Mindfulness in the Classroom – Loving Kindness

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According, Mental Health and Behaviour in Schools, “ One in ten children and young people aged 5 to 16 has a clinically diagnosed mental health disorder and around one in seven has less severe problems.”

The Week of 6th-12th February 2017 is  #childrensmhw, Children’s Mental Health Week. Promoted by http://www.place2be.org.uk/ , it is to make us aware of the mental health crisis that we are dealing with on a day to day basis. This year’s theme is- spread a little kindness.

The use of Loving Kindness in mindfulness development is good not only for the child but for the people around them no matter what time of the year.

So, how can we spread a little kindness this week and EVERY WEEK of the year?

#RandomActsofKindness– Change the attitude of a class from whining and moaning to one of appreciation and gratitude.

  • Discuss with children what a random act of kindness is and come up with a list of RAKs for at least the number of children in the class.
  • Write these RAKs on individual slips of paper, fold and put into a hat/bag/bowl and allow each child to take one RAK. (NO TELLING! It is a secret!)
  • Alternatively, each child can come up with their own RAK. (They are more likely to be able to do this after they get the practice of RAKs.)
  • During the given time frame, the child is to complete the act WITHOUT saying they are completing the RAK. (This will also take some time as at first, they will want to tell everyone what they have done. The point of RAKs is to do a RAK without recognition. This will be the ultimate level of this mindful practice.)
  • After the given time frame, as a class, discuss how completing the RAK made them feel and how they think it made the other person feel.

Thank You Cards– Old School, but a simple way to spread a little kindness. Have each child make Thank You card for someone thanking them for their love, caring, help or any other thing that person has done for you.

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#PositivePostItDay– #PositivePostItDay was started by a young lady in Canada called Caitlin Haacke. After being bullied herself, she decided to take a stand against bullying. She single handily started the movement of positivity that is sweeping the world.

You will need lots of post-it notes! But the idea is simple.

  • On the day, have the children discuss what we like in other people and in ourselves and then have them write at least two positive notes; one to themselves and one to someone else.
  • Allow the children to stick the notes EVERYWHERE; on the person, on a door, on a table, on a wall, etc. Fill your classroom, area or school with these little positive notes.
  • At the end of the day, have the children discuss how being positive effected them. Was it difficult to think of something positive about another person? Was it difficult to think of something positive about themselves?

Loving Kindness Song– Something that we know brings joy to many people is the act of singing and, with it part of the curriculum, this is another way to bring mindfulness to the forefront in an integrated way.

This Loving Kindness Dance Remix is an upbeat song that brings combines Loving Kindness with the joy of singing and great to use every day!

Loving Kindness Meditation Dance Remix:  https://youtu.be/93mj4PaiOUo

Loving Kindness Meditations– Guided meditations focuses the mind on one aspect.  For Loving Kindness meditations, it focuses our minds of being kind to ourselves and to others.  It really is about spreading kindness.

Here are a few that you may find useful for your class and yourself.

Loving Kindness Meditation for primary children: https://youtu.be/YRwQrzogy-g

Loving Kindness Meditation for primary children :  https://youtu.be/-9_ZHnltMe0

Loving Kindness Meditation for upper primary children and teenagers: https://youtu.be/sz7cpV7ERsM

Loving Kindness Meditation for adults/ teenagers: https://youtu.be/MKtXw-tivZg

The world is a harsh place. Join me in spreading a little kindness around the world.

Share your ideas and don’t forget to use the hashtag #childrensmhw

Mindfulness in the Classroom – Using Play Dough Part 1

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Play Dough has been known for its therapeutic properties. The squishing and pounding, pinching and moulding provides a Kinesthetic/ kinaesthetic learning opportunity that can be used to enhance the development of mindfulness.

Over the next two posts, I will outline how to make your own play dough and ways of using the play dough in mindful practice.

Play Dough Recipe

  • 2 cups/ 260 g flour
  • 1 cup/ 130 g salt
  • 1 cup/ 235 ml water
  • Optional: food Colouring, essential oils or spices

Mix flour, salt and water together to form a dough. If the dough is too dry add a few drops of water. If the dough is too wet, add a little bit of flour.

Optional: once dough is formed add extras as desired; 2-3 drops of food colouring, 2-3 drops of essential oil or 1-2 teaspoons of fragrant spices.

Keep the dough covered when not in use as it will begin to air dry.

