“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” – Peggy O’Mara
I feel like it was only yesterday when the children in my class started the new academic year and settled into routines. It’s now July, and as I reflect on how much more confident each child has become and the life affirming moments we have shared over the past year, it’s almost time to say farewell.
With the summer holidays just around the corner, the kids have so many end of year events to contend with. There’s academic assessments, a Summer Fete, Sports Day, new class transition activities and a School Production. Understandably, with all the changes and goings-on, many of the children are unsettled or overwhelmed. I too am feeling out of sorts having to somehow navigate my way through and ensure the children feel self-assured, composed and ready for the tasks at hand. To help bring about a suitable balance and sense of calm, I love to use mindfulness in my classroom.
Mindfulness is a “mental state achieved by focusing on one’s awareness of the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations” – Mental Health Foundation. Developing a regular practice can be advantageous, particularly in busy educational settings. Mindfulness can improve focus, boost working memory, decrease the recurrence of depression, reduce stress and anxiety, increase cognitive flexibility, enable better access to the curriculum and enhance a better quality of life.
“There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.” – Mahatma Gandhi
As a teacher I am always on the look out for unique methods to enhance my students’ well-being. I recently observed a wonderful Occupational Therapist use the Zones of Regulation with a ‘Mind Jug’. I now use this technique on a regular basis with my class.
The ‘Mind Jug’ Experiment:
- First of all, the children sit in a circle and are shown a large jug of clear water. The water represents a calm and clear state of mind. With a calm mind, our emotions and body feel at ease. The children are then asked to close their eyes, take a deep breath and tune into how they are feeling at that moment.
- Next, each child takes it in turn to say what Zone they are in and why. Each Zone of Regulation represents an emotional state related to a colour. If a child is in the BLUE Zone they may feel sad, sick or tired. When in the GREEN Zone a child may feel calm due to being content and relaxed. The YELLOW Zone can indicate a child feeling worried, frustrated, or excited. Lastly, if a child is in the RED Zone, they may be experiencing intense feelings aggression or rage. Ultimately, the goal is to be in the GREEN Zone – a content, balanced and ‘ready to learn’ state. However, when a person is in any other zone, the idea is not to judge their emotional state, but to develop self-regulation tools to get back into the GREEN Zone. Strategies include deep breathing, counting to 10, movement breaks and using sensory toys. Regular use of the Zones of Regulation can be incredibly empowering for the child as it can develop self-awareness and practical skills to achieve a peaceful emotional state.
- Next, the child picks out the colour of the glitter which corresponds with the zone they are in, and sprinkles the glitter into the jug of water. The glitter represents our thoughts and emotions. For instance, if a child sprinkles yellow/gold glitter into the jug for the YELLOW Zone, they may be feeling excited or silly and have thoughts and bodily sensations to reflect these feelings.
- After each child has a turn sprinkling glitter into the same jug, the glitter is stirred with a large spoon. The colourful glitter is now spiraling in the jug and looks congested. This visually shows the children what happens collectively when our minds are busy. They see how our busy thoughts can affect our emotional state and sensations in our body. The children are reassured that this is okay to have these feelings.
- Next, the class lie down on their backs, close their eyes and focus on their breathing. I gently talk through a 5 minute meditation instructing each child to scan their bodies, let go of any tension, keep breathing and relax their minds. I have also used a lovely guided meditation for kids from Paradise Music, which leads the children into a peaceful adventure in an enchanted forest, whilst focusing on their breathing.
- After the meditation, the children slowly sit up and are asked how they feel. Most tend to say they feel calm or relaxed. We then look at the jug and see that the glitter has calmly settled and the water is mostly clear and still, just like their minds, bodies and feelings.
- By teaching children how to self-regulate their emotions, slow down and focus on their breath, it can offer a deeper understanding of the present moment, allow thoughts to arise and with support, help children develop an awareness of their inner state when reacting to life situations.
- Lastly, at the end of the experiment, children are reminded to focus on their breath whenever they can because it can bring sense of inner peace to their entire being.
“It’s not what you have on the outside that glitters in light, it’s what you have on the inside that shines in the dark.” – Anthony Liccione
In recent times, glitter and other visually attractive materials have become a popular tool to stimulate mindfulness. Sensory Bottles, as shown in the following video from Autism Awareness, can be filled with glitter glue or other items for children to shake, then simply breathe and relax whilst watching the water eventually settle and become clear. This is another wonderfully calming technique for children and adults alike.
I hope this post inspires you to develop a mindfulness practice that peacefully helps you shine from within.
Miss H ♥