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Highlights from a past class

Highlights from a past class

walking tall

mindfulness for kids

Despite the cold winter’s day outside, it was warm and snuggly inside the Mindful Minis Studio this week. It was great to see all the children again after the school holidays and to welcome some new faces.

The theme for this term is ANIMALS. I chose this theme firstly because kids LOVE animals! But also, because I feel that animals can teach us a lot about living in the moment. They are not consumed with anger or guilt about what happened yesterday. Nor do they fear or worry about what is going to happen tomorrow. They simply embrace the present moment.

So, each week, I will share a new animal with the children and we will discuss what we can learn from that animal about how to live more mindfully. I gave the children a few clues about the animal for the week to see if they could guess it:

• They are the world’s tallest living land animals.
• Their favourite grub is the acacia tree. They spend most of their time eating, and can guzzle up to 45kg of leaves and twigs a day. We worked out that was equivalent to 3 of the smaller kids in the class!
• A group of these animals is called a tower. They are very social and roam around in groups – usually about 15 of them.
• No two of these animals have the same pattern on their body – like human fingerprints, they are unique.
• They have a bluish-purple tongue that is about 50cm long. That is a very long tongue!

It’s a giraffe! Such beautiful, graceful animals that walk tall and proud, filled with confidence in a gentle way. So, in the classes this week, we practised walking tall and proud. The children each had a turn to walk across a balance beam, slowly and with focus. Then they tried it again, but with balancing a bean bag on their heads. Great fun! With the older children, I challenged them to try it a third time, but with balancing a book on their heads. All of them agreed that during the exercise they were not thinking of anything else other than walking carefully along the beam. A great exercise in intense focus. Then we had a bit of fun seeing how many children could walk and balance on the beam at the same time! In the 9 – 11 year old group, we ended up with 4 kids. Impressive stuff!

In the 4 – 6 year old class I then read the beautiful book “Giraffes can’t dance” by Giles Andreae. It is a wonderful story about encouragement and believing in yourself. There is a giraffe who believes he can’t dance and all the other animals laugh at him. But a wise cricket encourages him to listen carefully for the music that is right for him and in the end, he surprises all the jungle animals with the most fantastic boogie! My favourite line in the book is “We all can dance,” he said, “when we find music that we love.” We then had some fun trying out our own dance moves with some music and bubbles.

The lesson ended with the Lion meditation from the Mindful Moments for Minis CD. In the story, the Lion has to walk very carefully and slowly across a tree branch that has fallen across a river in order to get to the other side. It is also a visualisation about self-belief and growing a child’s confidence.

In the older classes, we spent time in creative reflection. This term the children are working on animal mosaic pictures. The process of creating a mosaic picture is wonderfully therapeutic. Much focus is required but in a gentle and relaxed way. This week the children simply focused on drawing the outlines of their animals and started thinking about the colours they would like to use. A few of them have already started the fun part of pulling pages out magazines and tearing them into tiny pieces. Quite a liberating activity!

So, I think fun was had by all in this first lesson of the term. I wish you all a good week ahead, standing tall and proud like the graceful giraffe!

Highlights from a past class

mindful me

Mindfulness for children in Cape Town

This week has been the final in the Mindful Me Series. We looked back on what we had covered over the term:
• What is mindfulness and how can it help me to understand my feelings
• Engaging our 5 senses to ground ourselves
• Mindful eating and drinking
• Affirmations
• Mindful listening
• Breath awareness
• Mindful movement
• Mindful walking
• Guided visualisations

It was lovely to chat a bit about how the children are using what they learn in the classes, in their daily lives outside of the lessons. Many opportunities present themselves to us each day for us to practise mindfulness. One little girl mentioned to me yesterday that I need to start adult classes because her mom needs mindfulness. Apparently, she gets irritated a lot! I had a little chuckle but it warmed my heart to see how the children understand that mindfulness is a life skill, not just an extra-mural that they do once a week. The connection between what is learnt in the classes and applying it to every day life often still needs to be encouraged with the children, but I am seeing more and more how they are finding their own way in using mindfulness every day to help them “do life”.

