Mini Mindful Activities

These are dedicated activities to help boost parent and child mindfulness, self-awareness, confidence, community outreach, positive self talk, relationships, and so much more!  I hope you enjoy!


What’s Your Mindset? 5 Ways to Cultivate a Growth Mindset and Resilience for the Whole Family

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I recently completed a continuing education course targeting supporting children and their parents through mindfulness techniques in speech therapy, and at home.  I am going to be honest.  THIS WORK WILL BENEFIT ANY PERSON! Dr. Carol Diveck, a leading researcher in the fields of personality and social psychology “suggests that children can develop a “growth mindset” through learning that successes take effort, mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow, and that this mindset encourages children to seek out new challenges.” ALSO, you can cultivate a growth mindset at ANY age!  Research shows that resilience doesn’t come from rare or special qualities, but from everyday magic of ordinary, normative human resources.  This suggests that resilience is a common phenomenon!  These skills can be learned by anyone! Moreover, thanks to mirror neurons (what wires babies’ brains to imitate your faces, etc.) YOU as a parent can model these skills for your child!

 

Research indicates that people who are resilient are more likely to be healthier, live longer, be more successful at school and in their careers, feel happier in relationships, and be prone to less depression (Reivich & Shatte, 2002).  Moreover, SELF-COMPASSION bears a greater impact on resilience than self-esteem does!  In short let’s show our children, and ourselves some SERIOUS self-love!

 

Here are five simple ways to encourage self-compassion, growth mindset, and positive self-talk!

 

  1. Reframe “mistakes”: If you see your child make a mistake, CELEBRATE IT! “Yes! A mistake!  This gives us a chance to practice problem solving and having a flexible brain!  It’s THE TRUTH!  Mistakes are learning opportunities; they are not something you need to “correct”; they are an opportunity!
  2. Positive Outcomes Tower: take some building blocks and have your child stack the positive moments in their day! It doesn’t matter what they are!  Do this before they start their homework, or before bed!  It’s a visual way to shift mindset, and practice gratitude as well! Build your own tower next to theirs, let them see you practice positive self-talk and reflection as well!
  3. Blow bubbles with your child. If they have had a hard day have them place a negative thought on the bubble, and then POP it!
  4. At dinner take time to openly talk about one thing you “failed” at today, and one thing you “succeeded” at. Ask for help on how you could maybe succeed another day with the thing that you failed at. Modeling asking for help with your child as a social competency that will serve them very well in the future!
  5. Compliment YOURSELF and your child when you catch each of you working through something that is difficult. It really isn’t about succeeding immediately, it’s about acknowledging the WORK!

All is Calm: Two Things I Love for Encouraging Children to Find Calm with Others and  Within Themselves

Calm Blog

 

Today I’m sharing two tools I use and LOVE for encouraging self-regulation through adult guidance and compassion.  It’s important to remember that emotional regulation is a developmental process, so we as adults cannot expect our children to always demonstrate regulated and desired behaviors.  Instead, we AND our children benefit from working together in quiet moments to co-regulate and help encourage budding skills.  Hereis a short read which is helpful in providing brief information and additional resources. 

  The “Calming Corner”

This can literally be ANYTHING you want it to be!  If you have an extra room, it can be a calming room!  It is a place that should feel cozy and comforting, with a calm and positive energy!  I wanted to do this in my own home after I began a more committed journey with meditation, BUT I also wanted to do it so my daughter could learn to seek a calming place when she needs it.  I had read an article about helping to encourage self-regulation through having “time ins” rather than “time outs”.  The “calming corners” should contain things that encourage calm.  Cozy blankets, pillows, light music, art supplies, whatever it is that that child leans towards.  But we live in 900 square feet and I thought I want to have a calm space too! So ours is a combo!

  1. Clear out the energy of the space (you do not HAVE to do this, but if you give it a try it does feel wonderful!): You can do this with sage or palo santo OR a combination of water, vinegar, lemon oil, and/or cedar wood oil.  When you are clearing out the old energy repeat a mantra of your choice to put the energy you want into the space “Thank you for this space of calm and positivity.” Have your child do this with you if you want!  Have them come up with their own words about how this is a happy place for anyone who wishes to use it!
  2. Put things in the space that make you feel GOOD!  You can remove energy from these items in the same way as the space!  We have lots of pillows, quilts made by my grandmother, llamas (because I love them), a diffuser, a salt lamp, and an intention box.  My daughter LOVES crashing into the pillows.
  3. Sit in the space and ENJOY!  Your child watching you seek calm will be the BEST model for them to do the same.  Even say aloud “I am feeling overwhelmed/frustrated I am going to use the calming space to help calm down. Sit together in the space and enjoy special quality time together.