Calming essential oils: lavender, rose, chamomile, clary sage

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Play Dough Meditation

  • Set the scene by having all the children find a comfortable sitting position and put on some calming meditation music.
  • Give each child a small ball of the play dough and instruct them NOT to play with it, roll it or squish it.
  • Once everyone has their Play Doh, begin the meditation. Have them take three deep belly breaths.
    • Instruct them to look at the Play Dough. Getting them to notice the urge to squeeze it.
    • Is the Play Dough hot, warm or cold?
    • How would you describe the colour of the Play Dough?
    • Have the children move it from hand to hand. Does the shape change?
    • Notice the smell of the Play Dough.
    • Push a finger into the Play Dough. Can you see your finger print? What does it look like?
    • Then instruct the children to continue to squeeze, roll and make into shapes. Remind them to concentrate only on the Play Dough, how it feels in their hands and the smell of dough.
  • Complete the meditation by having the children take three deep, belly breaths.

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Play Dough Mandala

The word, mandala, is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit that means “circle”. The circle is the basis of a design that has intricate geometric shapes that draws attention to the centre and inspires quiet contemplation.

To make a mandala each child will require:

  • A ball of Play Dough
  • A selection of seeds, beans, flowers and shells to create the mandala
  • Wax/Baking Paper
  • Picture samples of Mandalas

How to Make a Play Dough Mandala:

Roll out the ball of dough so that it makes a circle on a piece of wax/baking paper.

  • Using the selection of seeds, beans, flowers and shells, create a design by pushing the items into the dough. I suggest that they begin with the centre and slowly continue to create circular designs working your way outwards.
  • When finished allow to air dry for 3-4 days or oven dry at a temperature of 200c for 10-15 minutes. Watch carefully, as the dough can sometimes begin to rise. If it does, remove from the oven, using a dry dish towel, lightly press down to flatten the mandala. Allow to cool and complete air drying if required.
  • Once the mandala is dry, cover in a coating of Modge Podge or PVC glue to seal.

The mandalas can now be used as part of a Mandala Meditation.

Note: Younger children may not fully grasp the circular patterns of mandalas and the designs may be more chaotic. That is fine. It is their designs.

 

Mandala Meditation

    • Play a selection of meditation music for the length of time you want the children to meditate. Usually this is one minute per year of age, ie 6 years old= 6 minutes
    • Children are to sit comfortably and take three deep belly breaths.
    • They are to look at the mandala, focusing on the centre of the design while still breathing at a steady rate.
    • Gently guide the children in a soft voice, letting them know it is ok for their gaze to wonder to other parts of the mandala, noticing the designs, colours and ways the lines meet each other. As the meditation comes towards the end, encourage them to focus back on the centre.
    • In the last 30 seconds of the meditation, have the children close their eyes and get them to recreated the design in their mind, continuing even, steady breaths.
    • Complete the meditation with three deep mindful belly breaths.

 

For more uses of Play Dough in Mindfulness, read Part 2 coming soon.

 

 

 

Mindfulness in the Classroom – Test Taking Tips

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As national testing times begin to draw near in many countries around the world, our attention begins to fall on the stress our children are under during these times. With children as young as 6 years old being tested and scrutinised, we cannot get away from the fact that this is having an effect on their health and wellbeing.

Schools are very good at down playing the testing regime of our youngest children; making it a game and being good at putting our children at ease in a variety of creative ways.

However, as they reach 10-11 years old, there is no disguising the standardised test. Even if down played well by the school, the formality required of the test leaves nothing to the imagination. Then, by secondary school, there is no down playing. The stakes are high and results can begin to determine their future.

Despite our best efforts in preparing for these tests and ensuring they have the right skills to be successful on them, test anxiety can throw a spanner in the works; causing children to react in ways that sabotages their ability to show all they know.

The use of Mindfulness as we support children in preparing for the test can give them the edge to perform to their best ability and not allow the stress to impact on the greater spectrum of life. The lifelong skills of dealing with stress will support them not only for the test but for the general stresses in life.

Mindfulness is not about not having stress. It is about controlling how you react to the stress.

The signs of test anxiety can appear as, but are not limited to, irritability, poor performance despite being highly knowledgeable, distracted, over excited, lack of sleep, loose of appetite, excessive worrying, depression, negative, headaches and stomach pains. You also need to be aware that some children can hide their stress very well and that all academic levels of children can experience the stress, particularly high ability as they can be more acutely aware and put additional pressure on themselves to do well.

So, how can we use mindfulness to support children reduce the stress levels associated with testing so that they can be happier, healthier and perform to their best ability?

