Let’s get real here. A stellar eye roll will accompany the thought of adding one more thing to our classroom plans or our home schedules. But what if a quick one minute activity could easily save you at least twice as much in time AND benefit the well-being of a child?
Attending and transitions can be time consuming for elementary kiddos (especially in the PreK/K age range). However, if we can find ways to tap their focus, we can potentially save time over the course of a day, week, and school year. I can attest to the experiences with my own young UPK-ers that the implementation of a few mindful practices each day has made a tremendous impact on their ability to attend, regain focus, and ultimately care for themselves and one another.
Mindful Minute Practices for Toddler, Preschool & Elementary-Aged Children:
Smell the Flower, Blow the Dandelion
This is all about deep breathing. We tap into the imagination and our senses with this exercise.
Script Sample: Imagine a field of yellow flowers. Reach down and pick up the perfect flower for you. Now hold it close to your nose. Breath in to smell it’s wonder; 1-2-3-4-5. Now, blow out to spread the dandelion seeds all over the field, 6-7-8-9-10. Repeat 2+ times.
The goal is that not only will this breathing activity help to regain focus in the current setting, but it is one that the child can learn to apply independently as needed.
(I also love that this secretly weaves in counting to 10 for our youngest learners!)
This experience activates a brief vacation from reality using the imagination. It is a focused activity with a phonological twist. The teacher, parent or lead student will choose a letter to guide the brief mindful minute (typically a little humorous).
Script Sample: The letter “M” is chosen. Close your eyes and picture the letter “M” symbol. Now I want you to picture a monkey. In your mind, say “monkey.” Feel the /m/ beginning sound on your lips. Now picture the monkey eating a meal of bananas. Peel the banana. Give the monkey a bite, now you take a bite. “Mmm” you both say. Along comes a monkey friend named Max. They decide to make banana milkshakes together. They blend up the bananas and the milk-can you hear the blender churning? Max reaches up and takes the top off...splat! The milk sprays all over and makes a huge mess!
You get the idea...;-) This is always “off the cuff” so as long as you have a decent imagination, you should be good to go!
Balancing Act (with Imaginative Toys)
Give each child a item. It can be anything-literally. We often use beanbags or plastic counting bears. The kiddos then use this item as a pretend favorite toy. We balance the item on different parts of the body. As we breathe in and out, we take note of the toy movements. The concentration will also help the “favorite toy” from falling to the ground.
Children can be sitting or lying down for this activity. Prompt them through body part isolations. That is, they “squish” their face in and then relax. Then they “squish” their arms in and relax. Continue to prompt from one end of the body to another. This is something that they can use as a coping tool during moments of anger or frustration, rather than acting out.
This is My Heart
This experience is about gratitude. Race/Jump/Hop/Skip/etc for 1 minute to get the heart rate up. Then freeze and feel the heartbeat. Think about what it feels like, sounds like, and what it would look like inside your body hard at work. As it is beating, circularly massage it 3x while whispering thank you for all that it gives to us in each moment (strength, love, friendship, etc).
These are just a handful of ideas that you now have the power to integrate into your classroom or home. I encourage you to pick just one to try for a week. You never know what you may discover within children, and yourself...
I may not be the queen of multi-tasking, but I sure am close to being one of the princesses of it.
Like many of you, my mind feeds off of stimulation, new ideas, and challenges. I’m not sure if I was born this way, if it was acquired through my upbringing, or maybe it’s a combination of the two. But however it shakes out, anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that my hands are always in about 52 different things. I see life as a blank canvas, one where any colors and ideas can be used. It’s how I’m wired; learn, try, GO...try some more. This mentality fit my life until I had my twins. While on 18 months of maternity leave from teaching, I had much more “quiet mind time” (yes, even with twins!) than ever before. You would think that this would be an incredible time of peace, but this was actually when my mind became my worst nightmare. It drove me CRAZY. Working three businesses from home, while taking care of my young family, apparently wasn’t enough to keep my mind satisfied. I felt like I was always just searching (in my head and online) for that perfect fit. And while all of this searching was going on, I would miss out on what was right in front of me. I was biting off more than I could chew to “work from home” and despite being physically present, emotionally I missed out on many special moments. Sad, but true.
