Day 6- #MindfulnessForChildrenChallenge

Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment. He goes on to say, “It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping.

The key to mindfulness is not being in the present every moment of the day. That is not possible and not appropriate for a successful life; you do need some time to reflect in order to improve and prepare for the future. The key is being able to refocus yourself in the present at your will and not at the will of your meandering thoughts.
Refocusing without judgement is a positive mindful activity that allows children to take a breather, allow a moment to step back from the work and then continue in a mindful way that allows for maximum progress.

One way to help children to remain focused is to use Colour Meditation.

Colour Meditation
– At the beginning of the day, get each child to choose a colour and decide to notice that colour on a given signal (This could be the ringing of a bell, code word, etc.)

– Have children take a minute to notice the objects and people wearing that colour. (I like to choose colours that I think will be more difficult to come across as it does make me really stay focused in the moment.)


– Guide them by asking them questions:
-Have you noticed something or someone you have never noticed before?
-How many different things are you noticing? (I always surprise myself when I buy a new car and all of a sudden you notice that car EVERYWHERE!)

– Have the children make a mental note about this #mindfulmoment and congratulate themselves for being in the present and proceed with their learning, work or play.

With this mindful task, you may find that the world becomes more colourful.

Don’t forget to share your child’s mindfulmoment and successes with #MindfulnessForChildrenChallenge the comments, on Twitter @Ed_Tmprince or on Facebook at Education’s Voice – Mindfulness ( https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ ).

Day 5- #MindfulnessForChildrenChallenge

One important aspect of mindfulness in children is diverting them from the negative habit of crying, wringing of hands, screaming or whatever unhelpful habit they use in stressful situations to a positive, calming and reflective habit.

One simple strategy that seems to work for lots of children (and adults) is the Starfish Hand Meditation. It is a great way to divert and refocus the mind.

Today’s challenge is the Starfish Hand Meditation.

How to:

1- Close your eyes and breathe deeply.

2- Spread your fingers out like a starfish on one hand.

3- Take your index finger from the other hand and trace around your fingers and hand; taking deep breaths and exhaling fully as they trace.
As you do this, concentrate on only how it feels and let other thoughts float away.

4- Continue until you feel relaxed and calm.

Top Tips:

– I usually tell children to breathe in when they trace up a finger and breathe out when they trace down the finger.

– I also tell children to slightly linger and push a little harder when they get to the webbing between the thumb and index finger. This point is considered the acupuncture point called Union Valley. By stimulating this point, it is suppose to help reduce muscle tension and relieve stress

– It is important that you share these strategies, if possible, when the child is in a calm state and practice in a calm state. Then encourage its use when signs of distress appear.

Encourage your child to do it whenever they are feeling anxious, upset, mad, etc.

Once they are calm, discuss how this strategy made them feel. How did their body feel? How long did it take to calm down.

This is one strategy I have witnessed children and ADULTS using with consistency and independently after only showing and trying the strategy once.


Don’t forget to share your child’s mindfulmoment and successes with #MindfulnessForChildrenChallenge the comments, on Twitter @Ed_Tmprince or on Facebook at Education’s Voice – Mindfulness ( https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ ).


Note: In order to give proper credit, I researched where this specific meditation came from. It was adapted from the Five-Finger Meditation credited to Mike Bell (pp. 87-88 in Planting Seeds).

Day 4- #MindfulnessForChildrenChallenge

Superhero Mindfulness

Body language is the way that our body communicates to others and, to an extent, to ourselves.

The body language of the “Superhero Mindfulness” strategy reduces anxiety, improves children’s ability to deal with stress and boosts their self-confidence.

How To

Before you begin, discuss with your child how superheros stand, arms spread out or clinched fisted resting in hips, feet spread apart, sheet stuck out and head held high. Discuss how this makes the superhero feel powerful, calm and confident.

Now, tell your child to close their eyes and get into their superhero pose.

Have your child focus on their deep belly breaths as they pretend to be a hero.

After about a minute or two, have them open their eyes, stretch and relax.

You may want to discuss with them how they feel and what they were thinking of when they were pretending to be superheros.

Several times in the day at random points just shout “Superheros!” And everyone stops and gets into their pose (even YOU) and take some deep belly breaths before your resume with the day.

