great way to balance an active class with quieter activities which create those opportunities for busy little minds to become quiet. They don’t have the mental powers to imagine something specific, like a visualization, so something tangible to focus on works the best. All craft is really in this category, but some of my yoga class favourites are: • Sorting coloured pom poms into coloured cups, ideally with your toes, or pegs, or chop sticks. • Pipe cleaners + colander. I have seen this occupy kids for over twenty minutes. • Mind Jars: water, food colouring, school glue and glitter. Shake and watch swirling glitter (busy thoughts) settle (calm mind). Challenge them not to touch until all the glitter has settled! • Threading – beads and spaghetti, many options here • Blowing pom poms along a line with a straw • Stacking activities: yoga blocks, cups, how can we make the structure not fall over? With older kids you can try ideas that work more with imagination and breath. My husband came up with a great one that works wonders for us: listening. He gets my son to tell him what he can hear outside. Mr 5 listens so hard and loves listing all the things he identifies. • If you have any superhero fans in your house you can adapt this Spiderman meditation to suit your hero’s particular powers. This adapts particularly well I think by getting kids to ‘turn on their Spidey senses’ to focus on what they can hear, touch, smell and taste. • Relax Kids have a lovely selection of resources, I especially like their books Aladdin’s Magic Carpet and The Wishing Star which are full of wonderful visualizations for kids. The Robot meditation was one that worked for us, where you imagine slowly turning off all the lights and buttons from your head down to your toes. • Another great book is Sitting Still Like a Frog which has the fun idea of asking children to identify their emotions by creating a weather report: sunny, cloudy, stormy, calm etc. Useful for understanding emotions and learning that we can’t change them, but we can change how we feel about them. • Search You Tube for fantastic videos by Cosmic Kids Zen Den. These really got the ball rolling for us. We started with Candle of Concentration which is why Mr 5 can now do a candle meditation with me. And because the techie in me loves a great app, for those sometimes moments when we relax with screens, here are some of the best apps to help children learn about using the breath and managing emotions: facebook.com/flyingstartkids
For younger kids 3-7: Breathe, Think Do by Sesame Street Sesame Street have done a stellar job with this simple app. The cute Sesame Street blue monster engages kids by getting them to help him deal with problems. Kids have to decide how the monster deals with each situation which helps them learn strategies for dealing with similar situations in the real world. Kids learn a good emotional vocabulary, a calm breathing technique and an approach to tackling problems: ‘Breathe, Think, Do‘. Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings is sweet app for helping kids label emotions. Cute catchy songs that hopefully stick in little ones heads to help them manage their feelings and a demo of using breath to calm down. For older kids 7-18: ‘Smiling Mind is modern meditation for young people. It is a unique web and App-based program, designed to help bring balance to young lives.’ Highly rated by the tween crowd this app is clearly doing something right. Easy to follow meditation exercises developed by psychologists to help kids tackle stress. Good for grown ups too! Ultimately it’s important not to expect over night miracles. Essentially we are equipping our kids with a tool kit, to help them maintain the ability to live in the moment, to manage big emotions and to reject the need to have the mind distracted all the time. We may never know the full impact of our mindfulness efforts on our kids. Whether they use these skills is up to them, but I believe it’s worthwhile making the effort because the chances are good that some of it will sink in and at some point they’ll make use of them.
END Jessica Bee is a professional technology educator and yoga teacher, founder of the tech parenting and mindfulness blog Flying Start Kids and mum to two boys age 2 and 5. She reviews the very best apps for growing kids’ creative minds, along with ideas for other non screen related activities. She is especially passionate about assisting parents and carers through the modern day parenting challenges of managing children’s engagement with technology. She lives with her family in Sydney and teaches ‘Bendytots’ yoga for kids at Prana Space in Rose Bay.