Let the children show you how yoga is done!

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Despite being more of a physical exercise for adults, yoga for children possibly has more benefits for their brain and mind.  Let’s first look at the benefits of introducing yoga to your little ones.  What’s in it for them?

No age is too young to start!

No age is too young to start!

Yoga connects the body, mind and spirit.  Children are very in touch with their intuition at a young age however, our early education system promotes a focus on the child’s ‘mental body’.  Children are prompted to learn literacy and numeracy from a young age.  Shifting their attention to these cognitive tasks, draws attention away from important right brain development which is responsible for creativity and imagination.  It is also the reason that many of us as adults have lost our ability to use our intuition, creative skills and the ability to just ‘feel’.  Yoga helps children to access their ‘spiritual body’, to be creative, to use their ‘gut instinct’ and their senses, by paying attention to their breathing, body and surrounding environment.

yoga's finished...time to listen to the sounds around us

yoga’s finished…time to listen to the sounds around us

Yoga promotes increased focus and attention.  It provides your child with a useful toolkit of self-calming strategies, particularly teaching how to breathe and relax.  It is also a useful strategy to promote mindfulness.  See more about mindfulness here.

Yoga teaches your child about body awareness.  Brain development occurs very quickly when a child has to work out where their body is in space.  How do they move their body to get into THAT pose?  And from cobra pose on their tummy, to downward dog on their hands and feet, to baby pose on their back?  Body awareness is also developed when talking about the different body parts and explaining where to put each.  This might be ‘put your hand down next to your foot’ or ‘now turn your shoulder up to the sky’.

my feet where? hands where?

my feet where? hands where?

Yoga promotes respecting the environment, and others.  Yoga is done cooperatively together, not competing against other children.  It is ideally performed outside where children can take notice of the environment (the wind, the trees, the wildlife, the weather), whilst they are doing yoga.

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And of course strength and balance comes with yoga.  Kids are just maintaining flexibility!

So what happens in Kid’s Yoga?

First things first, you’ll need to keep your child’s attention, so it must be FUN.  Kid’s Yoga not only means body poses, but also learning about breathing, body awareness and their surroundings.  Giselle Shardlow has created enticing Kids Yoga Stories to motivate children to practice yoga.*

Just one of the many titles from Giselle Shardlow!

Just one of the many titles from Giselle Shardlow!

ooh they saw a ‘monkey’!

 

Being like a tree... and not thinking about it too much!

Being like a tree… and not thinking about it too much!

They feature adventure-style stories which feature a character who not only cares for the environment but also stops to do a yoga pose or two on each page of the story.  This gives children something visual to go by but also a theme to help them visualise the pose they are attempting.  So when your child goes on a jungle adventure, they might end up doing ‘cat’ pose for a jaguar or if they went on a beach trip, they would end up doing ‘warrior’ pose for ‘surfing’.

Being a butterfly in the jungle

Being a butterfly in the jungle

This is how Kids Yoga sessions compare with an adult’s session.

1. Set up – yes a yoga towel or mat + a drink bottle is still ideal.  A Kids Yoga Story really does hold their attention however you could certainly attempt your own stories once you are familiar with some of the poses.  Or go online for some inspiration too.  We love to do yoga outdoors so we can be with nature and notice the environment with all of our senses, but inside is good if the weather isn’t great!

'Sailing' at the 'beach'... with Master 2 spectator

‘Sailing’ at the ‘beach’… with Master 2 spectator

2. Music – no, you don’t have to stick with any particular type of music.  Whatever gets your children inspired in the theme is a great choice.  But do think outside the box.  The Wiggles Beach Party songs might be a first pick, but could also be distracting.  The Beach Boys is a different alternative.  You could even create a playlist of all of the songs that relate to say ‘the jungle’.  Or you could just put on ‘rainforest’ songs or classical music.  OR you could just go with the sounds around you.

3. Preparation – not so much on body and breathing, but of the story and theme.  Taking the time to discuss what you might expect to see on your adventure gets children into the theme even more so and excited to look at the book.  Don’t forget to remind your children about their surroundings and to use their senses.

