Today I had the privilege of meeting the children at the beautiful, new Sunny Side Montessori Pre-school in Claremont. Teacher Caitlin has created a very special, little haven in Brooke St. The class was held outdoors in their wonderful garden – I could not have asked for a more perfect spot for a mindfulness class! We were blessed with the sounds of birds singing in the trees around us which was extra special since the theme for the class today was birds.
We started off the class by introducing ourselves and checking in with how we were feeling. The children were so wonderfully enthusiastic. They needed no prompting at all! I introduced the Hoberman Sphere which is a lovely tool to help younger children slow down their breathing and take full, deep breaths.
Since this was the children’s first mindfulness class, we discussed a bit about what mindfulness is. I used the glitter jar analogy where the glitter represents the many thoughts in our minds. On shaking the jar and watching the glitter move around rapidly, small children are able to understand how busy our minds can get with lots of different thoughts. And that by practising mindfulness, we can help to calm these busy thoughts and unclutter our minds, just like the glitter settles and the water clears when we stop shaking the jar.
I further introduced the concept of mindfulness with a sensory, tactile exercise. I asked each child to choose, without looking, a small toy animal out of my rainbow bag. Once they had it in their hands, I asked them to look at the animal very carefully and describe it as best they could. I asked them to notice its size, colour, shape, texture, whether they could squash it or not, whether it had any holes such as an open mouth or pointy edges such as sharp teeth, etc. I gave them some time to fully explore their animal and notice as much as they could about it. Then I asked them to choose a different animal from the bag, but this time to describe it while keeping their eyes closed. It is virtually impossible for a small child to keep their eyes closed when you ask them to! But although the kids did peek quickly at what they were holding, they were then very good about keeping their eyes closed while they described what they could feel and notice about their animal. Our sight is our most dominant sense so it is always a nice exercise to give our other senses a chance to take the lead. Sometimes we notice so much more than we would have with our eyes open.
After doing a few stretches to warm up our bodies, we went on a hot-air balloon adventure to find some birds. The kids really used their imaginations beautifully and were fully present with me as we explored a variety of yoga poses on our adventure. I was hugely impressed by how well the children managed the balancing poses such as flamingo pose, stork pose and tree pose. And I also loved their sound effects that accompanied owl pose and duck pose. I think I need to introduce a hadeda pose since one little girl could perfectly mimic the hadeda call! It was adorable.
We then did a mindfulness auditory exercise. I have a wonderful children’s bird book that plays bird noises as you turn the pages. I asked the children to lie down, relax and listen to the different bird sounds – sounds of birds in the savanna, birds near water, birds in a rainforest and more. And of course, we had the real-life birds around us joining in with their melodies. It was all very special!
While the children continued to lie down giving their bodies time to relax, I moved into the guided visualisation. The children covered themselves with the Mindful Minis weighted blankets which they seem to love! They really help to settle and calm the children.
I asked the children to imagine that they were eagles sitting on a high ledge of a cliff. I asked them to notice how they felt sitting so high up – slightly nervous and shaky or like the king of the world. It can help a child to better recognise their feelings when they are asked to see themselves as an animal or other character. It can feel less threatening for them to explore their feelings as the eagle for example.
I also asked them to notice the quiet around them while sitting so high up on the rock ledge. I suggested that perhaps this quiet of the world outside can help them feel quiet and calm inside. I asked them to pay attention to the feelings of calm so that at any time if they are feeling anxious or worried, they can come back to these feelings of calm and peace.
I then asked them to imagine themselves soaring through the air like a majestic eagle does. Again, I asked them to pay attention to what they could feel – perhaps a cool wind on their faces or perhaps the warmth from the sun on their outstretched wings. I encouraged them to feel courageous, strong and powerful like an eagle.
After finishing the guided visualisation, we ended off the class by joining hands and saying the Mindful Minis Mantra together:
• I am calm
• I am kind
• I am healthy and strong
• I am important
So, a very happy first lesson at Sunny Side Montessori. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there today and I am really looking forward to seeing the children again next term.