Top Mindfulness Test Busting Tips:

Mindfulness practiced should be taught, practiced and used BEFORE the week of the test. If you don’t already use mindfulness strategies in the classroom, you should begin approximately 5-6 weeks before the tests so that it can be effective.

1- Teach them how to breathe. Slow, deep controlled breathing tricks the brain into believing it is calm and reduces cortisol levels which increases our heart rates and puts us in a state of “fight or flight” which is a key feature of anxiety. The key is to exhale longer than you inhale. Get children to sit up, inhale for a count of five, pause and then exhale for a count of eight. Repeat this at least five times. Use this as a part of your everyday practice; at the beginning of the day, during transition times, when you see the class or a child becoming unsettled or before a test or difficult learning task. Explain to the children what Mindful Breathing does and encourage them to use it throughout the day. Be a good model and you use it when needed as well. Show them and have them practice identifying when they are becoming stress and using this simple technique during a test, particularly when they are finding a question difficult or they are becoming overwhelmed. (More on Mindful Breathing can be found here.)

2- Starfish Hand Meditation– This simple but effective meditation combines breathing with the use of touch to refocus and centre the mind thus allowing one to take control of their emotions and calm down. (Find Starfish Hand Meditation instructions here.)

3- Guided Meditations– 10 minutes of meditation can have a dramatic impact on a person’s mental health. Like anything else, practice makes perfect. At first, you will have some children that will find this difficult; staying quiet and focusing on one thing is as hard for some children as it is for some adults. Over time, they will start to relax and meditate in their own way. That is why it is important to develop the practice well before the time for the test. On the day of the test, ensure you allow time for meditation to set the mood of calmness. (Details on how to develop guided meditations in your class and links to free meditations can be found here.)

4- Talk About Their Emotions– Over the period of weeks, give time each week to all children to express how they are feeling and what they are doing to cope with those feelings. Good questions to start discussions are: What emotion are you feeling right now? How does it feel? Is this a good emotion to have in control? How can we change emotions?

5- Mindful Colouring– As teachers, we will feel the growing pressure to use every moment of the school day to focus on the learning and revision the closer we get to the test. However, we need to give children the time to release themselves from this ongoing pressure. Researchers have measured the anxiety levels of children before and after giving time to colour in mandalas and other pattern sheets compared to anxiety levels before and after free form colouring where children draw and colour their own patterns. The time spent colouring pattern sheets showed a significant decrease in anxiety as compared to free form which showed no difference to anxiety levels. The act of colouring allows the brain to relax and focus on one thing; being in the moment of colouring. It allows the brain time to rest and recuperate. (More information on Mindful Colouring can be found here.)

6- Mantra– Have children create individual or class mantras. Combine the mantras with steady, deep mindful breathing will support the development of positive mental attitude and self-belief. Use this as a part of everyday practice and use it just before the testing begins. Have the children create posters and plaster them around the class and school. An example of a class mantra can be found in the picture with this blog. Feel free to print and use as desired.

It is to be reminded that mindfulness is a lifelong skill. Thus,it is to be remembered that we need to develop mindfulness for life long positive mental health and well being. But, we can use key strategies to tackle test anxiety effectively.

Find more strategies here: Mindfulness in the Classroom

5 Minute Mindfulness Strategy – Releasing Emotions

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Stress is a part of life. It always has been and it always will be. Trying to find mindfulness strategies to minimise how we react to stress is the key to life-long peace and well-being. The younger we are, the better we will be able to cope with what life gives us and use it to our advantage.

When we are stressed, our emotions overwhelm us. These emotions fight for attention and send our heart rates speeding. The emotions demand attention.

This simple 5 minute mindfulness strategy is a modified Japanese relaxation technique which allows us to give focused attention to various emotions in order to achieve peace and mindful relaxation.

This technique is appropriate for children and adults and requires only your hands and a quiet place.

How to:

Each of the fingers are associated with different feelings or attitudes.
* Thumb: Helps combat emotions like worry and anxiety.
* Index: Can help combat fear.
* Middle: Helps control anger and indignation.
* Ring: Emotions of sadness and depression; helps you to be more decisive.
* Pinky: Helps to calm anxiety, increases optimism.
Using the opposite hand, apply pressure to each finger by holding it tightly, focusing on that emotion and allowing yourself to release the negative energy of that emotion. Allow yourself to be a peace with the emotion without judging yourself. Breathe deeply for 15 breaths as you focus and release. You will begin to notice your pulse in the finger being held.