Teaching Children the Meditation Body Scan using a “Traveling Star”

I recently completed a continuing education course entitled: Mindfulness Techniques in Speech Therapy.  Which is where I was introduced to this idea, and I have loved it so much I wanted to share! The Body Scan is helpful in releasing tension and stress, as well as becoming more aware of physical sensations that accompany emotions.  If you would like guidance on using Body Scan as an adult check it out here!

  1. Have child lie down flat on their back with arms and legs out straight. Get a flashlight which will be your “star”.
  2. Have your child tighten the muscles (squeeze) in their body.
  3. Tell them that the light is a “calming star” and as it moves along each body part that body part is going to get very heavy and relaxed.So heavy that they wouldn’t be able to lift it off the floor.
  4. Repeat tracing their body 2-3 times, that’s it!
  5. If you want to work on deep breathing, they could place a stuffed animal or breathing buddy on their stomach and watch it rise and fall!
  6. Your turn! Let your child trace you with the calming star!  You can even narrate your feelings, and deep breathing as a form of modeling for them to see!

Eggcellent Social, Emotional, and Language Practice Using Emoji Eggs this April

eggs

We are all a carton full of emotions…but none of them need to break us.

Here are 5 ways to use emoji eggs(link on Amazon) this Spring to build emotional vocabulary, practice self-regulation skills, increase receptive and expressive language concepts, encourage “thinking of others” mindsets, read nonverbal social cues, and more!

 

  1. 2-5 years old is a prime time for developing understand of spatial concepts (ex: in, on, behind, under, on top, etc.) Take the emoji eggs and hide them around the house.  Give your little one clues to where they may be using spatial vocabulary! “It’s under the chair.”  Help them find the eggs by crawling or creeping to work on core strength and muscle coordination.  Get extra fun and use toilet paper rolls to make binoculars beforehand!
  2. Put the word for the emotional expression inside each egg. Have your child make a guess and let them know you love how they’re “thinking with their eyes” to guess which emotion it is!  After they guess have them “crack” the egg over the mixing to see the answer.  Then act out the emotion using tone of voice, facial expressions, and exaggerated body movements!  Remember emotions are felt throughout our entire body!  It’s important for children to be aware of which physical sensations go with emotions to help with learning how to calm down quicker if needed!
  3. Play music, and put the eggs in a bag. Have your child reach in and pick an emotion.  Then act it out until the music stops!  Then, practice using deep belly breaths to re-regulate before the next emotional dance-off!
  4. Take the emoji eggs and inside each one write “I feel….when” (ex: I feel silly when). “Crack” the egg over a pan and read answer!  “I feel happy when I play with you!” Cook up the egg in the pan, and move onto the next one!
  5. Emotional Charades! Put the eggs in a bag and take turns picking.  Act out the emotion to a teammate and have them try to guess how you are feeling! Added fun if you can then match a thought to that feeling, or give a strategy for expressing it, or for calming down!

 

BONUS: Put the emoji egg in your child’s lunchbox with a note inside! “I feel excited when I get to see you after school!”  This is fun, and is a great way to model how we can “think of others” and do kind things for them even when we are away!

Teaching Big Emotions in a Cute and Cuddly Way: My Experience with Kimochis 

Kimochis-Blog

For anyone raising or working with young children (especially toddlers and preschool age) I am sure you are in the throws of emotional upheavals that a lot of times are just straight up hard to explain.  Example: Having an emotional meltdown over not being able to play with a hair dryer, or that a cookie is missing 3 chocolate chips.  It’s HARD being a toddler.  The world moves so fast and with so much agility around you, and while you’re trying to keep up your brain is also trying to balance itself.  It’s growing connections and removing them at light speed!  You are designed to push boundaries at this age to learn, yet pushing so many at once is bound to push your parent’s very last button!  You’re learning feelings are a BIG deal, especially when they overtake that logical left side brain and you literally LOSE CONTROL!  How can parents (and even professionals) help give their child a leg up, engage in play, and also gain some of their sanity back?

Teaching and modeling emotional vocabulary and coping skills!

