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Highlights from a past class

Highlights from a past class

A taste test… with a twist!

mindfulness taste test for children

This week was the last lesson of the term. I always try to make the last lesson slightly unique and different. So, this week, we did a taste test… with a twist!

Have you ever tried to draw a taste? Not draw the item that you are tasting, but rather the actual taste itself. So, for example, if you tasted some chilli flakes, you might draw a volcano or if you taste a peppermint, you might draw a snowflake. This is what we tried out in the classes this week.

We chatted about the 5 main tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami (savoury). Each child received a sheet with 8 blocks to draw and rate each taste. They could choose the order in which they decided to taste the items on offer. We turned it into a bit of a mindful eating meditation in that there was quiet and simply rang the tingsha bells when they needed to choose a new flavour. Wow – what a fun experience!

And the comments afterwards were great. One little girl expressed: “I didn’t know tomatoes tasted like this” and her drawing was of a rainbow. Hopefully she will eat more tomatoes! It was also interesting how varied everyone’s tastes are. So, some children loved the kiwifruit and rated it as their favourite flavour while others had some very strong views of disgust around the taste of a kiwifruit.

Trying new flavours is not always easy for children, especially those with a limited range of “liked” tastes or children with sensory challenges. But a mindfulness taste test is a fun and safe way to encourage children to try new flavours. If a child feels very weary, I often suggest that they simply smell the food. Some then go on to lick it, while others will be brave enough to taste it. And then the fun part begins – they get to draw the taste! With much enthusiasm they will show you through their drawing how much they liked (or disliked!) the flavour. There is no pressure on the child to enjoy the flavour but often they are pleasantly surprised that they actually do enjoy it.

So, a lovely, fun class to end off another great term of mindfulness.

Highlights from a past class

be where your feet are

Legs Up The Wall Pose

This quote was recently introduced to me by one of the Mindful Minis Advanced Training graduates – thanks Nini! It is a wonderful way of explaining to children the concept of being in the present moment. Simply just be where your feet are – in body and mind! A great mantra to repeat to oneself during the day.

In exploring this mantra, we focused on our feet in this week’s lessons. We had lots of fun playing Mexican toes. Essentially it is a Mexican wave around a circle, but with toes. There is no doubt in my mind that none of the children were thinking about anything else other than moving their toes! Great practise for focusing one’s attention in the present moment.

We also spent some time in “Legs Up The Wall” pose. This is a wonderfully restorative pose for children and adults. It helps to slow down the body and settle the mind. And of course, great for swollen or tired feet.

The 7 – 8 year olds convinced me to include a quick game of Sleeping Dragon in their lesson. They love this spin on a mindful walking exercise. So much fun! And it was also interesting for them to notice what feelings came up during the game. Anger at the dragon for waking up? Frustration at yourself for not reaching the key? Irritation that your turn finished too quickly? Pride that you almost reached the key? Excitement that you are playing the game? It was a great opportunity to assure the children that all feelings are welcome – comfortable and uncomfortable. It is what makes us human. We welcome them, sit with them and sooner or later they leave.

The 9 – 11 year olds enjoyed a game of pom pom toes. The children had to pick up pom poms with their toes and then return to mountain pose when the music stopped. Lots of focus and concentration was needed in this exercise but so much fun!

The younger and middle groups listened to the beautiful guided visualisation from Relax Kids called “The Fairy Garden”. Some of the children asked me please to tell their moms which visualisation it was – so moms, this is the memo! 😊

And then a lesson would not be complete without some mindful artwork. The younger and middle group worked with the boards and arts and crafts materials from last week. Totally amazing how different the creations were to last week. The older children worked on the backgrounds of their beautiful mosaic pictures – nearly done!

Highlights from a past class

mindful fun

Guiding children in mindfulness

This week the lessons took on a slightly more relaxed tone and we had some mindful fun! With so much left-brain activity happening during the school morning, it’s great to give the right-brain a chance. 😊

It has been pretty cold in Cape Town recently so we started the lessons with some sun salutations. In the 5 – 6 year old class, we followed the wonderful dance version “Dance for the Sun” by Kira Wiley. The kids simply love it!

We then had great fun doing some mindful movement while reading the book “Bark George” by Jules Feiffer. Each child was a different animal from the book and when they heard their animal’s sound, they needed to do the yoga pose for that animal. This was great practice in focused concentration since each child needed to listen out for their animal’s sound. And of course, it’s a delightful story. One can’t help but smile at the end!

We then moved onto some mindful artwork. Mindful artwork is about the process, not the end result. This week we did an exercise inspired by an aunt of one of the Mindful Minis (thanks to Alex’s aunt!). Each child got a board and could choose from a variety of arts and craft materials to create whatever they wanted. But the difference with this exercise, is that there is no glue. There is no fixed final result. Nothing to take home. It is just about having fun. Being in the moment!

It also takes the pressure off “getting it right”. If a child adds something and then decides they don’t like it, they simply remove it. There is no need for erasers – yay! The child can simply let go, have fun and create. I asked the 7 – 8 year olds to title their creations – wow! Totally amazing what came up. It reminded me of a quote from Georgia O’Keeffe: “I found I could say things with colour and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.”

