Be the Pond

October 20, 2018
At Seaward we teach children life skills rather than simply prepare them for school. And the best we can do is to teach them how to manage stress, tackle frustration and develop emotional intelligence. That is why we believe that when we introduce our tiny pupils to mindfulness and self-reflection they are making a wonderful start in life.
But what is mindfulness?

“Mindfulness has the power to teach us many things but most importantly it teaches us how to turn towards difficult emotions, instead of ignoring them,” says Jo Howarth, author of Glad To Be Dan book.

However, this is where it gets really challenging. And interesting.

A meditative state of mind is usually hard to find in most of the children, as they are naturally too restless. Mindfulness is also hard to teach as children are not interested in the ‘present moment’ and instructions to relax and let go. When something sounds too much like a lesson their math teacher dreamed up they’ll most likely turn their noses up at.

The good news is that children are already in a great place to effortlessly access a mindful state through games and interesting activities that get them interacting with nature and encourage them to see the beauty of life through their own lens.

So when it comes to mindfulness and children, the way forward is creativity and fun rather than pushing them into a lotus position and breathing exercises. Children want fun stuff to do – even to breathe in a fun way, come to think of it.

To be fair though, we can tell wonderful stories of the Elephant Breathing and The Thinking Moment techniques we teach at Seaward having a very profound effect on some children. And it is touching to see how they can comfort and pacify each other, and even, as rumour has it, instruct their tired mamas to “Breathe deep please mummy” during some stormy family moment!

At Seaward, we teach mindfulness using books, activities and role modelling. For example, during transition to the garden, it can take a long time for some children to put their shoes or coats on. They are struggling with this task, but rather than asking for help, they would sit and wait and suffer in silence, day dreaming. We take this moment as an opportunity to ease the discomfort for a child by teaching how to attract somebody’s attention and ask for help or to accomplish a task using an alternative fun method (Magic Coat Trick!)

We always teach mindfulness in short and sweet playful sequences relating to animal world (stroking an imaginary puppy) and nature (ocean waves or magic garden) that are telling an interesting story. All children do ought to be meaningful and funny for them. If there’s no game there’s no way of connecting with a child.

Speaking of emotions, it is not possible to bypass the nearly miraculous impact of art and creativity – the perfect media through which to express frustration and anger, joy and compassion using colours, music, movement, inaction and imagination. Painting mandalas can be really therapeutic and able to calm the minds and be fun at the same time. We also use easy and spontaneous music during the nursery school day, and children often play while singing a favourite tune. We use our old-fashioned school bell (mealtimes summon!) and chimes (tidy up call) as meditative sound tools and an attractive way to call children’s attention.

And let us not forget the art of dance and rhythmic movement as a way to focus and relax.
At Seaward children learn what gratitude is, and what it means to be thankful. We often discuss that adults are here to make children safe and talk about what it feels like to feel safe and happy. We encourage children to draw and paint in sad and happy colours, and to express these feelings in words. The children might draw the pictures of colourful balloons and then imagine sending them into the sky -The Art of Letting Go in practice…

If you want a taste of what we do, here’s what to try at home:

Pretending to be a Kind Elephant, a child will stand with her feet wide apart and arms dangling in front of the body like an elephant’s trunk. As she breathes in deeply through the nose, she will raise the arms up high above the head. Then slowly swing her arms down again as she breathes out through the mouth.

Mindfulness is fun and can be a great distraction game at the time of trouble.

Occasionally we tell our children the story of a pond, with lots of fish swimming in it. There’s an angry fish, a happy fish, a sad fish, an excited fish, and so on. The children would close their eyes and start describing the fish swimming past them. The children’s job is to be the pond. There’s no need to do anything with the fish beyond observing them as they swim by. Let us All Be that Pond!


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