Why is emotional vocabulary important? Here are just a few:

  1. Helps promote self-regulation skills
  2. Helps children and ADULTS identify and move toward acceptance and expression of specific feelings
  3. Academically, supports reading comprehension, character analysis, and story predictions
  4. Helps support developing social competencies and forming relationships
  5. Helps reduce challenging behaviors

Young children (especially those learning language) benefit from multi-sensory learning, repetition, PLAY, exaggerated facial expression and tone of voice, imitation, modeling, and touch.  Kimochis (which means “feelings” in Japanese) look like toys, but are actually designed to be tools to help children express emotions. The company is committed to providing resources and support for Character Education Training.   Kimochis are something I have loved as a therapist, and now as a mom!  If you visit their website you will find Kimochis for pretty much everything, but I am a big fan of the Mixed Bag of Feelings.   I paired this with their Cloud Character ,who has two faces, one that I call “comfortable”, and one that I call “uncomfortable” when I use him.

How have I used them…

  1. With my preschoolers we talked about how some feelings make our bodies feel comfortable or good, while others make our bodies feel uncomfortable.  During games, at the start of sessions, or transitions, my students could pick a Kimochi that reflected how they were feeling and place in in the Cloud Character.  What I really LOVE is that the Kimochi’s have the written word AND a facial expression that matches on them!  (emotional check in)
  2. Grab Bag Feeling and Acting!  Students would pick a Kimochi blindly from the bag, and we would all act out how our faces and bodies would look when experiencing this emotion!
  3. Picking an emotion, acting it out, and role playing a coping strategy to “walk through” that feeling!  Whether this means calming down or gaining more energy, or expressing anger!
  4. TIP:  Always teach when a child is calm/regulated.  Asking them to use a Kimochi or teaching expression when their already upset is literally going to go in one ear and out the other!  That logical left brain is losing a battle already!

My one year old LOVES to pick up the Kimochi’s and try to imitate the faces!  OR better yet watch me demonstrate the emotion for her, paired with “I feel…”  It’s learning and it’s fun!  

Their website discusses MANY ways you can use these to teach and play!  I hope you have enjoyed some of mine!

*This post is strictly my opinion, and my positive experience with using Kimochis.  It is in no way sponsored by this product. 


Attention SkillsWhat does it mean to “PAY ATTENTION”?What does it mean to give your “FULL attention”?  Attention is a complex skill for children and adults alike.  We live in a distracting world.  For some children and adults attention is a strength.  It is easy to TUNE IN.

Their bodies and minds are equipped to lock down and focus in.  There are children who observe what it means to pay attention from watching others and recognizing the patterns of what it looks like to attend in a group. For these students, parents and teachers are able to clap their hands, mime for quiet, flick the lights on and off, or simply say “pay attention”; and immediately their mind’s mode switches from play to lesson plan.

But what about those who struggle to understand and activate this umbrella concept of attention? 

Attending is not a one-step wonder skill.  It is a mind-body process that can be hard to manage at times.  Especially, when learning in new environments, or if you are not as apt at observing through others. As parents and educators, it is important for our children’s future to look past what we may see as frustrating behavior, and instead view attention as a skill we want to help our children thrive in!I will often have clients I work with who will say to me “I am paying attention” strictly because they are sitting at the table.  However, they are not retaining information, frequently forgetting directions, having trouble answering questions, and are constantly in trouble for fidgeting.   They are often reprimanded in classes, but don’t appear to quite understand what it was they did or didn’t do.  We are trying to teach our plans and our materials. We are teaching the information that needs to be learned….but what if  there is a missing link in the chain.

We may need to teach HOW to attend. What does it look like? What does it feel like?

In my practice with my younger clients I was inspired through Social Thinkingâto utilize a wonderful program called Whole Body Listening.  These lessons break down “attention” into concrete pieces that children can physically and mentally focus on and self-monitor.  In the lessons children are taught to listen with much more than their ears, and also HOW they listen with various body parts.  Attention as a Whole Body Process. For example, listening with your eyes by looking at the speaker, listening with your brain by thinking about what is being said, listening with your mouth by being quiet, listening with your hands, body, and legs by keeping them still, and listening with your heart by thinking about others’ feelings in the group.

In short, what do our bodies look like when we are paying attention?  How do others feel when we give them our attention?  What part of our attention system do we need to redirect so that we can get the big picture? 