The 9 – 11 year olds have been engrossed in the mosaic pictures that they have been working on since the start of the term. So, they focused on those this week. Each child is using torn up pieces of magazine to mosaic an animal of their choice. Lots of attention to detail and concentration needed, but therapeutic at the same time. Next week they are going to draw or paint their backgrounds so watch this space for some great works of art.

I wish you all a good week as we look forward to the first day of spring!

Highlights from a past class

ujjayi breathing

In the classes this week, we explored ujjayi breathing. In a children’s class, I refer to it as ocean breath. We close our ears when practising ujjayi and so it sounds just like the waves of the ocean! Calming, rhythmic, soothing.

Ujjayi breathing is a technique that helps calm the mind. When practicing ujjayi, you completely fill your lungs, while slightly contracting your throat when you breathe out through your nose. You should hear a gentle sound just like the sounds of the waves of the ocean as you breathe out. This is a very useful breathing technique for children to use if they find themselves in a noisy, over-stimulating environment. It can help to drown out external sounds and is effective in calming the sensory system and the mind. It helps a child (or adult) to take a mindful moment and find their own calm within.

In keeping with the ocean theme, we practised a fun beach-themed yoga sequence (inspired by one of the past teacher trainees – thanks Cindy!). We started off in mountain pose, anchoring ourselves in the present moment. I asked the children to breathe in deeply and imagine the wonderful salty smell of the sea. We also imagined the sound of the waves and the sea gulls and noticed how the sand felt under our toes. It was a mini guided visualisation while standing in mountain pose. 😊

From there we had fun with different yoga moves pretending to be shark spotter flags, surfboards, boats, sharks, fish, dolphins, oysters, pearls and more. In the older group, the children started adding in their own additions such as a sea snake (Cobra Pose). We were all totally immersed in the underwater adventure!

After the mindful movement, the younger class had some fun with a mindful art exercise. The beauty is in the process, not the end result. So, there is no glue; no permanence. There is nothing to take home except the experience. The children get to create and then undo. It is difficult for some children because the attachment is great, but it is an important and worthwhile exercise in enjoying the present moment and the experience of it.

In the older classes, the children carried on with their mosaic pictures. The time seems to fly by so quickly when they work on these pictures and they become fully absorbed. I have been asked pleeeeeeeeeeease can they have one lesson where they just work on their pictures so they seem to be enjoying making them! 😊

I leave you with the following quote this week from Rilke to inspire you to try ujjayi breathing:
“When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.”

Highlights from a past class

sound awareness

guiding children in mindfulness

We had great fun in the classes this week using sound to ground ourselves in the present moment. With children, using one or more of their five senses is a great way to help them practise focusing their attention. So, this week we had fun practising different sound awareness exercises to help focus our awareness in the present moment.

We discussed the amazing echolocation (echo location) ability of a dolphin. This is the way in which reflected sound waves or echoes are used by an animal to determine where objects are. The dolphin makes a high-pitched clicking sound and then if the sound hits something, it is reflected back to the dolphin. The dolphin can then work out how far away the object is, where exactly it is and how big it is. Incredible!

We practised our own form of echo location. Each child had a turn to beat out a rhythm on the djembe drum which the rest of us had to echo back by clapping. It was great fun! Lots of smiles and laughs. I probably should call it an “echo jamming” session. 😊

With the older children (7 – 11 years old), we played a game where each child made up their own sound signal. One person starts by making their sound signal and then “calling” another person in the circle by making that person’s sound signal. The new person repeats their own sound signal and then “calls” a different person in the circle. The kids really loved this and didn’t want to stop. When I asked them if they were thinking about anything else while playing this, the answer was a resounding NO! A great focusing exercise.

The guided visualisation I used this week in the classes was the beautiful Dolphin Dreaming by Beaming Kids. It is an encouraging and uplifting visualisation emphasizing how wonderful, amazing and loved each child is. Plus, it guides them on an adventure of riding on a dolphin’s back. Who doesn’t want to imagine that!

The 9 – 11 year old class were super relaxed after that and most said they could happily just carrying on lying under the weighted blankets. But, as expected, the joy of carrying on with their mosaic pictures took over and everyone moved into a time of creative mindfulness.

The younger class (5 – 6 year olds) drew their own underwater scenes of starfish, dolphins, eels, seaweed and more. But the best part was that a special “torch” was needed to see through the darkness. Have a look here. This is a way to explore fears of the dark in a fun, non-threatening manner. The kids loved this activity and were so happy to be able to take their interactive pictures home.

Using sound to ground oneself is helpful for young and old alike. So, the next time you are feeling a little bit “all over the place”, try taking a deep breath and then spending a few moments simply listening to the sounds around you. Don’t try to attach to the sounds in anyway by thinking about them or what is making them. Just listen and then wait for the next sound.

I am off to the Kruger Park on Friday for a family holiday so will be sure to anchor myself in the present moment with all the wonderful wildlife sounds.