We are hearing about it more and more: MINDFULNESS. Some schools are even teaching ‘mindfulness’ and it’s working. Discipline referrals will drop and the overall climate can improve. Some schools use yoga while others are simply focusing on breathing activities.
Mindfulness to me is becoming more aware and slowing down, two actions that aren’t valued in this culture. We rush, rush, rush, and pack in learning and fun. ‘Work hard. Play hard’. Yes, and I am also slave to this mindset. How can you not be working in the public school system!? There’s so much pressure to succeed and succeed fast.
It was last week , however, that I took a slight detour and planned a simple outdoor scavenger hunt for my kindergarten weekly guidance class. This Pinterest activity is something I’d do with my own kids during the summer. We find something for each of the 5 senses, something you see, hear, touch, smell and finally taste from the school garden.
I wanted this quiet activity to promote mindfulness and simple awareness of our surroundings. When we slow down enough to recognize our senses, we can control our choices more too. We also may grow more aware and appreciative of nature and of life. Instead of rushing blindly, mindfulness outside can bring a calmness that I witnessed in this sweet group of 5-6 year olds. Mindfulness outside can also promote respect for our environment and awareness of the little things, be it a slimy worm under a smooth rock or the sweet smell of a flower.
I had students picking yellow dandelions and rubbing it on my skin, smelling the grass, and getting excited to hear a bird. What is even more exciting and amazing is that all the while, their playground is right beside the field and woods where we were doing this activity. No one ran away or whined to play; they became excited to fill in their list. If they found the first 4 senses, I told them I would let them taste something from the school garden too. Who knew so many kids would try fresh spinach!? Another example of positive peer pressure!
So, this year as a School Counselor, I have challenged myself to add in some outside ‘gardening’ time and the kids really love it. I love it because it feels like a break from the grind! Are we always learning something monumental? Sometimes, or we maybe just weed and move the compost around. Kids really love the watering too, if you want to add this to your chore list at home! It’s a chance to be outside, feel like we are doing something helpful, and get our hands a little dirty while also just slowing down and getting a change of scenery with some fresh Vitamin D. I only wish I had time to do it more!
We lead by example. When I was a child, my hippy parents always had a garden. I think I liked picking green beans and riding on the back of the tractor when my dad was tilling up potatoes when I was very young. But as I grew older, I remember thinking it was not fun at all but it shaped me. What do I want to do now? Create a garden, plants some tomatoes, and grow some flowers! Kids are impressionable and will be influenced.
We can teach kids to be mindful, to appreciate being outside, and to find joy little things. Tasting spinach leaves, finding worms, touching soft moss, and listening to birds can be peaceful and also fun to kids if we promote and encourage it. It sounds so hippy-dippy but some kids and adults need to slow down, de-stress, and smell the roses! We should all try it more often. Here are some mindful activities for children to practice.
When we rush though life, we neglect to feel the five senses. If it’s not outside, make time at dinner to slow down enough to appreciate the food, the conversation, and the table to sit at. When we are mindful, we are more aware. We are more ourselves because we feel more. And when we recognize how we feel, we can show more gratitude, empathy, and love towards ourselves and others. Be it the spinach leaf or the ability to take a deep breathe and slow down, we can all grow more aware and loving each and every day.