An activity I will use in my sessions involves just a lump of play dough.  The client and I will leave it on the desk.  We will talk about the play dough being our bodies, and when we notice that one of us is not listening with a body-part we will take a tiny piece of play dough and drop in on the floor, or move it away from the larger piece of playdough.  I usually say something like “Oh no there go my eyes! I wasn’t looking at the game! So I missed my turn!”  I then put my eyes back on what we are doing or on the student and ask if I am listening with my eyes now.  When they identify that yes, I am, they put the playdough piece back on.  It’s important to me that the client realizes that everyone loses attention now and then, even adults! It is also important to model attention.  Even simple responses like “mmhmm” or nodding and “ok” with your body turned toward a speaker while looking at them.  These are signals that we care!

If we are adults struggling with maintaining balanced attention we may need to revisit a similar lesson by practicing self-awareness.

In working with my younger clients on attention I began to notice for the amount of times I say “Ugh I didn’t remember that” I should have actually said “Ugh I didn’t attend to that.”

When I think about the times I struggle with memory, I can usually link it to attention.  I began to take a little self-reflection inventory of my own attention on instances where I would experience “forgetfulness”.  In 90% of those instances I could identify how I was functioning on split attention or even split-split-split attention (Hi adulthood, so nice to meet you!) in that moment.  “I forgot my keys”, turned into, “I decided I needed to put on a very specific podcast, kiss my daughter goodbye, and oh no I forgot my lunch!”

I was surely not attending with my whole body.  The thought of keys flashed before me, but was quickly overtaken by other more “colorful” thoughts as I was leaving.  I now try (being the operative word) to “settle” myself before I know I am going to be in a situation where I need to attend.

For example, I remove distractions when I am trying to get work done (see ya iPhone, Instagram will still be there in an hour).

I also complete a body scan to help center myself, and also bring me back to focus on the “now”. Another technique I have used is a mental “purge”: taking a journal and writing down stressor/worries or “to dos” for 5 minutes before shutting it and moving on to what I want to focus on.  I also take time to recognize what rituals or environmental changes I need to implement: noticing if I need to work with music today, get a different chair, close my door, get water, etc.  I do this prior to starting what requires my utmost attention.

When listening to others I try to make mental notes (about both what they are saying, and how they are feeling).  Connecting, so that they know I am listening.  I will often say to my younger clients “Show me your listening.”

I need to follow my own advice. 


Visual Schedules Can Benefit the Whole Family and the Whole Child 

When working with children I am a HUGE fan of a group plan and using visual aids and schedules to help them anticipate what the sessions will look like, as well as my expectations and what they can expect!  These tools can be SO beneficial in the home as well.  Children benefit tremendously from structure (which we know!) When they have a routine that they are comfortable in they are typically more regulated and generally happier!  BUT, life cannot always be structured exactly the same day in and day out.  However, we can help children find structure in the unstructured.

visual schedule

  1.  Adapted Calendars can help front load (give children information ahead of time).  Front loading can help reduce anxiety, encourage discussions of plans/gaining information, boost pre-academic/planner skills, and encourage organizational skills!  
  2. Create a family calendar using visual aids (especially for non-readers).  I personally prefer actual photos of family members/places.  I ordered this calendar on Amazon, and then adapted it with velcro and family photos!  
  3. Each night make it a family routine to “update” your calendar.  It could be as simple as School, home with Dad, Play, Homework, etc.  Make it as involved or simple as what benefits your child.  Maybe you have a child that struggles with keeping organized.  Ex: place a backpack symbol on the calendar at the end of each day to signify they need to go through their backpack.  
  4. If you have a child that needs to practice speech sounds for articulation homework put it on the calendar as 5 minutes of practice!  You don’t need anymore than that.  
  5. If you know there is going to be a big change in routine the next day go over that on the calendar with your child.  Talk about where you’re going, what you will need, what you may be able to look forward to, maybe a special treat at the end!  Make it your own! 

***Remember your child may not be super willing to engage in this activity at first, but keep at it!! Establishing new routines can be hard, but this is one that will definitely benefit them in the long run!  And maybe just maybe it will help you experience more calm and less meltdowns! 


At home activity using “How Full is Your Bucket for Kids” – Tom Rath & Mary Reckmeyer

This is a WONDERFUL book for bringing awareness to how our thoughts, feelings, and actions are all interconnected.  Learning to reflect on our own thoughts and feelings, helps us to see how treating others the way we want to be treated affects not just us, but those around us as well!  KINDNESS IS CONTAGIOUS!  Here is the activity to pair with the book.  I encourage parents to reflect on what fills and depletes their own buckets before beginning the book with your child.  It will help both of you with deeper learning.

