Mindfulness and meditation are concepts that can feel vague and distant for children and adults to grasp! If you ask anyone who has an active mind or body to stop and take a seat on a cushion and become quiet and still, frustration is likely to follow. This is the reason that many of us begin to develop stillness by engaging in activity! We move through yoga postures to 'get our wiggles out', shift our moods and thoughts by lighting a candle to gaze upon or burning incense, or playing soft music. These experiences carry sparks of present moment awareness and help us begin to settle down. For many of us, before we can slow down for meditation, we find benefit from engaging in our sensory world through experiences that feel interesting and carry a pleasant sensual quality .... Imagine sipping a calming cup of tea, breathing in a gentle lavender aroma, or hearing the hum of a crystal singing bowl. These activities not only catch our attention, but they also call to our senses and begin to soothe us, to transition from active to calm states of being. By mindfully choosing our sensory experiences, we begin to associate these calming, pleasant experiences as invitations to drop into the present moment and find ourselves ready to surrender to moments of peace.
Sensory experiences are powerfully inspirational when sharing lessons of mindfulness and yoga with our children! Sensory play includes any activity that stimulates our senses, including experiences that involve touch, scent, taste, sounds, movement, and visual experiences. Pairing these types of experiences with yoga lessons, provides first hand experiences that make "on the mat" experiences meaningful. When a child is shaping dough, gazing at glittery "mind jars" of liquid, blowing bubbles, coloring a mandala, ringing chimes, or tasting salty pretzels; they are actively engaged in their world and become inspired and curious learners. The inclusion of sensory activities may increase the chance that children will remember and apply what they have learned, because we have given them first hand experiences that link the vague with the interesting!!! In our yoga classroom, I hope that these experiences help reach different types of learners and expand each of the children's understanding of concepts such as "mindfulness". By providing experiential opportunities to smell, see and touch feelings like calmness, children can carry with them methods for self-soothing and focus, off their yoga mats and into their schools and homes.
I love using sensory play when working with children of all ages, because the children (and the adults) have fun, relax and learn through exploration. Two fun experiences this month were creating "Mind Jars" and "Serenity Dough". We became mindful investigators as a natural state of curiosity and absorption evolved through playful learning and engaging our senses! This absorption transformed our experience of mindfulness and meditative play!
- Glittery Sparkles (Represented our Anger or Difficult Thoughts)
- 3/4 Jar of Water
- Glycerine and/or clear dish soap
- Plastic Jar (Peanutbutter or other)
- We learned through the story: Moody Cow Meditates that when we are having a bad day, we can sit down in meditation and shake up our mind jar. As we sit and watch as the sparkles (or angry thoughts) settle down to the bottom of the jar, we may notice that our emotions and thoughts begin to settle down to. Our mind then becomes clear again like the clear water at the top of the jar.
- 1 Cup Flour
- 1 TBSP Cream of Tartar
- 1/2 Cup Salt
- 1 TBSP Oil
- 1 Cup Boiling Water
- 6 + drops of calming essential oil such as Serenity Blend or Lavender. (Purchase Here)
- Several Drops of Purple food dye
- We combined this activity with the story: Peaceful Piggy Meditation
More Sensory Fun:
- Read: My Daddy is a Pretzel, Snack on Pretzels and Practice Yoga Poses!
- Play with sound and vibration! Chant OM.... Ring a gong, ting-shas, & singing bowls! Close your eyes and listen to the sounds, can you feel them vibrate inside you?
- Candle Gazing... With adult supervision, gaze at a candle flame and watch it grow and change! This is also a practice called tratak believed to be cleansing, improve concentration and strengthen our memory!
- Have a tea party or ceremony. Make a ritual out of the making tea or cocoa... smell, taste and feel the sensations of the this experience!
- Find Coloring Sheets of Yantras or Mandalas online to color and paint! These are tools for gazing meditation and develop creativity, focus and concentration.