Further to yesterday's post, where I set out the basics for teaching Mindfulness to children, listed below are examples that you can use with children and teenagers to introduce them to Mindfulness. I would recommend trying a number as there will not be a single exercise that works for every individual:
1. Taste: The Single Cube of Chocolate Exercise
Children normally grab a bar of chocolate and after unwrapping it, tend to stuff squares as quickly as possible into their mouths [well all the ones I know!]. This, I suppose is to get the sugar rush. Instead, I suggest that you take a single square of chocolate and hand one to each child. You then ask them to smell it, feel the texture [lightly otherwise it melts!] and say what is smells and looks like. THen gently place it on their tongue and and close their mouth, but do not chew or swallow it! let it gently rest on the tongue and let it slowly dissolve. Get them to concentrate on the feeling, thoughts, taste of the chocolate. Trust me, they will never have tasted chocolate like it before.
2. Smell: Smell & Tell Exercise
Pass something fragrant out to each child, such as a piece of fresh orange, or a slice of lemon . Ask them to close their eyes and breathe in the scent, focusing all of their attention only on the smell of that object. I find this difficult as I do not have a great sense of smell, but some people have a really sensitive nose and can really get lost in the moment.
3. Sound: The Bell Listening Exercise
I have a meditation bowl I have used in practices before and the sound is amazing, but even if you do not, you should have at the school some form of hand bell or cymbal. Ring a bell gently and ask the children to listen closely to the vibration of the ringing sound. Tell them to remain silent and raise their hands when they no longer hear the sound of the bell. Then tell them to remain silent for one further minute and pay close attention to the other sounds they hear once the ringing has stopped. Take note and try to remember the other sounds they might hear. After the minute is up, go around the group and ask the children to tell you every sound they noticed during that minute. This gets them thinking about better listening skills as well as being aware of other noise around them.
4. Movement: Breathing Buddies
For younger children, hand out a stuffed toy to each child. If you do not have a toy, you can even get them you use a rolled up sock. Then, ask the children lie down on the floor and place the item on their stomachs. Tell them to breathe in silence for one minute and notice how their “Breathing Buddy” moves up and down, and any other sensations that they notice. Tell them to imagine that the thoughts that come into their minds turn into bubbles and float away. Its amazing how quiet the children become, watching the motion of the buddy.
5. Movement: The Squeeze & Relax Meditation Exercise
This is one of the adult exercises that can be used for any age group. it is an alternative to the traditional body scan. Ask the children to lie down on the floor and take their shoes off and close their eyes. The objective is to squeeze as tightly as possible and then relax every muscle in their bodies in turn. First, starting at their feet, get them to squeeze as hard as possible their toes. Some will be able to do so, some will not, it does not matter. It is the effect you are after. Next, tighten the muscles in their legs all the way up to their hips, and relax. Next suck in their stomachs and bottom as hard as possible and then relax. Next, squeeze their hands into fists and relax; then their arms and relax; then their shoulders and relax and finally their faces. The face one is wonderful as they make some great expressions! This is a wonderful way to get the children to start to understand the idea of being present with your body.
5. Touch: The Art Of Touch Exercise
For younger children generally, give each child an object to touch, such as a ball, a feather, a soft toy, a stone, a piece of lego etc. Ask them to close their eyes and describe what the object feels like to a partner. Then have the partners trade places. This starts to give them the focus on concentrating on a particular object and focusing on the now.
6. Touch: The Heartbeat Exercise
Have the children jump up and down as quickly as possible for one minute. Obviously, for some, it would be an opportunity to bang into one another and make a lot of noise. This should be avoided at all costs. Ask them to do it in silence. Then have them sit back down on the floor and place their hands on their hearts. Tell them to close their eyes and feel their heartbeats, their breath, and see what else they notice about their bodies. Ask them to count their heart beats for one minute. This gets them to focus on the now.
I leave you with the following quote......
Children are happy because they don't have a file in their minds called "All the Things That Could Go Wrong.” ― Marianne Williamson
As always, I enclose sites and details for further reading if you want to follow up on the topics mentioned. Please feel free to comment & share. I’ll let you know if I get asked to go in to the school to help.
Daily Telegraph article on Why the UK GOvernment wants to teach Mindfulness in school
UK Organisation [with programmes globally] specifically focused on bringing Mindfulness into Schools, with a formal programme called - “.b”, pronounced [dot-be]. .b, pronounced [dot-be],stands for ‘Stop, Breathe and Be!’ This simple act of mindfulness provides the kernel of a ten lesson course for schools for young people aged 11-18 delivered in the classroom or in small groups.
A wonderful research paper produced by Katherine Weare, Emeritus Professor, Universities of Exeter and Southampton, show that regular practice not only helps young people deal with strong emotions, but increases concentration and improves performance at school.