I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Life in this day and age is FAST. There is less and less time to stand still. To watch. To breathe. Living mindfully can be really hard for some of us, and particularly if you are a busy parent or carer. It feels like we are in a constant battle to encourage our children to stay focused and pay attention ( mostly in class, but also or at home). But how can we encourage our kids in this way if we’re not focused or paying attention either. Can we practice what we preach, rather than rushing and mindlessly going through the motions? Well, I’d like to show you ways to do absolutely that! Get connected with your children and show them the way to live and learn mindfully through these beautiful exercises.
So here goes:
- Put our phones down: Seriously though, I am on it way too much. I blog, post, watch and take photos from it. When I put it away that means I can focus on what’s in front of me. So hubby and I sometimes leave it upstairs and on silent, so it is outta sight!
- Go for walks: We go for walks all the time. We stop to smell flowers, touch leaves and trees, and roll around on the grass. We take our shoes off and sink our feet in the grass. It keeps us connected to our Earth, and leaves us feeling grounded. Nothing better than some vitamins from Mother Earth.
- Eat in quiet: There is no TV on when L is eating his food. We enjoy each other, we explore the food and we talk about the taste and feel of it. Well, I do the talking… he tries though! If there are no other distractions during food time then hopefully L will engage in what he is eating and develop a healthy relationship with food. We want him to be a conscious eater and we want him to love the experience of sharing food with loved ones. Turning the TV off really helps with this!
- Play music: We play instrumental music in the house all the time. I pick L up and we dance to it. We move and sway with the sounds of the music. We are close and connected and for those moments I am not preoccupied with anything else. I am there, with my greatest love, feeling free and peaceful.
- We play: Sometimes we will join L in whatever he is playing. It may be blocks, farm animals, rice sensory play or chalk drawing. We get rid of our phones and dive deep into that moment with L letting him know that we are present, focused and connected to him. We find that being fully engaged with him in that 10 minutes is almost as good as a 10 minute meditation (almost!).
- Meditate: This takes me to my next tip… meditation! We are avid meditators in our house. We try to bunker down and go inwards for at least 10 minutes per day. As soon as L is ready, we will guide him through his own meditation. If you have little ones, and are keen to try meditation, try for 1 minute a first. Then work your way up. There are some amazing apps to help you on your way too like 1 Giant Mind and Smiling Mind.
- Star gaze: Go outside at night at look up. This night time practice is so precious, and it is one of my favourites. I do this at night when L has gone to bed and I’m feeling a little restless. I notice the sky and its many stars. I think about all the other things I can see? Are there any patterns for me to follow or interesting shapes or pictures I can make in my mind? I also pay close attention to the moon and notice its colour, shape and size in that moment. Usually I will go inside and then make a phone call to my Dad. He loves nature and the night sky just like I do. We have been watching the night ever since I was a little girl. I cherish these conversations with him and make a special point to soak them up.
- Go slowly: Simply put. Slloooooooowwwww doooowwwwwnnnnn. Sometimes I deliberately go slow. I slow down when I eat, counting the mouthfuls and conscious chews. I go slow when I brush my teeth, when I get dressed, when I shower and when I prepare food. I take my sweet time to notice each and every moment and I make sure to breathe. I also try to slow down when I am at work. I find I make more mistakes when I am racing through tasks. I get frustrated and my breath is shallow, which makes me anxious and foggy headed. By making a conscious effort to slow down in these ways we hope to guide L to mindfully undertake his own tasks as he grows. To pay close attention to what he is doing so he can do it well and peacefully.
- Watch the world: Sometimes we head out as a family and we stay quiet. We look around and notice our surroundings. We notice the people who are near by and we wonder who they are, what they are doing and what their story is. Where are they going? Who do they love? We notice the sky, the beach, the trees or even the traffic. We make observations as if we have never seen the world in this way. Curiously piecing together our environment like a child. It’s actually so relaxing to just watch. It teaches us so much about our world and that’s precisely why we do in with L so he can be a curious observer too.
- Listen: Try this with your children. Ask your child to close down their eyes and get comfy. Tell them to find a place to sit or lie down so they are relaxed. With their eyes closed it means that their sense of hearing is heightened. Provide a sound for your little ones to listen for. I sometimes use bells, or music. But you can also tap a glass, knock wooden spoons together or get creative! However you want to make this sound is up to you guys. Then move around the room taking the sound with you. Move it closer to your child and then further away. Make it loud and make it soft. Make it fast and make it slow. After a few minutes of exploring in this way ask your child to open their eyes and tell you what they noticed about this things they heard. Can they identify the changes in sound without judgement, but with a curious mind? This exercise was a favourite with my students and hopefully a favourite for L one day too!
- Yoga: Give some Yoga a try! There are lots of great books and clips online for you use with your little ones. Cosmic Kids Yoga on You Tube is excellent and also Go Noodle videos are lots of fun too! I try to get on my mat a few times a week and let L crawl around me. He certainly gets in the way sometimes, but it still makes me smile.
- Breathe: Last, but certainly not least, I recommend you breathe. Ahhhhh. Like, actually breathe like we are supposed to. Deep in our belly rather than up high in our collar bones. I will always, and have always, encouraged the children around me to breathe deeply and consciously. Before bedtime get your little ones all tucked in and lying down. Then guide them to put their hands on their belly and notice their breath. Encourage them to feel their hands rising and falling with each inhale and exhale. Breathing properly, in our bellies, helps us manage stress, problem solve and think clearly. So… just breathe.
I hope you can find some inspiration here to live a more mindful life with your family. Utilising these mindful exercises may help your child focus and attend to their learning, but mostly, help them live in a more peaceful way.
If you do decide to take on some of my tips for living mindfully with your children I would really love to hear about it. Email me or contact me on Instagram to share your experiences. If you do post on Instagram make sure you tag me and add the hashtag #mindfulmarch2018
For more about Mindful lives with little ones, just head over to Instagram and follow me, @booksandbabycinos and @essentiallysquared
Thank you my sweet Readers!