4. Structure – this one does go out the window with kids! But the great thing is, sometimes the children will show you how they like their yoga sessions to flow.  And as long as they are still enjoying yoga and receiving any of the benefits listed above, you can let go of following the story exactly or doing the pose so precisely.  Let your children show you how kid’s yoga is done!

Fun wins over precision

Fun wins over precision

5. Taking time – there is no rush with kid’s yoga.  If the kids stop to go and grab a stick for a prop or if they decide they would like to enjoy their rest and watch the clouds for longer at the end, that is what happens.  As long as you are enthusiastic and accepting of their ideas, they will run the session in their own way!

taking the time on his own..

taking the time on his own..

6. Post-yoga activities – the list is endless of what you could carry onto.  Morning tea on the towels noticing the trees or clouds or birds is a great way to stay ‘mindful’ and relaxed.  Other activities could be continuing the yoga theme (such as ‘the beach’) and exercising the right brain with some painting, drawing or playdough modelling.  Make use of the towels in summer and let the kids have fun blowing bubbles in cups with straws until their hearts are content!  Blowing involves breathing and the diaphragm which promotes further relaxation.  Alternatively, you could think about a theme for the next yoga session.

For those interested in one of the Kids Yoga Stories to get them started, here is the website http://www.kidsyogastories.com/.

Otherwise, take a towel outside and see what moves your children might come up with!  You might be surprised as to how much they enjoy it  🙂 Heidi

* This is not a paid presentation but an endorsement of a really great set of books 🙂

Our backyard classroom

Did you see my post on our ‘creation table’?  We take it to different places in the backyard and the boys immediately start to use these different environments whilst they paint…  There’s been decorated passion fruit, painted tomato and basil leaf prints and some green cherry tomatoes used to roll over the paper and make a print.  Sometimes we paint or draw what we see..
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Interacting with the outdoors provides children with a way to access mindfulness.  We talk about the sensory properties of the garden, take note of the clouds and birds we can see or hear and think about what we are focused on.  Just try it and you’ll automatically feel calmer and ready to create!

 

Communicating at the toilet

Did you know that what you say and how you act around your child when they are toilet training can really make or break the whole experience?  A confident and supported child will be happy to keep trying, even if they make mistakes!

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Here are a few points to remember about communication, before you get started.

A child is never in the wrong when it comes to toileting

Your positive attitude, no matter what, is key to keeping your child relaxed around the toilet and most importantly, happy to keep trying.  Sensitive children in particular will pick up when you think they are not doing a good enough job.  This can completely derail their confidence.

Whilst toilet training can be frustrating for parents, it is important to look at WHY there might be issues, rather than blaming the child.  This might include not being quite ready (and thus less understanding of the importance of making it to the toilet every time) or being almost ‘past’ the window of opportunity (and thus resisting going to the toilet).  Of equal importance, is to look into any underlying causes of sudden accidents, constipation or frequent bed-wetting.  Any issues around toileting is never the child’s fault!

Keep it positive

Whilst praise keeps it positive, why not try using your child’s own ‘intrinsic motivation’?  To do this, acknowledge what your child has achieved, for example, ‘you did a poo in the toilet!!’ or ‘you told Daddy you needed to go!’.  This generates excitement for your child to do that behaviour again.  Using praise, such as ‘good boy!’, is more likely to encourage your child to repeat what they did more to please you, than for their own self.

Always remind yourself, no negative talk will ever help your child to move forward in the toileting process.  Patience and understanding goes a long way in keeping the huffs, threats or blame aside!

Be careful how you praise and reward

It’s great to express your pride to your child on their toileting achievements.  But…including that you are proud even when they have accidents or wet the bed, will reassure them that you are supportive all the way!

It can be fun and enticing to offer a small incentive for going to the toilet but be prepared to adjust the target according to your child’s toileting skills.  So for example, if you’re only offering a sticker for a wee or poo in the toilet, what will you do if it’s a battle just to get your child to sit there in the first place?  By making it simple enough to earn their reward (that is, a sticker for just sitting on the toilet at first), a child will understand you aren’t expecting too much of them.

