Kids in school, kids out of school, where to have school…when the world is full of uncertainty, meditation can calm everyone, even children.
I know you’re thinking, “My kids are too lively to sit quietly for anything!” My experience as a teaching artist has taught me a few tricks for settling them down and getting comfortable. So, tip one: If you’re heading outside, bring something to sit on (like a towel or newspaper).
Next: I take them for a follow-the-leader walk. The walk can happen in a park, in your yard, or in your house. Sometimes I walk fast, sometimes slow. I always stop suddenly (that element of surprise!) mid-walk to point out something fascinating: bluebirds in a nesting box, a lobster boat with pink floats, the sound of the neighbor’s trumpet coming through the open window.
Third is the place you stop. Choose a place you love as the kids will pick up from you how special the spot is. They will also mirror your sudden reactions! I once let out a scream when a big spider dropped onto my bare arm from…who knows where. For the rest of that day, every child who saw any insect, from an ant to a butterfly, screamed.
Sit down in the shade.
Fourth, as a group, lift your hands in the air and take a deep breath. Take two more. Deep, slow breathing calms the mind. Then, simply sit as a group and look at something, without speaking for 3 minutes. You can adjust the length of time for the ages of the kids, for example, 11-year-olds can easily sit for 5 minutes. Tell the kids you will keep track of the time.
Fifth is to ask the kids, “What do you hear?” Ask them to turn their heads from side to side to hear differently. Sounds like wind in the trees, far-away airplanes, and dogs barking all count. They will also discover that humans are noisy!
When the kids start to giggle or get restless, simply say, “You’ll feel calmer if you take a deep breath.” Then take one yourself and continue.
Sixth: find two things, next to each other that contrast in size. Sometimes these things are unexpectedly funny, like a tiny flower hidden in the grass next to a sunflower.
And Seventh: Find beauty in an unexpected place. Beauty could be a shiny ant against the dull bark of a tree, a tiny flower hidden in the grass, a smooth egg-shaped rock on a desk, the pattern on the underside of a sneaker.
These activities are a few of the Eight Treasures, part of chapter one in my new book Into the Woods: Families Making Art with Nature. You can pick it up on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble or request it at your local independent bookstore.