If you’re finding it hard to put time into your own mindfulness, then why not use the kids as your added incentive? Mindfulness exercises are good for all the family and it’s benefits are even greater when starting from a young age. By participating in these simple mindfulness exercises with your child, you will both reap the physical and mental rewards it brings, and enjoy some beneficial bonding time together 🙂
This isn’t reading out of a book or falling asleep at bed time. It is an exciting and creative journey that you send the child on whether through a forest, safari, secret garden, underwater world, being a bird etc etc!! In a comfortable lying or seated position, get them to close their eyes and focus on the visualisation and then draw what came to mind afterwards. Depending on the child’s age, you can vary how much or how little you structure the story or allow for them to fill bits in i.e. “when you get through the gate you see your favourite animal by some water” compared with “when you open the gate you see a horse drinking from a river”. Before you start, warn them that once you have finished the story that you want them to draw it for you without telling you anything, and ruining the surprise! This helps them to keep their focus on the visualisation until the drawing is completely finished. The idea is that they don’t jump up excitedly afterwards to tell you all about what they saw! At the end of your story, guide them to gently wake their body and eyes before drawing their picture quietly, without you peeking! Make sure they stay relaxed throughout your story, cuing parts of the body if you notice them tense up. Allow 3 – 7 minutes for the storytelling, and as long as possible for the drawing.
This isn’t just any typical walk, and you child needs to be aware from the start that you are doing something different this time. It is better to be out in nature when doing this exercise as it is less distracting and gives you both a break from all the stimulation and advertising that we are exposed to daily. Whether a 10 minutes walk or a couple of hours, the idea is to really focus on what is around you and on your senses, moment by moment. What does the ground feel like under your feet? What sounds can you hear or smells are in the air as you walk along? It is not a time for idle conversation but for bonding quietly through the experience and sharing it out aloud together. Keep your conversation on the experience, and if it does wander off, actively bring it back to that present moment. Stop in your tracks every so often to feel and experience that exact moment in stillness instead of movement and try to walk as slowly as you can. Children and adults spend a lot of their week rushing around and this is a time to force yourself to slow down, even if it feels a bit uncomfortable. Make sure that your phone is either switched off or on vibrate in case of an emergency.. If your child keeps a journal or is so inclined, have the write about the experience once you are home.
This is one of my favourite mindfulness exercises to do with children as it is an easy way for them to understand ‘awareness’ and always gives interesting results! Fold a plain piece of A4 paper in half and ask you child to draw a banana on one half, without one being in sight. A banana is a simple object that most children are used to seeing every day, but something else familiar can be used. I also make them draw their foot before they take their socks off. Then turn the piece of paper over and get them to draw the object on that side, this time with it in front of them. They need to be encouraged to take much longer on this side and to draw every little detail and difference in colours etc. Depending on their age you may need to help point out details in contour, colour etc but mainly you should try to leave the in silence to experience their object with full awareness. Once the drawing is done I may ask the children to feel, smell, taste etc their object and then we write the adjectives around the drawing, so it is a full representation of the ‘banana experience’!
This is an important exercise to do with your child, or even better, get siblings or their friends, to do it together. Especially as a coping mechanism whenever they’re feeling upset, frustrated, scared, angry etc. The goal here is for children to gain awareness of their breath, how important it is, and using it as a coping mechanism in times of panic, fear etc. I often remind children that they can go the whole yoga class without eating or drinking anything, but not without breathing, as it’s the most important ‘food’ our bodies and brains need! By the age of 4 years old children can comprehend the importance of the breath and it’s a good exercise to come back to regularly. The longer and deeper they breathe, the more energy and goodness they’re taking in. Every cell in the body needs oxygen to restore, repair and be healthy!
