing some yoga! We used the book The ABC’s of Yoga for Kids as a guide, and used the first letter of our names to pick the yoga poses.
Mindfulness at Home
Talk about the things that you are good at, and how your talents help your friends, family, and community. It’s empowering to know that we are a part of something much bigger, and that it is our skills together that make up our healthy, functioning community.
This week’s mindfulness lesson we read the book I See Kindness Everywhere and talked about what it means to have a gratitude attitude. The story gives thanks to different people from farmers to sock makers, and highlights the idea that we are all connected because the of the kind things that we do for each other. At the end of the story we decorated gratitude rocks to take home. The rocks can be to keep, or to give to a loved one. They are a simple and beautiful reminder that we have so much to be grateful for in our lives.
Mindfulness at Home
When practicing gratitude by finding specific things you are thankful for, it can be fun to have your own special items to turn into a thankful item. Whether it be a rock that you decorate on your own, or an item that brings you joy, it can sometimes help to have an item you love to help stir up feelings of thanks.