Over the course of the term, the children have practised some mindful artwork in each lesson. So, for this final lesson, we spent a bit more time on the mindful artwork. The children completed the animal pictures that they started last week and even though the purpose of mindful artwork is the process, not the results, the pictures created were amazing.

And an end of term lesson is not complete without a mindful eating exercise – it has become some what of a tradition! So, I made some of my delicious date balls for the kids to taste (and grapes for those who are not keen on dates). A couple of the kids asked me to please send the recipe to their moms, so here it is:
125g margarine
250g dates, finely chopped
65ml sugar
1 extra-large egg, whisked
1 packet of marie biscuits
100ml desiccated coconut

Melt the margarine over low heat. Add the dates, stir and heat until soft. Remove from the heat and add the sugar. Stir until dissolved. Add a little of the hot mixture to the whisked egg and stir. Add the egg mixture to the remaining date mixture and mix well. Add the Marie biscuits and mix. Allow to cool. Roll the cooled mixture into balls, then in coconut if desired.

A really lovely term covering a variety of mindfulness techniques for children. I hope your kids enjoyed the classes as much as I did!

Classes start again on 17th July and run until the 11th Sep.
Wishing you all a good winter break.

Highlights from a past class

guided visualisations

guiding children in mindfulness

“Your mind is a powerful thing. When you filter it with positive thoughts, your life will start to change.” ~Buddha

In the classes this week, we chatted a bit about guided visualisations and how they can help us to find the calm within.

A guided visualisation is a mind-body technique in which a child (or adult) is guided in mental images that aim to re-create a perceptual sensory experience for the child. Suggestions around sights, sounds, tastes, smells and movements are made. E.g. The narrator might say:” Close your eyes and imagine walking along a path in nature. Take a moment to listen to the sounds around you. Perhaps you can hear the wind in the leaves of the trees. Or perhaps you can hear a bird singing…”.

Guided visualisations aim to help children imagine alternative perspectives, thoughts, and behaviours. It is a powerful technique that can help a child use positive mental images to influence how they feel. It encourages a child to replace images that intensify feelings of fear, hopelessness or anger with images that emphasize capability, worthiness, fearlessness and greatness.

There are many different situations in which it may be helpful for a child to listen to a guided visualisation. Just before going to bed at night is often a favoured time. But it can also be useful for a child to listen to a confidence-building visualisation on the way to school in the morning, especially if there might be something happening at school that day that they are feeling anxious about. Another useful time is when a child first gets home from school. Often, they might have been “holding it together” at school and then everything seems to fall apart the moment they get home. Taking a few minutes of quiet time listening to a guided visualisation can help them to transition better from school to home.

Many of the children that attend Mindful Minis are familiar with the Mindful Moments for Minis Album that I produced last year. This album consists of 8 guided visualisations and is available at most online music stores such as iTunes and Google Play. There are also a number of other guided visualisations for kids available online. If you need further recommendations, just let me know and I can advise you.

This week, the children were led in a guided visualisation along a path in nature. Different image suggestions were made around sights, sounds, tastes, smells and movements, helping the children to fully immerse themselves in the visualisation. The visualisation then suggested that each child met an animal that had a message for them. A special message just for them that would help the seeds of happiness to grow in their hearts. The visualisation went on to suggest that at any time in the future if the child was feeling anxious, sad or afraid, they could remember their special animal and the message to help them feel better. After the visualisation, the children drew pictures to express their experience of the visualisation.

“The green forests are woven through your spirit
And the animals of the earth run in your veins.
Your heart is wild and your soul is free.
Never be tamed.”
~ Ara

Highlights from a past class

mindful walking

mindfulness in Cape Town

“When you walk, arrive with every step. That is walking meditation. There’s nothing else to it.” ~ Thich Nhat Hahn – How to Walk (Parallel Press April 2015)

When we consciously focus on our breathing, we open up ourselves to listen more intently to our bodies. The same can be achieved through mindful walking. It helps to ground ourselves in the present moment and deepen the connection to our bodies.