Don’t forget to share your child’s mindfulmoment and successes by using the hashtag #MindfulnessForChildrenChallenge in the comments, on Twitter @Ed_Tmprince or on Facebook at Education’s Voice – Mindfulness ( https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ ).

Day 3- #MindfulnessForChildrenChallenge

When a person is in crisis (stressed, anxious, mad, upset, etc), they tend to tense up their muscles. This is especially true with children.

Progressive muscle relaxation helps a person to relax and become more calm and in control. Research reveals that there is a reduction in the levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress when this strategy is employed.

Today, we will begin developing this strategy through a simple Squish and Relax routine.

Squish and Relax

– Have your child sit comfortably with a soft, squishy object. It can be a ball of play dough, a small stress ball, a small stuffed anima, etc. They are to hold this in their hands.

– Ask them to take a deep breath.

– Direct them to become aware of their body and instruct them to slowly move their awareness to the dough, noticing the sensations from their arms and hands.

– Tell them to squeeze tightly like they are trying to pick up a heavy weight. Have them hold this pose for a count of five, then relax.

– Repeat this cycle over a period of a minute.

– Repeat with other hand.

– Afterwards, discuss with the children how their bodies felt during and after the activity. What did they notice? How could this help them when they are angry, upset or anxious?

Don’t forget to share your child’s mindfulmoment and successes by using the hashtag #MindfulnessForChildrenChallenge in the comments, on Twitter @Ed_Tmprince or on Facebook at Education’s Voice – Mindfulness ( https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ ).

Day 2 #MindfulnessForChildrenChallenge

For many people, the events happening around us can be scary. When people are highly anxious, the reptilian brain snaps into action and feelings of survival and negativity surface. Negativity does not help mental health and we have to make a conscious decision to be tankful for what we do have.

Gratitude (being thankful) is a fundamental component of mindfulness. Teaching children (and adults) to be thankful for the the abundance in their lives as opposed to focusing on the actual material objects is not always readily accepted in our society.

By taking the time to be grateful and lingering in the grateful moment, we start to be mindful of the good things in the world. We start to see more positive things; positivity breeds positivity. We start to see the good in people, we crave it and, when we see it, we want to repeat even more good.

Today’s challenge is to encourage thought around the good things happening in our lives and enjoying those precious moments of gratitude withe the Fab Five activity.

Fab Five

You will need:

– paper

– markers, pencil colours or crayons

How to:

1- Take some time to discuss what fabulous things they have in their lives and are thankful for having. Don’t allow your child to only focus on material things. Encourage non tangible things as well such as love from an individual, time spent with an individual or special friendships. Discuss why they are thankful for those things.

2- Have your child place their hand on the paper with their fingers spread and trace around their hands.

3- Then, in each finger, have them write and/or draw one thing they are thankful for having in their lives. In the end they will have five fabulous things that they are thankful for having.

4- In the palm, have them either draw something that represents their personality or write their name.

5- Place the completed drawing somewhere they can see often. Encourage them to look at it often during the day as a reminder to be thankful.

Don’t forget to share your child’s mindfulmoment and successes by using the hashtag #MindfulnessForChildrenChallenge in the comments, on Twitter @Ed_Tmprince or on Facebook at Education’s Voice – Mindfulness ( https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ ).

Day 1 #MindfulnessForChildrenChallenge

What could be more natural than breathing?

It is an automatic reflex that is hard wired in our brains. It changes energy from tension to relaxation. It does this by turning off our sympathetic nervous system that produces stress hormones. This then turns on our parasympathetic nervous system, which turns off the stress hormone pump.

Deep breathing relaxes the body, decreases the heart rates lowers the blood pressure and creates the feeling of calmness. In addition, the deep breathing ensures the essential extra oxygen the brain needs for optimal function.

It all sounds very technical however, to a child it can feel magical!

Teaching children fun and active breathing exercises will help them control their emotions and calm themselves down in situations that make them extremely happy and hyper and in situations that make them very mad and upset. Also, daily breathing sessions, even when calm, increases a person’s feeling of well being and control. 

Here is a favourite fun breathing exercise for children to try today.

Snake Breathing

When snakes are coiled and resting, they look around calmly, and when they move, they are slow and smooth.


– Have your child sit up tall.

