September 2018 Newsletter – Mindful Classrooms: Preschool Activity Ideas

Once children reach preschool age, you may be able to incorporate more intentional activities that teach and reinforce the practice of mindfulness.

  • Use visualization as a teaching tool. Encourage children to imagine their bodies are a balloons and the task is to fill the balloons with as much air as possible.  There are many examples of mindfulness activities that you can use here.
  • Share your emotions and body sensations with the children Describe how you experience feelings of calm, frustration, excitement, sadness, etc. You may decide to go as far as talking about how those sensations determine your behaviors.  For example, “Sometimes, when I am feeling angry, it feels like my body is a big purple storm cloud.  When I feel like that, I don’t always want to talk to people, and I sometimes I say things that are not nice.”
  • Conduct quick check-ins throughout the day, privately, with each child. Ask them to close their eyes, take a breath, and identify how they are currently feeling. To help children, provide images of a calm creek flowing through the forest and a storm sea.  Change these pictures often so that children have an opportunity to find images that relate to them.
  • Reassure children that it is OK to experience the feelings that they have. Do not shame children or try to hurry them through their feelings.  This invalidates their emotions and will make them less willing to share with you.  Acknowledge feelings, and teach children ways to take a break, calm down, and reenter play.  Too often, we are not even aware of the feelings we are experiencing and how they impact our behaviors and decisions.  We want to teach children to get in touch with their emotions as a tool that will help them manage emotions and develop self-regulation.
  • As children become more familiar with mindfulness, attempt to make connections to real-life scenarios. For example, if a child is excited on the playground or angry in the block center, ask the child to take a deep breath and tune into the sensations that are occurring in the body.  Ask them to point to where they feel the anger or excitement.  See if the child can describe what it feels like.

For the Main Article on Mindful Classrooms, CLICK HERE.
For Mindful Classroom Infant and Toddler Activity Ideas, CLICK HERE.
For Mindful Classroom School-Age Activity Ideas, CLICK HERE.
For Mindful Classroom Director’s Corner Activity Ideas, CLICK HERE.

September 2018 Newsletter – Mindful Classrooms: Infant and Toddler Activity Ideas

Caregivers can introduce basic mindfulness practices to infants and toddler through their own actions and responses.

  • When comforting an upset child, hold the child close and take deep breaths. Exaggerate your breathing so that the movement transfers to the body of the child. Make your breaths audible as well, in the form of a light, calming hum or sigh.
  • Before beginning an activity, take two or three deep breaths. Say something like, “Ok. My body and mind are ready to read the story.”  Encourage older toddlers to do the same, but do not force it.
  • When you are experiencing frustration, take a moment to stop, acknowledge how you are feeling, out loud, and take a few deep breaths. Say, “Sometimes I need to stop, take a deep breath, and start over.”
  • When children show signs of frustration or other emotion, attempt to identify the emotion and encourage children to also breathe deeply. This practice will help children develop their emotional vocabulary and feel the benefits of deep breathing.

For the Main Article on Mindful Classrooms, CLICK HERE.
For Mindful Classroom Preschool Activity Ideas, CLICK HERE.
For Mindful Classroom School-Age Activity Ideas, CLICK HERE.
For Mindful Classroom Director’s Corner Activity Ideas, CLICK HERE.

September 2018 Newsletter – Mindful Classrooms: Director’s Corner Activity Ideas

If creating a program that incorporates mindfulness seems like something that would be beneficial, your very first step should be to educate yourself on mindfulness.  There are many resources available that provide introductions to mindfulness, including a variety of online classes and apps that you can download for free on your phone.

It is recommended that you have a personal mindfulness practice in place as you attempt to incorporate it into other areas of your life.  The understanding you gain and the tools that you acquire in your personal practice will help you in your work of sharing mindfulness with others.

