Mindfulness for Children(Simon and Schuster, 2018) by Tracy L. Danielis a guide for explaining and practicing the art of being present and the positive benefits for children learning to be mindful. Learning mindfulness enables children to deal with their emotions in a balanced healthy way. Daniel explains the science of mindfulness along with strategies and practices easy for teaching children that are simple, inexpensive, and not time-consuming.
‘Hello, Sunshine’ is a yoga sequence that flows from pose to pose. It is traditionally called a Sun Salutation, since it is a series of poses that are meant to greet the sun after you wake up in the morning. “Hello, Sunshine” is a great way to wake up your child’s brain and body for a day of learning. First we will individually introduce the poses, then we will put them all together for a flow.
Forward Fold is a calming pose; however, it can be a bit challenging, especially if your child has tight hamstrings. Children sometimes need a little inspiration to stay in this pose so make it fun by having them count their toes or tickle a stuffed animal.
Forward Fold calms the central nervous system and relieves fatigue. It stretches the hamstrings and the backside of the body. It helps with digestion and concentration.
What to Say
- Start in Mountain Pose with your feet two fists apart. Take a deep breath in through your nose as you reach your arms toward the sky. Bring your palms together.
- Let your breath go as you bring your hands down the center line of your body to your toes. Fold your body at the waist.
- Keep a slight bend in your knees and let your head hang heavy. Nod your head “yes” and shake your head “no” to relieve any tightness. Let your arms be loose and relaxed.
Sometimes our thoughts are like monkeys, jumping around and having a hard time settling down. Kids already love pretending to be monkeys — help them add a mindful breath to the fun, and find a moment of stillness! There are many variations on Monkey Pose — this one is also sometimes called a Half Sun Salute.
Monkey jumps build strength in the legs. Monkey Pose is a good stretch for tight legs. This exercise also teaches children how to calm their minds with their breath.
What to Say
- From Forward Fold, bring your hands up right below the knees, and place your palms on your shins.
- Take a deep breath in and stretch your spine out long. As you let your breath out, make monkey sounds. Jump up and down a few times.
- Come back to a still monkey. Take one more breath in. Slowly let it out. Take one more breath in, notice the stillness. As you let your breath out, fold forward again.
Down Dog Pose
Down Dog Pose resembles a dog stretching after a long nap. It is a popular children’s pose that provides a good stretch, while allowing children to have fun barking, walking, and pretending to be dogs.
Down Dog Pose strengthens the back, arms, and shoulders. It also relieves stiffness in the shoulders and stretches the hamstrings and calves. Best of all, it’s calming and it feels good.
What to Say
- Start on your mat on all fours. Spread your fingers wide like a doggy paw. Press your doggy paws into the mat.
- Tuck your toes and push your tail (or hips) high into the air so that your legs are straight and your heels are pushing into the mat. Let your head hang heavy. Make doggy sounds!
Say to the children, “We are happy dogs because we love going on a walk! Wag your tail back and forth slowly. Let’s start walking. Bend one knee and then the other. Keep your doggy paws (hands) planted. Dogs like to mark their territory on walks. I see a fire hydrant. Raise your right leg up and open your hips to the right. Keep pressing through your doggy paws with only a slight bend in your arms. Look under your right arm. Breathe mindfully in and out through the nose. Repeat on the other side. That was a long walk. Roll onto your back for a belly rub and rest. Put your doggy paws in the air. Maybe scratch behind your ears. Take a few deep breaths.”
Planks are strong, sturdy pieces of wood extending from ships. In pirate movies, you might see that planks can hold even the biggest of pirates. In yoga, Plank Pose is a transition pose from standing poses to poses that require children to lie on their mats.
Plank Pose is a strengthening pose for the legs, abdomen, and upper body. It promotes good posture and enhances body awareness and confidence.
What to Say
- Start on all fours on your mat. Spread your fingers wide like a starfish. Curl your toes under and lift your knees off the ground. Keep your arms straight and strong.
- Try to make your body straight and long, like a piece of wood. You should be looking at the floor, but keep your head in line with your body. Don’t let your head droop.
- Pull your belly muscles in. Take a deep breath in. Feel your body getting stronger. Let your breath out.
- Lower all the way to the floor. Turn your head to one side and take a few deep mindful breaths, noticing the sensations in your body.
‘Hello, Sunshine’ Sequence
‘Hello, Sunshine’ has multiple benefits for children. Sun Salutations limber up and energize the body, especially the back, making it flexible and strong. Sun Salutations improve focus and concentration by teaching children to link their breath with movement. Additionally, this “Hello, Sunshine” stretch improves working memory, clears the mind, and brings a smile to your face.
What to Say
- Start in Mountain Pose with your feet firmly planted two fists length apart.Hold your hands together at your heart center. Take a big breath in and let it out. Imagine yourself as a strong mountain, standing tall, with your feet planted.
- As you take a deep breath in, grow your mountain by stretching your arms up high above your head. Keep your hands together to make the mountain peak.
- As you breathe out, keep palms together as you slowly fold forward, bending your knees. Bring your hands to the ground in front of you, keeping your palms flat. Shake your head “no” and nod your head “yes.”
- Come up halfway into Monkey Pose. Bring your hands back to the ground in front of you. Your knees should be bent. Plant your hands.
- Step one leg back as far as you can, and then the other. Push back through your heels, keeping your legs straight. Imagine that your whole body is stiff and strong like a plank of wood. It’s okay to drop to your knees. Say, “I am strong.”
- Slowly lower all the way to the floor. Take a big breath in and lift your head and heart up as you hiss a long breath out. This is Cobra Pose, which we discussed before.
- Push slowly back up to Plank Pose (knees up or down). Tuck your toes under and lift your tail high for Down Dog Pose. Hold here for a few breaths. Wag your tail or walk your dog.
- As you exhale, look forward at your hands, bend your knees, and hop or walk both feet forward toward your hands and squat down like a frog. Then raise your tail up for Forward Fold.
- Take a deep breath in as you come up halfway for Monkey Pose. Bring your hands back to the ground in front of you. Keep your knees bent. Breathe out as you plant your hands.
- Take a deep breath in as you straighten your legs and sweep your arms wide as you stand with hands above your head with palms together. Grow tall, mountain! Exhale as you bring your hands down to your heart center.
- Take a deep breath in. As you let it out, say, ‘Hello, sunshine!’ This completes the ‘Hello, Sunshine’ sequence. Let’s do it again!
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Excerpted from Mindfulness for Children: 150+ Mindfulness Activities for Happier, Healthier, Stress-Free Kids by Dr. Tracy L. Daniel, Ph.D. Copyright © 2018 Adams Media, a division of Simon and Schuster. Also available at Simon and Schuster. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. Interior illustration by Nicola Dos Santos