Anyone who practices meditation has probably wished at some pointed that they’d started sooner. Being taught these tools as children could have certainly relieved a fair amount of stress during our teenage years. However, whilst mindfulness and meditation are increasingly embraced by the education system, it is still far from being fully embedded within schools.
As a trainee Primary school teacher in an inner-city state school in London in 2010, I had a beautiful vision that on the first day with my Year 5 class, I would practice meditation. Of course the reality was quite different. Ink flicking, boogie picking, sneaky kicking… clearly sitting in a circle and counting our breath wasn’t going to cut it straight away. In order to inspire these children to meditate, I was going to have to be creative. I needed to make mindfulness and meditation irresistible.
Whether you are a class teacher wanting to instill a little calm into your learning environment, a kids Yoga teacher needing inspiration for your next class or an exhausted parent in need of some peace and quiet, here are 3 irresistible ideas for introducing mindfulness and meditation.
This great 5-minute activity is perfect for introducing children to mindfulness by teaching children to tune into their senses. Your class will practice their ability to concentrate as it requires the class to keep quiet and focused. There’s no doubt that this activity will go well with your class. It’s super easy and deliciously good fun. All you need is a box/ bag of chocolates. Ask you class to sit in their places with their eyes closed as you place one little chocolate in front of each child. Once each child has a chocolate, they can open their eyes. For the first minute, all the children are able to do is look at the little chocolate. Encourage them to analyze every aspect by asking key questions throughout: what shape is it? What is the texture? What else does it resemble? Once the time is up, invite your class to pick up their chocolate. For the next minute, ask them to simply touch the chocolate. What does it feel like? What is the temperature? Is it the same all over? After one minute, the class is allowed to smell the chocolate. What does is smell like? Does it remind you of anything else? How does the smell it make you feel? Once one minute has passed, the children can simple place the chocolate in their mouth – but make sure not to bite! Just let is slowly melt as they consider what it tastes like. At this point, encourage the class to close their eyes explaining that it can help them to keep focused on the sensation of the chocolate dissolving on their tongue.
Jam Jar Meditation
Not only is this a brilliant way to teach your class how to focus their mind, it is also really fun to make the resources. However, it does require a little preparation because each child will need a jam jar (don’t worry, there’s no need to eat 30 pots of honey/ jam over the next week, just ask each child to bring one in). You will also need some water, soil and glitter. It’s so easy to do, just fill the jam jar up with water, take a pinch of soil and sprinkle it in the water. Following this take a tiny pinch of glitter (much smaller than the amount of soil) and stir it into the mixture. Carefully place the lid on top and once each child has finished their jam jar, ask the class to shake it up vigorously. Then sit quietly and focus on just one piece of glitter. When you first start, time the class for 30 seconds before asking them to stop. However, you will be able to increase this time each time you practice. Once the class has stopped, ask simple questions such as: How long can they keep focused for? Is it challenging? What helps you to keep focused? If you want, you can explain to your class that this is a little bit what our minds are like. Sometimes we have so many thoughts, it is difficult to focus on just one. However, with practice, you will be able to train your mind to make it easier.
Something children benefit from, yet has been pushed out of the school day as a result of the increasingly demanding curriculum, is quite simply listening to stories. For this reason, I have always made time to practice visualization with my classes. Not only does it require good concentration and listening skills, it also allows pupils to use their imagination and escape to a magical place for a couple of minutes at any point during the school day, just like meditation. It is a simple activity to do in class as well: simply ask your class to sit at their desks, make a pillow with their arms as they lay their heads down and close their eyes. My favorite story is called the ‘Magical Secret Garden’ where all animals and people are friends and can speak to one another. The garden is always somewhere new - sometimes it’s a typical English garden and other times it is in the African bush. What makes the story captivating is the description; always pay attention to detail while describing the different senses to bring the story alive and focus their minds.
Alice Louise Blunden, our Deputy Head, is also the founder of The Yoga Project UK, a social enterprise dedicated to bringing Yoga, mindfulness and meditation to schools across London and the UK. She is also year 1-2 teacher at La Petite Ecole Bilingue, Teach First Ambassador and Yoga Medicine teacher based in London.
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