I’m thinking of all my schoolteacher friends today, back at it. Maybe it’s your second week of school, maybe your second day—wherever you are, I'm guessing that simple, quick tools to help your children calm and focus themselves are important to you. (This goes for at home as well as in the classroom, of course!)
So I’d like to give you a gift today—my Mindful Moments for Kids album. It’s a collection of 30 one-minute mindfulness exercises for children that can be done seated or standing, any time of day. Perfect for classroom or home (and great in the car). These super-simple exercises are designed to help children harness their energy, release anxiety, and develop self-awareness. Each track consists of my simple voiceover instructions set to a musical backdrop of my songs. (It also includes two bonus songs at the end: a new recording of the ever-popular “Dance for the Sun,” and a mantra-like lullaby, “Just Be,” perfect for rest time or savasana.)
For me, the bittersweet end of summer means back to working in schools, and these simple, effective tools are my go-to when I train teachers and work with students. (I’ll also be getting the music, movement & mindfulness message to tons of kids with Rockin’ Yoga assemblies!)
Please let me know how you’re using the Mindful Moments (grab the whole bunch of ‘em here) and get in touch if you’d like me to come visit your school!
Week 3 of the after school program with the children who have moved to PA after the hurricane in Puerto Rico: once again my lesson plan went right out the window.
The boy with the huge brown eyes again refused to join our circle. When asked why, he says “I’m mad,” and “I don’t like this,” but not in an angry way, he says it with a half-smile on his face…I’m not really sure how to convince him to join us.
Maybe I can’t.
When I brought out the book “In This Heart” by Jo Witek (which I highly recommend), all the kids wanted to take turns reading. With the language barrier, the reading took a while, and then we talked about each feeling. (One of the challenges of this group is that it’s kindergarteners up through fifth graders all together, who are worlds apart developmentally, but all of them got really close to me and were absorbed in the book. Two of the little ones snuggled into my lap.)
When we got to a page about being scared, I asked each child what made them feel that way. A lot of them talked about having nightmares. Many said they miss their family members who are still in Puerto Rico, and that they wish so badly that they could see them. One said there are mean boys in his neighborhood who beat people up.
One girl said “police,” and when I asked why, she made the shape of a gun with her hand.
The news media and most of the rest of the world has moved on—but there are so many people—so many children—still suffering from the effects of that terrible storm.
Week two of the after school yoga program with the relocated kids from Puerto Rico was a bit more challenging than the first week, but I feel like I’m finding my footing with the group. Two very high-energy boys joined us; and asked repeatedly when we were going to play tag :) The boy with the huge brown eyes, who was tired and sad the first week but still sat in the circle, wouldn’t join the circle this time; he sat at the back of the room against the wall. He said “I don’t like this!” (I asked him what he likes, and he said “nothing.”) I sat with him for a few minutes, and asked him to join us when he was ready; he just shook his head and stayed where he was.
I found some great group activities like “pass the cool clap” from this wonderful book, “Everyday SEL in Elementary School,” by my friend Carla (I HIGHLY recommend it if you work with young kids in any capacity). We had to work together to beat the clock, and the kids loved it.
We also repeated a few things that worked well the first week: my songs “The Shimmy,” and “Dance for the Sun,” breathing with the Hoberman sphere, yoga freeze dance, and of course a rest, during which several kids fell sound asleep, even though we were in a cavernous, loud room with a play rehearsal happening within earshot.
I can feel the rawness in some of them. They’ve just been through too much. I’m glad we have four more weeks. Baby steps.
Yesterday I spent an hour at a local elementary school teaching yoga and mindfulness to a group of children from Puerto Rico. Their families were relocated here after hurricane Maria hit their island nearly six months ago.
The principal told me many of these children were already living in poverty, and that many had already been traumatized in some way. And then a terrifying hurricane destroyed their houses, leaving devastation all around them, to the point that they couldn’t stay in the only place they’ve ever lived. And they’re now here in eastern Pennsylvania, which must seem to them like they’ve moved to the moon.
Many of them speak no English. I don’t speak Spanish (I’m learning, but it’s slow). But, this actually turned into a fun game. I asked them for help: I’d teach them a pose, and ask them how to say it, and they’d happily holler out the Spanish word. We’d breathe, and I’d ask them to help me count to five breaths. Older ones translated for littler ones.
The plan I made for the class went right out the window once I got there. I was reminded anew of how beautifully rhythm and music transcend language, as a rhythm game on a drum was a big hit.
One boy who clearly didn’t understand anything I was saying bounced off the walls the entire time. Another boy with huge brown eyes just sat on his mat and didn’t say a word. I asked if he was tired, and he nodded yes. Toward the end, he sat silently with his back turned to our circle.
I’ll be with them for one hour a week for the next six weeks, and will keep you posted. Any constructive suggestions are totally welcome.