I would have conversations with myself to try and just let things be. I acknowledged the problem but couldn’t fix it. Despite the attempts, somehow I’d literally end up thinking about new ideas to explore. It became a vicious cycle-one of which almost had me to turn to medication.
It wasn’t until I forced myself to slow this hot mess down that I discovered the power of simplicity that can be found within yourself. This was the missing piece. I had lost my grounding after having the minis. As busy as life had become with work and tots on the move, I finally learned the importance of taking care of my own well being first-before anyone else. It seemed selfish to me. But I sucked it up and started with five minute meditations and have grown from there. I saw the powerful difference it made in resurfacing my ability to be physically and emotionally present, both at home and in the classroom. Time for me is now a non-negotiable because it has the power to transform one’s life journey, which impacts the journey of others.
The quest for a mindful future for our children starts with us. With that in mind, I challenge you to treat yourself to five minutes today, tomorrow and the next day to engage in whatever makes YOU happy. Just five minutes. Your life is your masterpiece. It can be anything that you want it to be, as long as you make time for yourself first. Everything else will then fall into it’s beautiful place...even as a princess multi-tasker. #5minFridayChallenge
For your listening pleasure and inspiration, Masterpiece by Andy Grammer:
“Look at pictures.”
“Read a book.”
“Pirates and Ghosts” (a favorite song)
The list of opportunities on one little iPhone, iPad or Kindle can go on and on. These just happen to be pleas that come from our 2 year olds. Wow. W-O-W. The diversity of requests that can be granted through one rectangular item is intoxicating. And that is just from their young, but observant perspective.
Think about the many powerful things that we use our own hand held devices for. Actually, many being the very same things:
And when you really break it down, that formidable device is at our fingertips much more than we likely realize (or want to acknowledge) throughout each and every day. We are taking pictures of the kids doing something that's just too cute. Nana calls to talk or Papa calls to Facetime with the grandbabies. Then Daddy sends a text message to check in, followed by the “Breaking News” notification that pops up. Oh and while the phone is “open,” we should really send that email for work. Or maybe it’s just that mommy takes a little breather and dabbles on social media for a few minutes. Our children see this. And the fact that we are their role models, their everything, how in the world could we expect them to NOT take interest in what we do. It is the way of our world, right? Well, at least a piece of the world…;-)
As I quietly snuggled in silence with Twin A last night, I reflected on the answers to the question I posed to my network yesterday: As parents of young children, how do you handle technology with your own children? The answers were widespread, as anticipated. From very few limitations, to children who have yet to put their hands on technology there was a plan to fit each individual family. In my opinion, each one made sense.
That was when it all clicked. I saw myself through the eyes of my minis and our family dynamics. They see that I clearly love technology-always have and always will. Most of my work connects to technology. But I can also become overwhelmed and all encompassed by it. This is what I can see starting in them, even if they are using their Kindles a collective 60 minutes per week. That’s not much in the grand scheme of life but it’s enough to make them want more. And I get it. The struggles that I have with them wanting and desiring such “limitless boundaries” through the avenues of technology, is actually a reflection of the struggles that I have within myself in this highly connected world. The difference being that I have the intellectual wherewithal to set my own boundaries, which includes being a role model for when (and how) we can collectively (and effectively) deploy the power of personal technology.
As Spider-Man's Uncle Ben teaches, “with great power comes great responsibility” and who says that 2 year olds can’t learn the power of being more technologically responsible. Or 38 year olds. Bring it on.
the blog space
~Derek, Father of 2 and Elementary School Principal
Just a girl with a dream to collectively build a healthy mind space for children, while creating a healthier mind space for ourselves.
Copyright Healthy Mind Space 2019