Parents and teachers have become better observers of children over this year. Staying home, starting distance learning, going back to school, donning masks – are all experiences that have required the ability of adults to tune into children’s reactions in more attentive ways. This is actually a form of mindfulness, being more fully present for children because we have understood that they needed extra support. Hopefully, we won’t lose those observational powers as the world opens up more.
Some parents and teachers have worked on teaching children tools for being fully in the moment, as a foundation for handling change in ways that promote well-being, during this period and throughout life. Summer is actually the perfect season for this kind of exploration in order to increase children’s awareness of their bodies, their feelings, their thoughts, and the world around them. It’s a time when nature invites us to be more fully aware of our physical selves in relation to the world around us.
Start by remembering the natural metamorphosis you went through at the start of the summer season. I still remember in fifth grade a boy wrote in a memory book, “June, June, I love you June because we get out of school in June.” Do you remember that feeling of freedom, even if you were going to summer school, that life was suddenly not as goal directed? What about the awakening of your senses and excitement about just being in nature? Most of us have a “summer self,” and even if our routines remain the same, we want to encourage children to benefit from the more relaxed world of the summer season in this unusual year.
Here are a few activities to increase summer mindfulness:
Enjoy time together outside. Picnics and barbeques offer opportunities to talk about sights, sounds, and smells, as well as tastes. You can expand on the game of “I spy with my little eye” to include things like “I hear with my little ear,” “I smell with my little nose,” “I taste with my little tongue,” etc.
Take a “sound walk.” Go on a silent stroll with the fun idea of just listening to subtle sounds you wouldn’t usually hear.
Lie down outside with your child and gaze up at the sky, noticing the clouds and anything else that crosses your visual field (birds, plane, etc.). Or, similarly, if you are at the ocean or in an area where you can gaze out at the horizon, notice if doing so feels expansive to you. If so, share that experience with your child in language appropriate to him or her (e.g., “I feel so peaceful when I look at the horizon, so much a part of the whole world.”).
To help develop increased awareness of breath, each of you can put a stuffed animal on your chests as you lie on your backs gazing up at the sky. Notice what happens to the animal with the in and out of breath.
Blow bubbles in a way that teaches children about their breath. What happens when you blow slowly or quickly?
Take the time to step into your summer self, and experience the wonders of summer with children as your guides.