We asked Sian Stowell, a children's yoga and mindfulness teacher, for her ideas on simple activities to do with your child in half term to benefit your child, and you! Over to Sian...
What better way to approach the half term holidays, but with some mindfulness fun with your children?
But what is mindfulness? I hear you ask.
Being mindful is noticing what is happening right now in the moment, not what you did earlier or what you’re going to do later. It’s being aware of what you can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste in the moment. Take smelling a flower for example, you pay attention to the lovely smell of it and your mind concentrates on that and feels calm. So it’s also paying attention to how you are feeling now, in the moment.
Why don’t you try a different mindful activity with your children each day of the holidays?
MONDAY - MINDFUL COLOURING
Colouring uses the logical part of our brain and allows us to rest the part of our brain that makes us worry. We are concentrating on choosing our colours, colouring within the lines (although you don’t have to colour this way) and noticing the shapes.
Mandalas (like the one pictured) are great to use for mindful colouring with lots of lines and shapes that make a pattern in a circle. Colour them in using pencil crayons, felt tips, pastels or whatever you choose.
TUESDAY - A RAINBOW WALK
Go outside in nature’s garden, get some fresh air and be aware of your surroundings by looking for the colours of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet).
As you take your walk look out for something of each colour and write it down if you want or just remember in your mind. Some of the colours can be tricky and that’s where the fun begins as you continue searching until you find them. Depending where your walk takes you maybe you could bring a bit of the outside in, with a pretty pebble, shell or pine cone?
WEDNESDAY - AFFIRMATIONS
An affirmation is a simple positive word or sentence about ourselves that makes us feel better, happier and more confident. It can be repeated many times in a day, week or month to bring our dreams into reality.
There are some lovely affirmation cards available, but they are great for you to make up as well and it’s nice to tailor them to help with whatever is happening on a day.
Here’s a list to get you started - and maybe you could make your own cards by adding some pictures to the statements?
- I am kind
- I am proud
- I do what is right and good
- I am amazing
- I do exercise which I enjoy
- I smile and laugh whenever I can
- I have many talents
- I am strong
- I am me, completely unique
THURSDAY - MINDFUL EATING
You can mindfully eat anything! Why not start with a raison or a small piece of chocolate and as you have it in front of you ask yourself these questions before, as and after you eat it.
- What does it look like?
- How does it smell?
- What sound does it make when it’s broken up?
- How does it feel on your tongue?
- What does it taste like?
- How does your mouth feel now?
You might find that you really tasted a full flavour for the first time or that you enjoyed it more than usual. Mindful eating can bring a sense of calm and focus to something that we usually take for granted.
FRIDAY - COLOUR RELAXATION
You want to make relaxation time cosy and comfy. Maybe your children want a pillow for their heads and a blanket to cuddle up under. You could choose some relaxing music without many words.
Grab a bowl and choose a colour. I like orange and it’s connected to creativity. Look around the house together for small items of your chosen colour - this is quite fun in itself! Ask them to choose one of the items before they lie down, close their eyes if they want to and get comfy. This helps them to visualise the colour and they can hold it in their hand or have it next to them if they want.
Here’s an example of how you could talk them through a relaxation using the colour orange.
- Relax your whole body and your mind.
- Get comfy, you might want to wriggle for a second to be able to then be still.
- Think about your breathing and take a deep slow breath in and take a long breath out.
- Relax your forehead, your mouth and your eyes.
- Now you are in your mind.
- Imagine the colour orange, it may be thinking of it as a light, maybe the sun, or thinking about your object, if it helps to see it in your mind.
- Imagine being wrapped in the colour orange, like it is a blanket.
- Imagine breathing in the colour orange and breathing it out again.
- Imagine yourself ‘being creative’, maybe drawing, having an idea or writing a story and know that you will always have your creativity and the more you use it, the more you have.
- Now imagine the colour fading and disappearing as you breath in and out.
- Wriggle your fingers and toes as you sit back up.
SATURDAY - BUILD A TEPEE DEN
It’s important for children to have a place to go when they feel the need for a calm, safe and comfy space, especially if emotions are running high. So building your own tepee is the most fun way to make this. Grab some garden canes and twine and make the main triangular structure before using whatever you have (blankets, towels, duvet covers) to make it into a den by covering the outsides and pegging them on. Make it cosy inside with cushions and blankets.
They can make it their own special space by decorating it with their coloured mandalas and affirmations that they made earlier in the week and adding an item from nature that they found on their walk. They can use their den to take time to relax and maybe take a treat in with them to eat mindfully.
SUNDAY - THE GRATITUDE JAR/BOX
Another nice item to add to the tepee is a gratitude jar or box. You can use anything for this, a finished food jar from the kitchen or a special box your child already has. I always explain gratitude as being anything you are thankful for and it can be something simple or something big. Writing little notes or drawing little pictures about what we’re thankful for and folding them up is such a lovely thing to do together.
Then keep adding to it as the year goes on or each time there is a school holiday you can sit together and add them from the months gone by. Keep these in the tepee and then at the end of the year empty the jar and read them out to celebrate your year together.
Mindfulness needs to be fun and not regimented, so don’t feel like you have to follow my order of activities. Some of them your kids will love and might like to do every day and others won’t bother them as much. So let them pick and choose and if you only get to do one, congratulate yourself for this as any move towards mindfulness will have your children thanking you for it in the future when they are better able to deal with their emotions and life in general.
Siân Stowell is the founder of Body, Mind and Heart Kids Yoga & Mindfulness in Leeds, West Yorkshire.