Complete the meditation, by applying gentle circular pressure to the palm of your hand as you smile and prepare for the rest of the day.

The key to this strategy is that you acknowledge your emotions, you give them some time that they demand. But, you control the way in which they are acknowledged and then put them to rest.

#WeekOfGratitude -Thoughtful Tuesday

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Today’s gratitude focus is on how others have been helpful to you. Over time we can take for granted the help others give us. It can be as simple as someone holding a door open for you to a big as teaching you how to do something new.

Today, take a deep breath and take a mindful moment to focus on those people that make your life a little better. Really focus on those people and take a moment to let them know you appreciate what they do or have done for you.

Share that memory with people. It can be face to face or through social media. It doesn’t matter except to spread happiness!

Classroom Tips:
#WeekOfGratitude
Mindful Gratitude

Gratitude Meditation:

#WeekOfGratitude

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It has been a turbulent year across the world, to say the least. The anxieties of children and adults have been at an all time high. Somehow, in the mist of this upset and confusion, negativity can start to spiral out of control leaving us in a state of disparity and we loose sight of what is good in our lives.

Sometimes, we just need to STOP and count our blessings. We have lots to be thankful for.

Thus, I declare the week of 21st November #WeekOfGratitude!
Exploring and celebrating gratitude allows us and our children to mindful consider the good things in life in a variety of ways. Supporting and encouraging the development of the “bright side of life” gives us the ability to evaluate life with more balance. Life is made of up good and bad things.

This gratitude strategy gets children to explore the different aspects of gratitude.
A Week of Gratitude:
– Determine how the children will record their week. Some ideas are:
o Simple table divided into five squares
o A large flower with five petals
o A circle with four inner rings creating five consecutively smaller sections
o Create a small booklet

– In the beginning, discuss with children (Document what they have said):
o What does gratitude mean?
o When do we feel gratitude?
o What is that feeling or feelings?
o How does it make others feel?
– Each day, give the class 5-10 minutes to write and/or draw according to the theme of the day
o Memory Monday- Describe a happy/good memory.
o Thoughtful Tuesday- How have others been helpful to you?
o Whimsical Wednesday- Describe a fun or funny memory.
o Thankful Thursday- What are they thankful for in their life?
o Family Friday- Describe what is good and special about their family.
– Finish the week with time to share, discuss and explain their work with partners, small groups or whole class. Discuss the questions explored before the week’s activities. How do they compare? Has their understanding of gratitude changed or grown? How? Why?

 

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Mindful Hand Massage

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How many times have you seen an anxious child or adult wringing their hands in their moment of upset? Our minds are amazing things and we naturally revert to movements to calm ourselves down whether it be using sighs to stimulate deep breathing or wringing our hands to calm us down.

Mindful hand and wrist massages allow children to relax their muscles, calm their breathing, improve their mood, reduces pain, stress, anxiety and tension by way of a natural reflex.

Note:  The use of fragrance free oils or creams is optional. Please ensure that if you do use oils or creams that you have checked for all allergies for your class.

Before you begin:

  • Set the mood by lowering the lights of the classroom and putting on some relaxing music.
  • In the beginning, explain to the children how a hand and wrist massage can help them to calm down by focusing on the sensations and encourage the use of deep breathing through the entire session to enhance the effects.

Begin:  (Script)

  • Sit up straight and take three deep mindful breaths as you allow your mind and body to be in this moment.
  • Rub the emollient over the entire hand and wrist area in slow, gentle strokes. (Optional)
  • Use the thumb to rub small, gentle circles around the opposite wrist feeling the small bones located here and the sensations being felt.
  • Then use the thumb to continue to rub in small circles between bones on the tops of the hands. Follow the natural lines along the hand towards the fingers.
  • Take each finger in turn and use the thumb to rub in the same circular motion along each finger from base at palm to fingertip.
  • Pull each finger softly by the fingertip.
  • Clasp hands together, entwining hands (like in prayer) and move hands and wrists back and forth, left to right and in soft circular motions.
  • Turn the hand over and use the same small, gentle circular motions of the thumb to rub the palm of the hand starting at the thumb base and then working your way up the palm to the top near the fingers.
  • Repeat on other hand

 

  • Complete the massage by giving your hand one more rub down like you did in the beginning.
  • Lay your hands in your lap, take three more deep breaths and continue your day.

 

During the massage, continue to remind the children that all the motions need to be soft with focus being on their breathing and the sensations they are feeling when they are massaging their hands.