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!

 

Imaginative play; a milestone to celebrate

[~2years]
This should be a milestone that every parent looks forward to.  When your child first starts to talk and play imaginatively by themselves!
Your child will need to be ready with plenty of language to make up play actions and stories, that they have seen in their everyday life.
Here Master2 placed a piece of cake with his monkey and told him ‘here, I’m just going outside’.
Since then he has relied on others to show him more play actions whilst making some up himself.  He will create longer and longer play scenes as he develops more language, attention and understanding of the world……….and then I will get more done myself!
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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!

 

I have an emotionally sensitive child

I have an emotionally sensitive child. And it is sometimes hard not to wear his emotions too!

Rather than ‘brush off’ his feelings with comments like ‘it’s okay’, ‘don’t worry about it’, ‘just let it go’, it works much better to identify with his strong feelings. I might say ‘you are really disappointed aren’t you?’, ‘that must’ve worried you a lot’ or ‘I know you wanted a turn first’.

Instead of firing him up more, he relaxes because he feels understood and supported.

This is one of the first steps in helping him to calm down and regulate his emotions. Without an understanding adult on his side, he is pretty much sure to ‘flip his lid’, where he can’t think straight, won’t let anyone in to help him and struggles to calm down for what seems like an eternity.

And of course, a hug to go with it brings even more success!

Who else can identify with one of these little sensitive ones?

Why you should explain WHY!

[18 mths +]  A child will always be more compliant, if they understand WHY.
So don’t wait for your children to ask (especially if they’re too young to know how to), but give them the answer.
Instead of just:
  • ‘close the door’, offer ‘flies will come in, bzz bzz, no no!’
  • ‘don’t touch that’, offer ‘it’s not ours’ or ‘we don’t need that today’ or ‘just for grown ups, it might break’ etc
  • ‘sit down’, offer ‘on your bottom, no falling….OWWW!’
  • ‘get your shoes on’, offer ‘no standing on rocks & hurt your feet…OWW’ or ‘the other kids will all have shoes on, protecting their feet….’

When you explain WHY at the same time you give the direction, you will literally see brains tick over…and hopefully see why you’re asking them to do so.  The catch is, make sure you’ve used words that your child will understand for their age!

Let your children learn with art

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Okay, so who encourages painting, drawing or other creative outlets within their children? I am going to try and inspire as many of you as possible to see beyond the mess and learn about the benefits of providing some art materials and all…owing your child to express themselves, receive sensory benefits and not to mention cultivating mindfulness.

We don’t have time for fancy projects, we just get in there and do art for art’s sake.
So who is with me….or open to becoming more inspired to bringing art into their homes…?

What do cucumbers, dummies and cigarettes have in common?

They all provide ‘oral regulation’!!
‘Oral regulation’ means any repetitive chewing/sucking which calms the central nervous system and also improves concentration.  From babies with a dummy/thumb sucking, to kids and adults who suck lollipops, chew gum (think cricketers), chew fingernails and even cigarette smoking.
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Besides the nutritional benefit, these ‘crunchy things’ provide wonderful oral regulation.  I guess you could call them healthy oral regulation?  And it certainly works with Master nearly4!
Do you or your child use any other items for oral regulation? 🙂 Heidi

Telling stories with symbols

[~3years+]
Sitting opposite Master nearly4, we made up a story as we doodled along.  We drew some leaves and then thought about some jellyfish, so next we drew some seaweed next to the leaves, before we made a nest and some magpie beaks (sym…bol  for the magpies) and then back to the sea theme, drawing some fish for them to eat.  Whilst it sounds disjointed and ‘dream-like’, it really took us out of our left brain (the thinking one) and into our right brain (the creative one) where any idea is a good idea and also very relaxing!  Before we knew it, we had what looks like a page of symbols, but which was actually a wonderful verbal story, told together!  Maybe a bit like the Aborigines…?  Give it a try!
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