– Take a deep breath in, filling up their whole body.

– Pause

– Breathe out slowly and smoothly, making a hissing sound for as loud as they can. (Note: The key to deep breathing is to exhale longer than you inhale. The hissing controls the extension of the exhale.)

– Repeat for three to five rounds, letting them slow down and become calmer each time.

– Afterwards, discuss with them about how their body is feeling and what they are noticing following the breathing exercise. 

Many children enjoy being told the science of breathing and understanding why this does help them calm down.

Repeat at least five times today while calm. You are wanting to create a habit. Then, at any point you see them getting angry, upset, or overly excited try getting them to use the snake breath.

Don’t forget to share your child’s mindful moment using the hashtag, #MindfulnessForChildrenChallenge and successes in the comments below, on Twitter @Ed_Tmprince or on Facebook at Education’s Voice – Mindfulness ( https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ ).

A Mindful Ofsted- 5 Top Tips Revisited

Just the word OFSTED, uttered in a whisper, can set the heart rate rising across an English school. ( Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. They inspect and regulate services that care for children and young people, and services providing education and skills for learners of all ages. However, it is also synonymous with the inspection regime that grades schools from outstanding to inadequate.) Even the mentioning of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate (HMI), sends some of us into a cold sweat. The fight or flight impulse is strong and causes countless amount of stress for educators up and down the country.

This week I had the experience for the third time as a Headteacher. It was the 11th and 12th day of the new school year and only the second week of a brand new inspection framework. There were many unknowns in the process.

Here are my Top 5 Tips for a Mindful Ofsted.

#1
Prepare before you have to prepare.- Developing your own understanding of mindfulness and use of mindfulness practice allows you to automatically shift into Mindful gear when you get the call. A good way to begin Mindfulness Development is to try a number of mindfulness strategies over a period of time. Why not try #MonthOfMindfulness which is 30 days of 30 simple mindfulness strategies? They can be found HERE.

#2
Learn to Breathe!– Learn how to use breathing techniques to trick yourself into a state of calm. You can learn more HERE. After, you receive the call, allow yourself a few minutes to just clear your mind and breathe, focusing on the breath as the cool air enters your lungs and the feel of the warm air as you exhale. Allow yourself relax. This is important for you and your team. Continue to have those moments of solitude before, during and after the inspection.

#3
Meditate – Ensure you have a favourite guided meditation ready to use when the time comes. My favourite for these kind of occasions is a nice walk on the beach which can be found HERE. Allow yourself to have this time to yourself before the day begins and again at the end of the day as go to bed.

#4
Keep Hydrated– We all know that we function best when we are hydrated. Ensure that you have a jug of fresh water is on your desk with your favourite glass. Then, make sure you drink it! Use this Water Meditation to enhance your Calmness.
Water Meditation
– Pour yourself a glass of plain water. (It can have ice.)
– Sit down with your water and allow yourself to be aware of drinking the water.
– Take a sip. Allow the sip to linger in the mouth. Notice the temperature of the liquid against your tongue, cheeks, gums and palate. What can you taste? Is there a sweetness, bitterness, acidic or even slightly salty taste?
– Notice the sensations of the water being swallowed and flowing down your throat and into your stomach.
– Continue to be mindful of each sip; allowing yourself to be in the very present moment of drinking your water.

#5
STOP!- 10 Second Mindfulness
This is a simple but effective strategy to refocus our attention.
S– Stop what you are doing.

T– Take a deep breathe. Breathe in for a count of 5, hold for a count of one and exhale for a count of 8.

O– Observe what is happening around you at this moment.

P– Proceed with what you were doing.
Do this as often as you need during the day. Those few mindful moments can change your reaction to what is happening around you leading to a better positive response that changes the course of events.

Conclusion:

The key to surviving an inspection is to stay in control of your emotions rather than letting them control you. Your team will feed off of your reactions and follow your lead. If you stay calm, they will be calmer.  Also, by being mindful, we can be more clear about what we want inspectors to see and know about your school.

The end result for me was a positive one, mainly because I felt in control of a situation that was out of my control. I realise that not all inspections can or will be positive. However, by using mindfulness strategies before, during and after will put you in control of your own health and well being during a stressful time.

So now, BREATHE and carry mindfully on.