We know how much mindfulness can help ease our child’s (and our own) stress, anxiety, or lack of focus — especially during times such as these. Getting our kid’s buy-in on such practices, though, takes a little creativity. Even the simplest of the mantras, breathing exercises or body-scanning techniques you use in your own mindfulness routine can go straight over their head, leaving them bored or even more fidgety than when you started.
That’s the problem writer Steph Fairyington ran into when she tried to implement a meditation and gratitude routine with her 4-year-old daughter Marty. (Marty, naturally, took the opportunity to play up her silliness, exclaiming how she was thankful for ice cream and farts — because who isn’t?) So Fairyington went on a journey to figure out how to incorporate Marty’s penchant for imaginative play into a mindfulness practice.
After some research and interviews with experts, she writes for the Washington Post that she was ready to put a plan into action — by pretending to be trees:
Marty and I squatted down and pretended our fingers were the big bold roots of our respective trees. Then we slowly rose up and lengthened our bodies into erect postures. Taking a deep breath, we gently extended our arms over our heads, wiggling our fingers (leaves) and arms (branches) in a soft breeze, exhaling as we let them fall at our sides. “It’s not just imitation, but a real becoming,” Lisa Miller, a professor of psychology and education at Columbia University Teachers College and author of “The Spiritual Child,” assured me. “The sensibility of the child is that they can truly be the tree. It supports their natural sense of unity.” Marty, so believable as a tree she’d make Stanislavsky proud, truly made the practice her own by tipping over in a gusty wind and pleading for my help.
From there, Fairyington and her daughter pretended to be wind (a tornado sent Marty hurtling through the park) and the sun.
Using the specific tree, wind and sun technique is great, but you can adapt the idea to whatever speaks to your child’s individuality. You could do some Darth Vader breathing exercises or practice walking like a deer. Or you could do like my son’s soccer coach does and have the kids spend a few minutes lying on their backs making “grass angels” in the field before a game.
Anything that allows them to slow down and act out something in a focused, methodical way is a great start to practicing mindfulness.