This week the focus was on using our five senses to help us be more mindful. Engaging the senses, with intention, is a great way to help a child (and an adult) connect with the present moment.
We started by exploring what the 5 senses are – sight, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting. We also discussed how there are 5 basic tastes – sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami – but as the kids rightly pointed out, it often feels like there are a lot more! Umami is not a well-known one but refers to flavours like mushrooms, cooked plain pasta, parmesan cheese, etc.
The younger children (4 – 6 years old) then moved onto a mindful smelling exercise. Our dominant sense is sight and often we do not pay much attention to the others. So, it was great for the children to have their sense of smell stimulated. Five jars with different contents were passed around and each child had an opportunity to describe what they could smell. It is interesting to notice the associations some smells have. The smell of coffee might remind a child of mom enjoying a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Or the smell of honey might remind a child of peanut butter and honey sandwiches at grandpa’s house. So, after each child had a chance to smell the five smells, they had an opportunity to draw one of the smells.
For the younger children, it was enough to focus on only the one sense but with the older children (7 – 11 years old), we focused on all 5 senses. This was done through a mindful tea-drinking experience. So much fun! I had a variety of herbal teas for the children to choose from, as well as rooibos (which was by far the firm favourite!). There was a choice of honey, lemon juice and milk to add to the tea.
I invited them to start by looking at the surface of the liquid. Simply to notice its colour, as well as any patterns or shapes that emerged if they moved the cup slightly. I also asked them to see whether they could see their reflection in their cup of tea. It was lovely to watch the children move their cups of tea in and out of the stream of sunlight to see what effect that had.
Then I asked the children to gently place their hands on the outside of their cup. Some of the cups were a little too hot so we added a bit of cold water. Once the temperature was right, I asked the children to allow the warmth of the cup to seep into their fingers and palms. I asked them to notice how they felt, holding the warm cup of tea. So many responses were: happy, peaceful, comforted, content.
The next step was to listen to the cup of tea. Yes, you got it – we listened to the tea! You have to try this at home. The hot water makes a little hissing sound and some kids said it sounded a bit like the ocean. Good for them!
Afterwards it was time to smell the tea. With the variety of herbal teas, the fragrances in the room were delightful. Again, the children commented on how comfortable and happy the smell of the tea made them feel.
And lastly it was time to taste the tea. Most of the kids needed just a leeeeeetle bit more honey in their tea to make it perfect. 😊 Then we sat in silence – mindfully savouring the moment of drinking our cups of tea, engaging all our senses.
Life is busy and rushed, and often it seems that there is no time to stop and savour a moment. We need to get to the next thing. But where does that leave us? Stressed? Disconnected? Anxious? What does that teach our children? The benefits of being able to stop, breathe and be are endless – for us and for our children. So, I encourage you to start with a simple cup of tea. Use your senses to ground you in the moment. See, feel, listen, smell and taste the tea. Give it a try!