In the classes this week, the children explored some mindful walking. It is amazing how the body simply knows what to do with each step we take and how perfectly everything flows. We started by paying attention to our feet while standing. We noticed where in our feet we could feel the weight of our bodies – more in our heels or more in our toes; more on the outside of our feet or more on the inner soles. We then played around a bit and purposefully shifted the weight from heels to toes; from outer soles to inner soles and then back to a central equilibrium. I always feel good on coming back to the centre position. It is like this is a position I can come back to at any time to feel safe and grounded. So simple. Just standing with two feet firmly on the ground, connecting to the ever-present support of the earth.

The children were then asked to bend one knee and notice what happened. Try this at home. As you bend the knee more and more, and simply allow your body to move in a natural way, the heel of the foot automatically starts to lift. And so, we began our first step. The key to mindful walking is to slow it down. Really, really slow it down. The children were then guided in noticing what was happening in the body with each step that they took:

  • Which part of your foot prepares to leave the ground first?
  • How does the weight in your foot shift as this preparation takes place?
  • What happens to your knee and the rest of your leg?
  • What happens to the other foot?
  • Does the other foot roll slightly as you start to balance on one leg for a short time?
  • Can you notice the weight already start to shift in the other foot as it gets ready to follow the foot in the air?
  • As the foot in the air prepares to land, does your toe or heel reach the ground first?
  • What sensations do you notice in the foot as it connects with the ground again?
  • What do you notice happening in your hips and upper body during this movement?
  • What do you notice happening with your breath?

Paying attention. Noticing. No judgement. Mindfulness.

We then played a fun game called Sleepy Dragon that helps to encourage mindful walking. Thanks to @blossomandbee for the great idea! One child is the dragon while the others need to mindfully walk up to the dragon to touch the magic key without the dragon hearing them. It was great fun! Have a look at this video.

To end off the lessons, the children traced one of their feet and either decorated their footprint (lots of pretty painted toenails emerged!) or used words to describe how they felt during the mindful walking. This was a lovely reminder for them to take home to remind them that “When you walk, arrive with every step”.

So, this week, I encourage you to take a bit of time out to practice some mindful walking. Enjoy!

Highlights from a past class

mindful movement

mindfulness for children

In the classes this week we focused on mindful movement as part of the Mindful Me series. By practising mindful movement, a child can strengthen their connection to the body and deeper their internal awareness.

We started with our usual breath awareness exercises. In any mindful movement sequence, breathing is important. It can often be forgotten because one is so focused on what is happening in the body so it is always good to start with a couple of exercises that focus only on the breath.

We then warmed up our bodies with some fun movement exercises. The hula hoop game is a firm favourite with children and this week there were many giggles. I made the game a bit more challenging this week by saying the word hula every now and again which meant the hula hoop had to change direction! For those of you who are new to the hula hoop game, here is a video (from a past class):

We also played the pom pom game this week to get the bodies warm and to tune the children’s focus. This is really a great exercise for helping kids to focus. You can be assured that they will not be thinking of anything else other than picking up pom poms when playing this game. The idea is for them to pick up pom poms with their toes and place them in a central container. This week I asked the children to move into mountain pose when the music stopped. This was to help ground them and allow them to feel stable and connected to the earth in amongst the activity. A concrete expression of the well-known quote:

“Peace: It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of these things and still be calm in your heart.” ~ unknown

Once our bodies were warm and our attention focused, we explored a simple sun salutation. We followed the beautiful “Dance for the Sun” song from Kira Willey which I simply love (and the kids do too!). We slowed things down a lot, and paused a lot in each pose, giving ourselves time to connect with our bodies throughout the whole sequence. I felt in all the classes the children could really connect with how their bodies were moving. In the younger classes, we had a bit of additional fun with some extra poses such as warrior II. Always good to remind ourselves of how strong, brave and important we are! 😊

Finally, it was time for a guided visualisation. This week I choose Fly Eagle Fly from the Mindful Moments for Minis album. It fitted in well with the mindful movement theme since the visualisation asks the child to imagine themselves soaring through the sky like an eagle. Many of the children commented afterwards how they loved flying through the sky!

So I would like to encourage you that the next time you go for a run, or a cycle, or a walk in the park, you take some time to use the movement to deepen the connection with your body and your internal awareness.