To introduce mindfulness concepts into your program you could:

  • Begin each staff meeting with a deep breathing, centering activity. Encourage employees to take time to become present in the moment and to return to the present moment if they find they have drifted away during the meeting.
  • Provide staff with time to check in with their emotions before addressing conflicts. Coach employees to use deep breathing before responding to coworkers, parents, and children.
  • Model mindfulness to staff members, families, and children. Your actions speak louder than words, which is why having a personal practices is recommended.
  • Host a mindfulness event for parents, children and staff. Schedule time for an introduction to mindfulness, demonstrations of a few mindful practices, and Brainstorming of how these activities could be used in different situations.
  • Invest in mindfulness related professional development for your staff. Invite parents to participate as well.
  • Include tips, tricks, and 1-minute mindfulness activities in your regular communication with families (newsletters, social media posts, emails, etc.). You could also share mindfulness activities with staff by posting ideas in the staff room, bathroom, or other common area.
  • Share resources with families about the benefits of practicing mindfulness with children. There are a few resources available in the Additional Articles section of this newsletter.

Do you have other ideas for introducing mindful practices into your program?  Tell us about them on our Facebook here.

For the Main Article on Mindful Classrooms, CLICK HERE.
For Mindful Classroom Infant and Toddler Activity Ideas, CLICK HERE.
For Mindful Classroom Preschool Activity Ideas, CLICK HERE.
For Mindful Classroom School-Age Activity Ideas, CLICK HERE.

September 2018 Newsletter – Mindful Classrooms: School-Age Activity Ideas

In addition to deep breathing and tuning into emotional reactions in the body discussed in the preschool and infant and toddler lists, here are a few more advanced activity ideas that would be appropriate for school age children.

Mindful walking – this slow, quiet form of walking is designed to help us reconnect with the Earth, and the sensation of our feet making contact with the ground as we take steps.  This activity allows children to take a break from the rushing and shuffling that is becoming more evident in their lives. Please note – children may be more open to learning this practice when they are somewhat satisfied.  In other words, don’t try to introduce this practice to children when they are hungry!

To introduce this mindful walking, demonstrate for children how to slowly take a step forward and say, Breathing in.  Then, step slowly with the other foot and say, Breathing out.  Encourage children to match their stepping with their breathing.  You can also use other sayings, such as:

  • Left foot, slowly / Right foot, slowly
  • I notice the ground under my foot / I am present in this moment
  • I walk slowly / There is no need to hurry

You could ask children to make up the saying they will say during their walking. Practice mindful walking for 1-2 minutes each day.  Once the children become more skilled, this might be a good mindful activity to use during transitions in the program.  For example, use mindful walking as children enter the classroom to hang up their coats and backpacks or when returning to the classroom from the playground.

Mindful eating – this is an interesting practice that can help children reconnect to the foods they consume.  How often do we notice children, or ourselves, consuming foods or snacks mindlessly? We open a bag of chips and within minutes the chips are gone and we don’t realize how it happened.

Mindful eating is an opportunity to focus our attention on the tastes and textures of the foods we eat.  It provides a chance to slow down, pay attention to the process of consuming, and reconnect to what nourishes our bodies.

To introduce mindful eating, encourage the children pick an item from their plate and take a slow bite.  Ask children to place their utensils back on the plate and to sit quietly as they chew the food.  (How often do we prepare the next bite of food on our forks before we have finished chewing the bite that is in our mouths?)  Encourage children to think about how the food feels as they bite into it.  What flavors do they notice first?  Does the flavor change as they chew?  Is the food dry or crunchy, flakey or soft?  How does the texture change as they chew the food?

It is even possible to have children think about where the food item came from as they consume it.  For example, as they are slowly chewing on a carrot stick, they can think about the fact that the carrot came from farm, that a farmer harvested the carrot from the earth, and sent it to be packaged and sold to the program.  The cook then prepared the carrot by washing it, pealing it, and cutting it into sticks.  Encourage children to be thankful for the people who contributed to the food arriving on their plates.  Depending on the level of understanding of the children in your group, They may even be able to reflect on how the carrot is nourishing their bodies as they eat it.

Once the food is fully chewed up (which aids in proper digestion), prompt the children to pick a different food item and walk through the entire process with that food item. Ask children to compare this bite to the previous bite.