Negative reinforcement, in the form of ‘you won’t get this if you do/don’t do this’, is only asking for adrenalin (‘hey mummy and daddy aren’t supporting me here…’).  Stress brings inability to think and perform straight and a lack of support may reduce your child’s confidence and enthusiasm in doing what is expected of them.

Use appropriate language

Depending on your child’s age when they begin toilet-training, this will make a big difference as to whether you are using long sentences or reminding yourself to pick easy-to-understand words.

For the two-year-olds, you might need to use simpler language to make it clear what you need your child to do.  This might be ‘time for wee, no wees in the car!…then you can wee at the park’ or ‘Kasey had an accident, that’s okay, look wet undies, time for rinse then let’s get dry undies’.  You might still be clarifying terms such as wet/dry or ‘need to go’.  It can also be more appropriate to encourage your child to ‘sit on the toilet’ rather than announcing they need to do a wee or poo, just in case they really don’t need to go.

At first, it is important to confidently TELL your child when it is time to go to the toilet.  Be sure your child isn’t at an important moment in their play though!  By asking if your child needs to go to the toilet, you are almost asking your child to say ‘NO!’.  If you forget, respect your child’s answer and attempt again in a few minutes with ‘It’s time to sit on the toilet and try for wee or poo!’.

Lastly, there is a difference in saying ‘oh you had an accident’ compared with ‘did you wet yourself?’.  Hopefully I have inspired you to think twice about communicating at the toilet.

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Enough with the left brain and more of the right brain!

We began with our morning tea in the garden and discussed the art project : to draw an item and then paint it too.
Master 4 chose our new ‘child’, our avocado tree. We got out our beautiful rainbow dice (Thanks Apple n Amos) and decided to pick three colours for our project.
Purple, orange and yellow.
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Here is Master 4’s results. And of course this project lead into experimentation with these colours and the feel of paint, particularly for Master 2. But that is another story!

I encourage everyone to try this. You could do lucky dip for colours or even have a go at the project yourself.
Or check out Apple n Amos!

 

Our creation table

Cool parents = relaxed kids when it comes to art, craft & all the ‘messy’ play.  So I commissioned my husband into making our own outdoors creation table.  Free to be loved and used JUST for creating, having fun, sensory exploration and learning!
We take it to all corners of our yard for different inspiration from a different setting.  We don’t clean it so we don’t worry about mess.  And we chose to use blackboard paint so we can love our table with chalk too..
But yes I’ve still had some crazy sessions with little painted hands making it to the house.  I guess that’s what you get for painting with a 1 & 3yo.  More on that later!
For now, let me know if you have a wonderful creation table!  OR if your husband has the skills to whip up a basic table…  Weekend project??

Baking and learning

We love this banana bread!  In fact, we bake it twice a week and use it for any meal (except for dinner..).  It is gluten, dairy, sugar and nut free and even better, it has no preservatives and uses healthy coconut flour and tahini.  The best thing that I would pick about this recipe, is that it is perfect for little ones to help in the preparation.

Being a Speech Pathologist, I will always take an opportunity to throw some language out there.  Here are some of the language-learning opportunities:

  • counting out 8 dates (and the other child can count them as they place them in the bowl)
  • talking about cup or spoon measures – ‘one over two means half a cup’ or ‘see TBL means tablespoon
  • elicit the cooking actions by asking ‘what do we do with this one?’.  You might expect terms such as scoop, measure, peel, grind, pour.
  • and the fun one… make sure you put the bicarb soda in first, then put the lemon juice (or we substitute a good dash of Apple Cider Vinegar when organic lemons aren’t in season) in – ‘FIZZ, BUBBLE….It’s a science experiment!!!’

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And here is the link to the recipe Wholefood Simply Banana Bread.  We substitute cinnamon for carob, for a change and also use Apple Cider Vinegar (with ‘mother’ – healthier) instead of lemon juice when organic lemons are out of season.

And then!!!  We add a banana and some almond milk to the leftover batter in our Thermomix and blend for a banana bread shake!

 

Let me know what you think!  ps – we use the 5 egg recipe (one of the reasons we have now got chooks!).