  1. Materials: Measuring cups/measuring spoons, clear bowl or bucket, food dye if you want to add an extra little color!
  2. Sit down as a family and read “How Full is Your Bucket for Kids”.  I recommend having you and your children act out parts of the book if you can!  Acting out scenes in books is linked to benefits such as higher reading comprehension and increased public speaking skills!
  3. Point out what the characters are thinking, feeling, and DOING.  Talk about what thoughts make the character feel good (positive inner coach!), and what thoughts cause the character to feel down.  Which thoughts/actions/events add to his bucket, and which take water out.
  4. Get your own bucket ready!  While you’re pouring water in, ask your child to name what adds to their bucket, AND what amount.  THIS IS WHERE THE MEASURING CUPS COME IN!  Have your child add water in different amounts, since some things REALLY add to our bucket, while other things add but maybe not as much!
  5. Do the same thing when talking about the things that deplete our bucket, since some things take a lot and some take a little!
  6. NEXT! And this is an important one!  Come up with some “inner coach” phrases or memories your child can use/say to themselves when they are in a position that may drain their bucket.  Little mantras if you will! Hang them on the front door, the bathroom mirror, wherever you can to make them visible!  Having positive mantras around your house is a great way to keep the energy high!
  7. Keep the buckets out!  During family outings take photos and then once home talk about what you did (using the photos as visual reminders!) discuss which parts added to their buckets, and maybe took water away (maybe traffic?!)
  8. The more you practice, and use emotional vocabulary the more awareness you bring!  Talking about feelings is a great way to build social and emotional learning into everyday activities!  Benefits for the whole family!

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What’s On YOUR Mental Plate 

Diet is a popular topic no matter what age we are.  We are consistently being reminded to be mindful of what we and our families eat. It’s important and we know it!

They say “You are what you eat.”

But you are really what you THINK. 

Do you ever feel run down? Like you have no time for yourself, let alone for others? So what is on your mental plate?  Are you mindful of the activities that fill, challenge, reward, or deplete your brain on a daily and weekly basis?  How much work is too much work?  How little play is too little play?  What are you doing to positively feed your brain as well as your body? We are all individuals, with individual minds and bodies that require individual diets. As adults it is easy to say “I’m just too busy…..”, but what this can means is “I am choosing to focus my time and energy elsewhere”.  Do you know exactly where, and how much time you are spending your energy?  An activity that can help with increasing this level of self-awareness is actually physically tracking where and how you spend your time each day.   Portioning out your mental plate.  ALL of it! Move over leafy greens……time to chew on some mental game changers.

Taking a simple planner jot down the activities during your day and the amount of time they take. Visually seeing openings, or fluff (40 minutes scrolling social media), can help you achieve that Aha! Moment where you can begin to realize it is possible to include valuable and INTENTIONAL time for yourself!  You do have time to do one that brings you JOY.  Maybe you can discover an area that is taking up LOTS of time, and brainstorm strategies to decrease it.  Take that opening that you can now SEE in your calendar (there you are 15 extra minutes!) and schedule that goal you have had on your mind!  It can be as simple as making a tea, and visualizing how to organize a section of your home or life in order to reduce stress. Maybe it’s a five-minute journal activity or a 10-minute workout.  Throughout the day we need time to let our brains experience emotional learning through those things that make us feel good!  Your time is your most valuable asset, and you can make choices, through self-awareness exercises, to make the most of it!

I teach this concept of time awareness and “giving back to your brain” to my students and clients, from activities I have learned in Social Thinking©.  I want them to know they can choose to reward themselves with time, rather than simply passing it.  I have used a wall clock and different colored dry erase markers to teach this skill.  The students portion out the time they think it will take to complete activities, the time they need for “brain breaks”, and the time they would want to themselves using the different colored markers.  You can also purchase a Time Timer for yourself or child, and set the timer to the amount decided to complete the activity, or for a break.  These visuals help my students and clients see how much of their time is spent in different areas.  When they visually see what they need to get done, and set a time goal, they are typically excited to find out they have more time for themselves at the end of a session!  A few skill sets are strengthened: intrinsic motivation, self-awareness, executive functioning and, organizational skills!

mental plate