Practicing Mindfulness with Your Family
Published on: October 17, 2019Incorporating mindfulness moments into your family life is possible, even with children under six years of age. Yoga instructor and mom Dharak suggests some activities you might try. By Dharak Dhamarongrat Growing up in Bangkok, I found I rarely had moments of mindfulness during my childhood because of our living environment. Our pace of life was fast and everywhere was busy and traffic-jammed. Since our culture is mainly Buddhist, during school holidays, my mom would send me to a temple for a week or two of meditation practice. Now, our lives in Bangkok are even busier than when I was younger, making it even more important for families to make time to be mindful.
Practicing mindfulness with kidsSo what is mindfulness? And what is the purpose of practicing mindful meditation? Mindfulness is being mentally aware of the present moment. It is the purpose of life, and it gives us a sense of happiness. For children, we practice FUN yoga because they are happy if it’s enjoyable, and when they are happy, they are more open to learning new things. As a parent of three children and a yoga teacher, I learn and practice mindfulness with my kids. I rarely have time to take them to a meditation camp or retreat like when I was young, so it’s essential to give them and myself a quiet moment every day. We create our own mindfulness moments.
Mindfulness for children under the age of six is simply doing activities that let them explore and utilize their senses. Not just the five senses, but all seven….Kids are more mature and mindful than we think they are. It is up to us to show them and let them explore. It’s good if you can set a schedule for mindfulness sessions as part of your routine. However, my own schedule is hard to manage as I travel often, so I do whatever I can to spend time with the kids, and encourage them to appreciate “quiet time” for themselves. And of course, I try to nurture “me time” too.
Mindfulness for children under six yearsMindfulness for children under the age of six is simply doing activities that let them explore and utilize their senses. Not just the five senses, but all seven senses, including vestibular (perception of our body in relation to gravity, movement, and balance) and proprioception (sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed). We can play games and do things at home with them according to the child’s age. You may think your child already does these at school, but trust me, doing them with you will give them a whole different meaning and feeling.
Mindfulness activitiesHere are some activities that any parent can try with their child—no need to worry if you’re not a professional educator or particularly good at music and arts! By doing mindfulness activities with your child, you might also discover something surprising about yourself.
- Try baby massage, hand language, or baby sign language and facial expressions.
- Sing along, talk to them as you carry them around the house and do your housework.
- Try yoga with your baby, or conscious breathing exercises such as alternate-nostril breathing while having your baby on your chest.
- Let the child taste different flavors and textures such as frozen fruit.
- Try messy play with noodles, make dough, peel fruits, and pick flowers and leaves.
- You can let them walk with their feet on top of your feet, walk around the room in the dark, play by having a picnic in the garden using things you can find from nature.
- This is an excellent age for pool time, and you can also give them touch therapy.
- Help the child learn to feed, dress, and care for themselves. Offer them choices to build self-confidence.
- Children of this age group start to be more sociable, so bring them out to play with others.
- It’s a good time to introduce them to storytime yoga — connecting to the world around them through stories and movement.
- Other ideas are “Red bean meditation,” which involves picking beans from one bowl and moving them to another using a wooden teaspoon.
- You can also try stamp and sticker activities, blowing with a straw or blowing bubbles, and hand and foot massages.
2-4 years old
- Try sensory activities and more movement, standing and balancing poses, rolling, yoga with friends, yoga with arts and crafts, and even yoga with costumes and props!
- Mandala coloring, outdoor play, and nighttime play are also fun—like finding things in the dark.
- Also sing-alongs, and using ambient sounds to guide your relaxation with bowl or sound meditation.
- Don’t forget about head, hand, and foot massages which are fantastic for this high energy age group!
4-6 years oldIn this wonderful phase of childhood, you can see how much your child has been learning and growing up with you. Their personality shows, and their mindfulness sense will be embedded in their actions throughout the day.
- They can now do up to 45 minutes of yoga on their own mat.
- Sitting still, let them practice mindfulness breathing for three minutes, then increase the length as they get used to it.
- Try counting meditation and alternate nostril breathing for one minute or more.
- They can also do a standing tree (see photo) for 20-50 counts.
- You could introduce your kids to their own “me time” in their room.
- Also, don’t ignore “touch time” as head, hand, and foot massage are still great for them.
ReferencesImages courtesy of the author.
About the AuthorDharak Dhamarongrat is a senior trainer for Rainbow Kids Yoga Training (rainbowyogatraining.com) and a senior trainer for Pilatesprop, Pilates Training & Equipment (inspire-moves.com). She is also BAMBI Yard Sales Coordinator.
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