🙂 Heidi

Saying it with a pen – starting school

So who’s little ones have/are starting school this year? Hopefully it is all smooth sailing! But don’t forget if your child is hesitant to change or slow to warm up in new situations, you might need to spend a bit more time helping them with this. Unless you ask, a child may not know how to ‘announce’ what is worrying them or simply what they are confused by. Are you up for asking the question, ‘…Was there anything worrying/scary/confusing about your day at school?’. I always find it easiest to get out the notebook and pen & draw a ‘cartoon strip’ of what happened in the situation. You might ask ‘so where did you first get nervous? Ok so let’s draw you at your desk & mummy is walking out the door…what happened next?, what did you think then?….how did you feel after he said that?, who was there then?’. The main point is to talk about what your child was feeling/saying/doing and how they could make it better next time. Maybe they just need to release their emotions in a safe place, with you. Here is a link to my initial post When in doubt, say it with a pen.

You can find language in your backyard!

Are you children interested in nature? Could they do with less screen time? Does your child love ‘treasure hunts’ or drawing? Do you need an activity that you can direct from the kitchen?

This activity promotes language-learning, getting outdoors, drawing skills and if need be, an opportunity for you to get the kids out from under your feet!  Of course you might find yourself out in the garden with your kids which is even better, providing you with fresh air and an opportunity to get to know your backyard better too!

Bring in the Backyard Treasure list! This is how we play:

1. Present your child with a special ‘notebook and artist pen’ and tell them they are going to find some treasures in the backyard.  They will need to listen up closely!

2. Challenge your child to find an example of each treasure description you provide (see list below for each treasure description).  Note, each description includes a word that the child must understand to find the correct item, great for language development.  You may need to discuss what the descriptive words mean before they go hunting.

Just a sample of ideas!

Just a sample of ideas!

3. The child must go and draw what they find, not touch.  This is to avoid little hands dealing with spiders and other not-so-safe delights in the garden.  Older kids might be fine to decide what they pick/bring back, but the main aim is for the child to then draw the treasure.  This is great practice for drawing what they see with the motivation of having a collection of drawings of their findings.

4. The child brings their notepad back to show you the drawing and to check if it fits the treasure description.  This is a great time to further promote your child’s language skills by discussing if the item fits the description and how they decided they would pick that particular item.  If it does not fit the description, you may need to provide some examples of the descriptive word, for example ‘wet means there might be water on it, it’s not dry‘).

5. Give the next treasure description.

For older kids, you could provide the written list, as above and let them go out and take on the task themselves.

This activity can then be repeated again and again, encouraging your child to find different items to match the descriptions.  Or think up a list of new descriptions!

Here is the list we have used so far:

  • brown leaf
  • a ‘forked’ stick (one with a ‘V’ in it)
  • a spider
  • something NOT green or brown
  • something moving (don’t touch)
  • something living
  • something when you look up
  • something you can eat
  • something wet
  • something man made
  • something that feels rough
  • something with a nice smell
  • something old
  • something new
  • a green leaf

Don’t forget even words like ‘NOT’ are descriptive words and are important for a child to understand.  A child may not understand the concept of ‘something new’  in the garden, so you may have to explain how ‘new’ relates to the garden.  If your child is not old enough for understanding words such as ‘man made’, think about some other descriptions you could add.  Here are just a few ideas to get you started – more descriptors of how items feel, look, colours, NOT….., quantity.  Remember the more you play with the same descriptions, the more your child has to think outside the box to find something different.

a few 'picked' items

a few ‘picked’ items

And if your child really does like to bring back a collection for you, why not save these in a basket and leave out for later imaginative play!

Let me know how your children get on with this fun yet educational activity!

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Defining the words one by one

Going along with my post about trying your kids out on different foods – also remember…your child’s vocabulary will only ever be as big as the number of words they are exposed to.
This means pointing out words and defining them for your child, no matter how old they are! Never assume they understand every word, phrase or saying 

How many new words can you point out to your child tomorrow?

Lately we’ve been defining the Aussie 12 days of Christmas with words – snags, cheeky+chooks, meat tray (!!), rusty+utes (we found rust on our bells!), footy fans etc etc.
And by defining, you might need to actually go and point something out in real life, find something similar, Google it or even say ‘let me have a think about that one’!

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