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

2017 – The Year of Mindfulness

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I find it interesting that a random date can have so much significance. Why should the 1st January mark the beginning of a new year, the beginning of fresh starts or a difference of such significance that copious amounts of sparkly beverages and loud fireworks blast into the air?

We should treat each new day with the same exuberance and positive outlook that we use to celebrate a new year on a calendar.

Earlier this week I shared my Mindful New Year’s Resolutions. Life is not easy. As we go about our lives, it can feel like a roller coaster. Some days are exciting, peaceful and perfectly awe inspiring and other days plunge us to the very edge of insanity. Taking control of the ride takes daily practice, even for the most experienced.

Even for the most experienced mindfulness practitioners, a refreshing of mindfulness practice can bring us deeper peace and control of our emotions.

So, let’s kick start 2017 and work on developing our own mindfulness so that we can be models for others around us.

#MonthOfMindfulness Challenge will only take a few minutes a day. There will be some tasks that you take to easily and there will be others that will not suit you. That is ok. This is about opening up and building your toolkit of mindfulness strategies.

The #MonthOfMindfulness Challenge can be started on ANY day. So, don’t worry if you don’t begin on 1st January. Just begin on Day 1 and take it one day at a time!

Share the strategies with others, document your progress and give yourself permission to be more mindful in 2017.

Follow me on Twitter @Ed_Tmprince or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/

You can also email me at EVMindfulness@outlook.com .

Mindful New Year’s Resolutions

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As 2016 quickly comes to an end, our minds reflect upon the year. If we are truly mindful in our reflections, we will accept the problems of the year without judgement and be grateful for those moments of happiness and joy.

It is also at this time of year that we begin to think of New Year’s Resolutions. I am not one to like resolutions. They can be a bit self-defeating at times. However, Resolutions do tend to give us some sort of hope and goal that usually can lead to something better.

This year my New Year’s Resolutions will be mindful.

My Mindful New Year’s Resolutions

To BREATHE: It is the most basic of life reflexes. However, too often we forget to breathe. We hold our breath waiting for things to change or work out better. But, this year, I will just BREATHE!

To Be Present: Life will pass us by if we don’t stop living in the past and worry too much about the future. I need to stop and smell the proverbial roses and enjoy life in this moment.

To Let Go: We seem to plan out our every moment. Sometimes, things just don’t work out in the way you envisioned. That is ok! I will learn from it and then let go.

To Be Grateful: We tend to allow things we are not happy with overshadow those amazing aspects of our lives. I will reflect on what truly matters and be grateful for being able to live this life in the first place.

To Be Positive: In a world filled with negativity, I refuse to stay on that downward spiral and choose to start my own spiral of positivity.

To Believe In Myself: We tend to be a world of pleasers. We try to please everyone and when we don’t succeed, we lose our confidence. I will believe in MYSELF! I will believe in what I am doing, my convictions and my desire to make a difference.

So, there you go! These are my New Year’s Resolutions.

How about you? I don’t mind sharing mine!

Prepare Now for a New Year of Mindfulness

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Ok, so you had the best of intentions to start the academic year mindfully. After a restful summer, you were determined to be mindful. But, before you knew it, you were knee deep in teaching, marking and new policies, all thoughts of mindfulness went out the window.

It happens! That is ok. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Make the development of your own mindfulness and the mindfulness of your class your New Years Resolution.

But, we all know that doing anything cold turkey can be counter productive. So, in preparation for the new Mindful year, get in a little mindfulness practice. Over five days, complete a new part.

Part 1 – Shoulder Relaxation

Part 2 – Mindful Object Meditation

Part 3 – Morning Mindfulnes

Part 4  – STOP Meditation

Part 5 – Meditation

Then, in January, join me for a #MonthOfMindfulness. Keep active in your thoughts and conversations mindfulness strategies. Like all things it takes practice and nurturing. Even if you have practiced mindfulness for a while, refreshing your practice will support your mental well being as well as the mental well being if your class and family.

 

Christmas Mindfulness – Task 4

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AND BREATHE!

The last performance has been done and the class parties finished. The glitter is being swept up and it is time for a well deserved break.

With a week before Christmas Day, it is time to let go of thoughts of work and time to focus on families and friends. Sure, you may still have lots of shopping, family gatherings or baking to do. But, don’t forget to sit back and watch the twinkling lights!

This week’s task is to BREATHE!  Take time each day to sit back and watch the twinkling lights. It doesn’t matter when or where. It could be early in the morning while it is still dark or at a coffee shop while you take a rest from the hustle and bustle. Just make sure to take that time to focus on the lights and colour, take deep mindful breaths and remember that Christmas is not just about material things. It is a time to reflect and appreciate the present moment.

Merry Christmas!

Extra: Developing Mindfulness in the Classroom this month could also same your sanity. Why not try some simple strategies that will calm the children and bring the gift of mindfulness into their lives.