Mindfulness is a hot topic in educational circles and in schools around the world at the minute. For good reason too. The demands on children's performance academically are only getting tougher (and at earlier ages too!). 73% of teachers agreed that "anxiety disorders were a pressing concern (statistic from Children's Mental Health Ontario). The amount of curriculum to cover is nearly impossible and it leaves little space for non-academic issues. However mindfulness practise is starting to find space inside the classroom. It's a great alternative to disciplinary actions and working with children who display challenging behaviour. So what exactly is it?
A quick google search will provide you with this definition: a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations.
In other words, it teaches children how to handle their emotions and actions or reactions. A lot of adults are probably thinking they could still use this training themselves (hands up here - we are learning right along with our little ones!).
It is one thing to be aware of a need and a whole other thing to be able to approach that need practically. As a teacher, I know how useful it is to have great tools on hand. So far, the best thing we have found is this kit from Generation Mindful. They began with a Kickstarter campaign and have been spreading their respectful and peaceful message around the world ever since. You can read more about the wonderful lady who started the company and the products in general, on their website HERE.
You can buy all different tools, but we went for the whole package. To start with, there are the Peacemakers playing cards (pictured above) which are beautifully designed with 7 themed animals, each holding a message that can be used to generate conversation. They can be used in conjunction with the poster and stickers, as you work through each theme. There is another poster explaining the themes (forgiveness, intuition, peace, love, balance, joy and power) and linking them to various emotions. There are also emotion posters, which are adorably illustrated to show these emotions to kids (fabulous for younger learners or any aged visual learner). There is a poster which offers strategies for calming down - again with great visuals. I think this poster has been the most used in our house. It is on the bedroom wall next to the 'Calming Corner' poster - another one in the pack. Our 5 year old will go here when he is upset to remind himself of what tools he can use. Being a book lover, he is a huge fan of the 'read a book' calming suggestion.
Now I can't say that his explosive behaviour has disappeared because of this kit. It is very hard to get him to remember the calming steps when he is full blown angry or upset. And that is okay. Now I have learned how I should react in those situations and just let those moments pass. When he is calmer we talk about it and end up having very sweet conversations. We will keep working on it. Every day. Because life isn't going to get any easier for this kid!
Get your hands on this book here:
Part of our work on recognising our emotions and learning to calm down has led us to doing yoga as a family. Well...trying to at least! I did yoga through both pregnancies (the second pregnancy was fun - doing yoga with a toddler on your back really helps balance that big belly) and unfortunately haven't found time to continue doing it. Until recently.
My son came home from kindergarten one day telling me that they had done yoga and he loved it. They followed a YouTube series called Cosmic Kids, which I admit is pretty cute. They tell stories and the yoga moves are the actions to go along with the stories. Buuuuut...it is still TV or screen time in my mind. Which sort of goes against what yoga is about. I let them do it for fun sometimes but I really prefer to work through the moves together with out them zoning out on the screen.
Get your hands on this book here:
So off we went to the library in search of some books! Would you believe there are a fabulous bunch of books out there, all about yoga for kids?! Of course there are, you're thinking. There are books about everything! Well they're new to me and I am loving them.
Our favourite time to use the books are before bed as part of our bedtime routine and on weekends when things are starting to get a bit crazy and we need something to help us wind down. We've been doing it for a number of months now and we've gotten to the point that my 2 year old will randomly bust out a downward dog in the grocery aisle.
Want to give it a try in your house? These are our favourite books (so far):
By Laurie Jordan and Diana Mayo
This book is really perfect before bedtime. It is written in rhyme and describes how to do the moves with easy to follow descriptions. The illustrations also show step by step moves for each pose. Every page is a bit like being in a dream with kids drawn inside seashells and floating in space with butterfly wings.
By Brian Russo
This is more of an actual story book, with a little bunny who wants his animal friends to stay and do a bit of yoga with him. Each friend refuses, using excuses that probably sound familiar (I have no time! I'm in a hurry! etc). By the end, they join in and connect with each other properly. This is a great book to use to introduce the idea of stopping and being still together.
I Am Yoga
by Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds
Both I Am Yoga and I Am Peace are visually stunning books, drawn in bright watercolour swirls. I Am Yoga obviously focuses on yoga poses and uses short descriptions of each move. It is really easy to follow and kids can use it on their own.
With I Am Peace, I like to work through it as a talking point with my kids. With statements like, "I can watch my worries gently pop and disappear. I let things go" you are likely to really challenge kids to think about how they handle situations. A great tool for homes and classrooms too.
Hello! I'm Deb,
a book-toting mother of two and an elementary (primary) school teacher. I love making stories engaging and interactive for kids.
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