If you child is tall enough, sit back to back with them so that you can feel each other breathing through your backs. The rib cage in your back should widen and expand as you’re breathing in, and ‘deflate’ as you breath out. Alternatively you can both lie on your backs on the floor with a little teddy bear on your bellies. This way you can watch the teddy rise as you breath in and fill the lungs with air, and as you exhale, the teddy lowers. Be imaginative with these exercises, using different toys to help make the movement of the breath more obvious. And you can make it goal orientated by trying to both reach the count of 8 for an inhale for example, and 10 for an exhale (always try to make the exhale longer or equal to the inhale). Either way make sure the focus is on longer, deeper breaths and helping your child’s awareness if they are reverse-breathing (sucking the belly in and upwards when breathing in, and letting it fall back out when exhaling). Children should experience a minimum of 3 deep breaths, and get used to using this as a technique whenever agitated or upset in the future.
5-Superhero’s + Super Senses!
“Pretend you’re Spiderman and tell me everything you can see, smell and hear in this room!”. Spiderman, Batman, Wonder Woman and ninjas, are just some of the superhero characters that kids are into these days. Use this to your advantage as a parent to make them more aware, especially in important situations i.e. crossing the road, walking to school alone, climbing a ladder etc. Young boys especially, can be quite impulsive, energetic and disconnected from their environment. Using ninja or super senses, helps kids stop and take in what is around them in that present moment. It is an important tool that can also be applied at mealtimes, to make you child more mindful of what he/she is eating. There is research showing that this may help with avoiding obesity and weight gain later in life. But more importantly it helps kids, appreciate what they are eating, learn to not take food and all the different flavours for granted, and digest better! If you learn to not rush your food, take in the smells and tastes and chew more mindfully, you will not only aid digestion but have a much more enjoyable and respectful relationship with food.
This is version of the ‘smelling game’ and can be done blindfolded or not. The idea is for smelling to be the primary sense that the children focus on. Once that is achieved you can then add touching, tasting etc. I like to use a blindfold if the child is comfortable doing so and encourage them to really describe what they are smelling, and then the differences between them. You can use anything that you have around the house but preferably a variation of them, and nothing too offensive! I like to use cinnamon sticks, oranges, fresh & dried herbs, essential oils or candles, cheese, raw foods, rice, toothpaste etc etc! Try not to let them touch it or hear it make a noise. Give them 3 big breaths for each item with time in between to describe it verbally or written down. This is also a lovely way of integrating children into cooking and mindful eating as they learn to enjoy and understand different ingredients through their smells.
Charlie began practicing yoga over 25 years ago and has been teaching for more than 12 years to people of all ages and abilities. She is the lead trainer in the Indiv Yoga RYT200 & RCYT Yoga Alliance Teacher Training Courses, and has certified over 120 students worldwide.
Originally from London and having worked in New York and Lisbon after her Psychology degree, she has since settled with her husband in Switzerland, and dedicated her life to expanding her knowledge of the science of yoga, mindful meditation and better physical and mental health.
Over the years Charlie has worked with some of the most renowned yoga teachers around the world (David Swenson, Shiva Rea, Anne-Marie Newland, Leslie Kaminoff, Sadie Nardini, Sonia Sumar etc) certifying in Hatha, Sivanada, Ashtanga, Childrens and Family Yoga, Yoga for the Special Child, & Inner Engineering with Sadhguru. She has become highly respected for her successful work in yoga therapy, especially for Autism, ADHD and other behavioural and developmental syndromes. She has also talked at some of the biggest corporations in Switzerland and the annual SGIS (Swiss Group of International Schools) Conference on implementing Mindfulness in the work place and the education system.
Charlie holds the highest yoga qualifications as an ERYT500 (Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher), RCYT (Registered Children´s Yoga Teacher), RPYT (Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher) and YCEP (Yoga Continued Education Provider) with the Yoga Alliance, and has developed Indiv Yoga™ to bring a more physiological, therapeutic and individual approach to yoga. Indiv Yoga™ Switzerland is a RYS (registered yoga school) and RCYS (registered children’s yoga school) providing Yoga Alliance teacher training certifications of the highest professional standards.
The focus of Indiv Yoga™ is to provide the benefits of yoga to every type of individual, using its teachings to achieve physical and mental balance, and diminish the anxieties of modern life for adults and children.
Read her onlineand for a feel of her knowledgeable and friendly professionalism.