Not too long ago I took my 3 year old daughter to the playground and was having so much fun pushing her on the swing. Watching her face light up with pure joy as she laughed and smiled with every new push. I thought to myself what a joyous moment this is and I enjoyed every minute of it. ……and so did she!
After sometime she wanted a change and went off to explore other corners of the busy playground. At this point I looked around and noticed a few parents sitting on the bench behind me, busily engaging with their mobile phones while their children played. They barely looked up except to take note that their child was still safe. Then, I thought to myself what have we become that we cannot just ‘be’ with our children for 30 minutes on the playground without being distracted. Why can’t we just engage fully with them for that half an hour and do nothing else?
I am the first to admit that I have been guilty of this myself. I have caught myself doing this while doing an activity with my children, like drawing, or crafts and suddenly I receive a beeping text, I then start responding to that for a while and before I know it I’m no longer present with my kids.
The first step to bringing up mindful kids is to be a mindful parent. If you are playing with them but your mind is really at work, they sense this. If you are not really present, chances are they are not fully engaged either.
Mindfulness is something we already do and many of us teach it to our children naturally. Sometimes we just need to be aware to teach our children some of the little things we tend to take for granted like walking, eating and breathing. When it comes to children, if it feels like a lesson they wont be interested but if you make it a game, you’ve got them engaged.
Here are just 3 Ways to Engage your kids in life more mindfully.
- Walk With The Senses Game– next time you head out for a walk see what things you can really notice along the way, like things you haven’t seen before or animals you can spot or pay special attention to the flowers and insects. Then spend at least a minute in complete silence where you all really tune into the soundscape around you. What different scents can you smell around you and how does the weather feel on their skin. Tuning in with all your senses will help you all to really experience things fully and enjoy the present moment. Play a little game like ‘How many sounds can you hear right now?’
- Mindful Eating Game– eating is one of those things we all take for granted and getting your children to eat isn’t always fun. Play a little game where you choose some of the fruits or foods your children like and chop them up in bite-sized pieces. Ask them to close their eyes and pick up the fruit with their fingers, then smell it and put it in their mouth. (They can try to guess the food) Ask them to chew it slowly and describe the flavours and textures and so on. This helps them to really experience the food and experience with all their senses.
- Mindful Breathing Game– This is a quick one you can do to encourage your child to breathe deeper into their belly. Ask your child to lie down on their back and place a small object on their belly, depending on their age but you could use their favourite soft toy, a book, a shell, a rock or an object of their choice. As they breathe in encourage them to notice the object rising and as they breathe out notice it sink back down again. Breathing deeper into the belly helps them to calm down and tune into the sensations in their body. This essentially is teaching them to meditate from an early age.
Most children are naturally in the present moment and we as parents, can actually learn from them. It is so nice to experience all these things as a family together and really be in the moment. So next time you catch yourself distracted or more engaged to your mobile phone than your kids, take a moment to observe this and reconnect with them. Have fun.
Photo credit: Dennis Wong via Visual Hunt / CC BY