Depending on the interest of the children, you can continue with another bite or end the practice here.  You could continue this practice for the first few bites of each meal or snack.

For the Main Article on Mindful Classrooms, CLICK HERE.
For Mindful Classroom Infant and Toddler Activity Ideas, CLICK HERE.
For Mindful Classroom Preschool Activity Ideas, CLICK HERE.
For Mindful Classroom Director’s Corner Activity Ideas, CLICK HERE.

September 2018 Newsletter – Mindful Classrooms

As we prepared for the new school year, it is likely that you’ve spent some time considering the arrangement of your classroom environment.  Perhaps you were able to purchase new books, toys, and other materials for the children to explore.  Maybe you even spent time with other teachers in your program learning about the individuals needs and characteristics of the children who you will be learning and growing with over the next 9-12 months.

In addition to these important steps, it is also worthwhile to consider how you might incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily routine.

Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.” 

According to the APA , some of the benefits of mindfulness include:

  • Stress reduction
  • Improved working memory
  • Improved focus
  • Decrease in emotional reactivity
  • Improved emotional regulation

Being mindful requires intentional focus and practice. In many ways, young children are not developmentally prepared to engage in formal mindfulness practices. On the other hand, there are times, when deeply engaged in play, that children appear to be living fully in the present moment.

There are several ways that early childhood educators can create environments that incorporate opportunities for mindfulness with the children in their care. Mindfulness practices in early education consist of a mixture of activities that promote full engagement in the present moment and helping children tune into (or bring awareness to) their bodies, emotions, and thinking.

It is important to note; practicing mindfulness in the classroom is not about teaching children about a particular religious or spiritual traditions. While the practice does have ties to several eastern philosophies, such as Buddhism, the act of being mindful is not a religious practice.  It is recommended that any teachings related to mindfulness focus on the mind-body awareness, rather than on metaphysical or religious concepts.

Check out the lists below for ways to create a mindful classroom for children of different ages.  Also, the CCEI course, SOC106: The Value of Mindfulness in Early Childhood Settings provides many detailed mindfulness activity ideas – check it out today!

For Mindful Classroom Infant and Toddler Activity Ideas, CLICK HERE.
For Mindful Classroom Preschool Activity Ideas, CLICK HERE.
For Mindful Classroom School-Age Activity Ideas, CLICK HERE.
For Mindful Classroom Director’s Corner Activity Ideas, CLICK HERE.

September 2018 Student Spotlight – Paula Piacenti

I began doing family childcare 19 years ago. I felt I needed to be home for my two girls who were 3 and 12 at the time.  I currently live in Adams, Massachusetts.  I love to mountain bike, road bike, kayak, hike, read and quilt.  I also love learning about new places and foods.

This is such a wonderful job. I get to do the things I love and teach these wonderful children all kinds of fun stuff.  I am so lucky every day to have such wonderful children to play with, teach and learn from.  Who can argue with hugs and love all day. I can take them hiking and exploring. Pretend to be fairies or pirates.  And with the size of our sandbox we can just put in our toes and pretend we are on the beach.  It’s a wonderful job!

I love story and circle time with the children. Right now we love outside time. We are developing our garden for the summer and like to watch it grow and even eat from it. This year we are trying to develop a butterfly garden with milkweed we got from a local group. We are also trying potatoes again this year in boxes.  It’s our third year and last year was our first crop of potatoes.

I think that they love story and music time but outside time is what it’s all about. We have a mud kitchen and an 8 ft. x 16 ft. sand box.  If they aren’t playing in there, they are relaxing in our yoga/fairy house watching the clouds go by.  I love it when it clicks.   Like when the potty training works and we get to celebrate that huge milestone together.  When they absorb all these things we are learning and their faces light up when they tell me or share with their parents.

I first participated in CCEI classes when I was getting my CDA and our supporting agency purchased the classes for us. I completed almost every class there is to offer so that I had what I needed for my CDA.

I would absolutely recommend CCEI to anyone. I love their classes. I can complete them at my pace and at my free time and go back to them if I need to leave for any reason.  I think CCEI’s classes are a great value. There are so many topics to pick from.