Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of what is happening right now and being fully involved in it. Your presence is a gift to your children. When you give them your full attention and really listen to them you are filling both their cup and yours with the loving light of your awareness.
Here are a few practices I have found helpful when working with children. As you try these activities please be sure to be gentle with yourself. Mindfulness is a practice, which means that sometimes you make mistakes. That's ok!
Anytime you find yourself lost in thought or distracted by your mind don't worry, it's normal. Awareness is the key. When you realize you aren't being totally present that's when you have the opportunity to redirect your focus back to the moment, and that's a cool thing to do because the moment is where the magic happens.
1. Sound Healing
My son, like many children, is very responsive to sound energy. For example, I have used my Tibetan singing bowl in a variety of settings with children: classrooms, at kids camps and even my son's bedroom late at night.
The response I have noticed is usually a mixture of awe and appreciation. They calm down and really focus as I play, sometimes for minutes on end. I once led a 5 minute bell meditation with a group of 8-year-olds at our local summer theater camp. When the time ran out and I told them it was time to play a game they all begged me for a few more minutes, they said it helped them relax and it felt wonderful. I was blown away!
Since then I have experimented with a variety of sound healing devices. My recent favorite is pictured above. This wooden instrument sounds like a tree frog when you stroke its back with the stick. My son and I play it at bedtime as part of our calming down ritual.
Drumming is also a powerful way to practice mindfulness with your child. So much can happen when drumming is the form of self expression. This is especially helpful for children who have difficulty communicating verbally.
There is no wrong way to practice sound healing, just be present and patient with your child as you facilitate the interaction. Try not to give them too many rules or dictate how they must behave. Instead, follow their lead and see where it takes you (it's usually more fun that way anyway!).
2. Moving Meditation
Since kids have a lot of energy and adults tend to be too stationary, this is a perfect way to spend some time practicing mindfulness. To have success with moving meditations with children take precautions in communicating clear boundaries.
For example, when I do acro Yoga with my son I talk to him about safety concerns. I might say something like, "let's use our hands and feet gently so you don't fall and I don't get kicked or squished. I want us to have fun, not get hurt." It doesn't hurt to say this in a funny voice that makes him laugh and catches his attention. I usually ask him to repeat the boundaries back to me, and sometimes we even shake on it and say in unison, "deal."
You don't have to put your kid on your feet to enjoy a mindfulness moment of movement. Dancing, hula hooping, even walking are all activities that can be done more mindfully. This is a lovely example of a step-by-step walking meditation suitable for young children.
Pro Tip: When you offer these movement based exercises to your child, try listening and watching more than you speak, you will notice things you might have missed before!
3. observing nature
Perhaps my favorite way to interact with my son is through observing things in nature. Everything from insects to the Moon is fair game when you practice mindful awareness with kids.
Set an intention with your child before you head outside. Sometimes, my son and I go out to water the garden together, other times we are looking for a specific insect (butterflies and fireflies are our favorites).
Follow their lead and teach along the way. Kids will ask questions about the things they are curious about, or they will just go ahead and try things. Those are your opportunities to teach them lessons about how the world works or general safety concerns. You don't need lessons plans to facilitate learning, learning takes place naturally and is enjoyable for the sheer fun of it.
Take it all in. Practice deep breathing, or sit and watch the way the grass or trees sway in the breeze. Touch the bark of trees or taste the honey suckle nectar. There are so many ways to enjoy the five senses in nature, adding richness to the experience of being outdoors. Teach your child to soak up that sunshine and appreciate the coolness of the shade. These are lessons that will serve them for a lifetime.