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.

 

 

 

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 – Family Friday

 

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Today’s gratitude focus is on what is good and special about your family. Every family is unique and special. No two families are the same and we need to celebrate those differences!

Today, take a deep breath and take a mindful moment to focus on your family. identify what makes them so special.

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 – Thankful Thursday

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Today’s gratitude focus is on what you are thankful for in your life.  Being thankful allows us to see the good in things beginning a spiral of positivity.

Today, take a deep breath and take a mindful moment to focus on things you are thankful for.

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 – Whimsical Wednesday

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Today’s gratitude focus is on a fun or funny memory.

They say that laughter is the best medicine and, in lots of ways. Laughter:

-Releases of a cocktail of happy chemicals that boosts the immune responses.
-Laughter diminishes the secretion of cortisol and epinephrine, while enhancing immune reactivity.
-Laughing leads to the release of endorphins.
-Helps dislodge blocked emotions stored in the body.
-Laughter stimulates circulation and aids muscle relaxation.

Today, take a deep breath and take a mindful moment to focus on these fun or funny memories.

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 -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:

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.