This week I’m thrilled to welcome early childhood educator (with more than 14 years of experience!), Kathryn Heine, as a guest blogger on The Style DJ! She’s also the creator of Kids Simple and brings sensory play to life through uber-creative and fun Play Simple Jars. Thank you, Kathryn, for sharing these phenomenal ideas with us!
5 Tips for Raising Mindful Children
By Kathryn Heine
These days it seems like everyone is talking about mindfulness. It’s no wonder and with good reason that a mindful approach is being adopted everywhere from the classroom to corporate offices. Studies show that mindfulness increases attention span, focus, self-control, and compassion. Mindfulness can also decrease stress, anxiety, depression and behavior problems in children. It also makes children better able to resolve conflict and inspires an overall sense of well-being. Yes please!
When I think about mindfulness as it applies to my kids and family, I think of this definition from The Hawn Foundations MindUP: Mindful attention centers on conscious awareness of the present moment. We can learn to reduce stress and optimize the learning capacity of the brains. That’s right, practicing mindfulness can wire your child’s brains to experience more optimism, kindness and overall happiness.
As parents, we often say we want our children to “be happy.” How will they ever be happy if they are not able to notice what is going on around them so they can savor their everyday experiences?
As a seasoned teacher, mom of two toddlers, and avid reader on all things related to raising joyful and capable kids, here are a few simple steps I’ve picked up along the way on how to instill more mindfulness in your daily parenting routine.
1. Opt outside!
Nothing can inspire a person to be more present and in the moment than Mother Nature. No matter where you live or how much – or how little- time you have to spare, it is possible to find awe and wonder in your surroundings. Take a walk with your child and let them lead the way. Your child will find a bug to follow or will want to collect treasures along the way. Take a moment to pause, and just be with them as they experience the small wonder they have found. As you savor these moments of joy, you will benefit as well! Engaging all of your senses is the perfect way to practice mindfulness. While outside – or even in the car – draw your child’s attention to something specific in the world around them – a bird, a tree, the clouds. Have them smell the flowers, touch dirt, listen to the leaves on the trees, notice the many colors of the sky, or feel the warm breeze coming in through the car window. They just might start to do this independently which is a wonderful sign you have a mindful child in the works.
2. Model, model, model
Mindful parents raise mindful children. Lead by example. If we want our children to be more focused, calm, and optimistic, we can start by cultivating those qualities in ourselves. With the demands and stresses of life, it’s impossible for parents to be mindful all the time. One easy way to start is by taking a moment to pause and notice when you’ve made a mistake in front of your children – and then admit it! This shows that you are able to notice your own behaviors and have compassion for how that may have impacted others. “Mommy made a mistake by yelling at you, I’m sorry but I was feeling frustrated. Next time I will take a few deep breaths and talk calmly.” Showing your child that you are self-aware, and that even grown-ups make mistakes is imperative to raising self-aware kids who are empathetic to themselves and others.
3. Take a tech blackout
That’s right, you too mom and dad. Pick a dedicated time to put your cell phone in a cabinet so you are not tempted to check it – no excuses! Create regular opportunities that allow for and reinforce the value of mindfulness and help you and your children truly unplug. In this ever changing and fast paced digital world our children need to be taught through example how to modify their technology use and how to spend their time more wisely. Children who are constantly engaged in technology are more likely to be impulsive and cranky. Too much technology does not lend for time to self-reflect. Use the tech-free time to read uninterrupted with your child, play a board game, go for a hike, or even just have a meaningful conversation that includes eye contact.
4. Offer creative outlets
Work with your children to help them create situations in which they can be quiet and mindful. Painting, drawing, sewing, playing an instrument, and building are activities that require patience, focus and thoughtfulness. These activities also give children a chance to follow something through to completion, stay in the present moment, and work through frustrations. Ask questions to help your child be present and mindful during these creative moments. How does the paint feel and smell? What do you see when the colors mix together? Try leaving them alone for a while to enjoy solitude and become more fully engaged in their own unique thoughts, feelings and experiences. Enabling your children to be engrossed in the act of creativity is something you can inspire and model for your child from a very young age.
5. Have fun!
Seems obvious, right? But here we are talking about being silly when “the you know what is about to hit the fan.” Yes, those moments when you don’t think you can stand one more tantrum. Shift the energy in your house and show your child you can all get through these tough moments as a team. Drop everything and start a dance party in your kitchen. Blast the music for few minutes and just help reengage your kids to the present moment. Give them a hug and release some much-needed oxytocin in both of you! It may just help you all make it to bedtime.
Giving the gift of mindfulness to your child will set them up to navigate the joys and challenges of their lifetime with more calm and ease. Plus, your family will be less stressed, more harmonious and more fully engaged in the tremendous blessing of daily life together.
Kathryn is an early childhood educator and mom to a four year old boy and two year old girl. She has a master’s degree in elementary and special education from Long Island University (CW Post). Before becoming a mom and launching Kidssimple, Kathryn was a teacher and learning specialist for 14 years. During the course of her career, she has had experience teaching in a variety of private educational settings from Manhattan to Chicago, which include special education, kindergarten admissions, learning specialist and private tutoring. Kathryn is dedicated to helping children thrive through providing mindful, play based, hands on and creative activities in the early formative years. Kidssimple is a curated collection of simple activities you can do at home with your children. These activities target school readiness and mindfulness that will instill the foundation needed for future success. Kathryn is also the creator of the play simple jars where sensory play promotes mindfulness. Follow along @kidssimple.