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Mindfulness

 

 

Quiet time focusing on breath

 
 

This exercise helps the child to be aware only of the present as the focus is on the current breath. It also has the effect of calming the mind and any anxiety in the body.

Arrange a daily time where you sit quietly and focus on your breathing. Young children should not be expected to sit for long. A general rule is that they can sit quietly for the number of minutes that matches their age. So a 5-year-old could be expected to sit for 5 minutes; a 10-year-old for 10 minutes and so on. When you first introduce this to children you should only do it for one or two minutes. You can do it sitting on chairs with feet on the floor or children may prefer to sit cross-legged on the floor. You could guide the quiet time as follows:

"Become aware of your breathing. Focus on the feeling of coolness at your nose when you breathe in and the feeling of warmth as you breathe out. Say 'one' as you breathe in and 'one' as you breathe out. Then say 'two' as you breathe in and 'two' as you breathe out, and so on, up to five. Then start back at 'one' again. Thoughts will come into your head. That’s ok, just know that they are thoughts and just push them gently away and go back to counting your breath, beginning with one."

Children can be encouraged to use this focus on breathing in their daily life when they are feeling worried or angry or before starting homework or going to sleep.

 

When I am mad or sad I practice mindfulness. First you
have to close your eyes. Then you breathe out and in.

 
 
Child on Mindful Schools Program
 
 
     

 

 

Walking mindfully

 
 

This can be useful for children who find it difficult to sit still. It helps them become more aware of their body.

Ask the children to walk around a room. Ask them to lift one foot at a time slowly and carefully as if walking on eggshells or walking in slow motion. Ask them to place their foot down smoothly and slowly. Then ask them to take a step with the other foot the same distance ahead. Ask them to feel every muscle in their legs while they walk and every shift in body weight. Ask them to feel their hands and arms in space. You can ask them to move a bit faster, then more slowly again. Tell them that if their thoughts begin to wander away from their body, they should gently push the thought away, then return their attention to their feet.

 
     

 

 

Raisin awareness!

 
 

This exercise aims to make children more aware of an object in their environment - a raisin - then to become aware of their own experience of that object. This can be done with an individual child or with a group or class. Give each child two raisins.

You can use the following script, adapted from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book ("Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness") or an adaptation of this, depending on the age group you are working with.

"Look at the raisins carefully as if you have never seen one before. Pick up one raisin and feel it between your fingers and notice its colours. Be aware of any thoughts you have about the raisin. Be aware if you are thinking about liking or not liking raisins. Lift the raisin to your nose and smell it for a while. Then bring it to your lips. Be aware of your arm moving your hand into the right place for your mouth. Notice if your mouth is salivating to get ready for eating. Put the raisin into your mouth and chew it slowly. Experience the actual taste of the raisin. Hold it in your mouth. When you feel ready to swallow, feel your throat getting ready to swallow. When you are ready, pick up the second raisin and do all this again, as if this is now the first raisin you have ever seen."

 
     

 

 

Paying attention to how we think

 
 

Becoming more mindful involves understanding that we produce our thoughts - they are not who we are, they are just something that we do. Once we understand this, it is easier to push any negative thoughts out of our mind. Once the child has learnt to keep awareness on the present moment by focusing on their breath, you can then help them become aware of their thoughts and feelings. One exercise you can do is to say:

"Close your eyes and say to yourself: 'I wonder what my next thought is going to be?' Then focus very carefully, waiting for the next thought - like a cat watching a mouse hole. I wonder what thought is going to come out of the mouse hole?"

 
     

 

 

The WOW Factor

 
 

What are the things that fill you with wonder? Is it a rainbow, how you breathe, a new-born baby, a mountain, the sea, a butterfly, a forest of bluebells, a whale?

What you need:

  • Paper or thin card
  • Thick and thin felt tips.

What you do:

  • Make a big cartoon-style ‘WOW!’ in the middle of your sheet of paper.
  • Use bright colours to make your ‘WOW!’ and draw one of those zig-zaggy shapes around it with a thick felt tip so it looks like a word from a cartoon.
  • Think about all the things that fill you with wonder and make you want to say ‘WOW!’ and all the things that give you a special tingly feeling when you think about them.
  • Maybe your ‘WOW!’s are things in nature, or being loved in a special way, or doing something amazing, or a new baby, or being in a beautiful place. Maybe they are rainbows or crashing waves, or bees, or being on a mountain. Maybe they are being close to a waterfall, being hugged, a special piece of music, a tree, or being in a place of worship.
  • Write or draw your ‘WOW!’s or moments of wonder all around your ‘WOW!’ word.
  • Tell each other about your favourite ‘WOW!’ moments.

Things to talk about together:

  • What are the things that give something a WOW-factor?
  • What ‘WOW!’s did you have that were the same as someone else’s ‘WOW!’s?
  • What was the biggest ‘WOW!’ you experienced in the last week?
  • When you think about yourself what is the biggest ‘WOW!’ about you?

Other ideas:

  • Make a collection of pictures or objects that make you or the people in your family, class or group go ‘WOW!’
  • Go on a ‘WOW!’ walk together. Find a special place and look for as many things as you can that make you want to say ‘WOW!’ – even ants and daisies can be pretty amazing!
 
     

 

 

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