All posts by Tracy Daniel

Tracy is a trained yoga professional, certified in both hatha and kundalini yoga. She is certified in yoga levels 1-3 from the world-renowned Radiant Child Yoga (RYC) program. She is also certified in brain gym.

Mindful Art with Blo-Pens

Blo-Pens Mindful Art

Mindful Art Materials

What is Blo-Pen Mindful Art?

Blo-pens combine mindful art and breathing all at once.   Blo-pens give art an airbrushed look and require extra focus and concentration to create pictures. In the middle of a poster board write the word mindfulness in big letters then let the creativity begin.   Allow your child to draw their mindfulness pictures with colored pencils and then color in the picture with the blo-pens.

Benefits

Art and breathing combined double the calming efforts.  Using blo-pens to color in pictures increases attention and decreases stress.    Creating art boosts creativity, self-esteem, and your child’s artistic ability.  Blo-pens enhance deep breathing and mindful awareness.

What to Say

  • We are going to make mindful art with our breath! Mindfulness is written in the middle of your poster board.  Using colored pencils write words and/or draw pictures of your favorite mindfulness activities. 
  • Then we will use the blo-pens to color in the pictures we are have drawn.  For example, I wrote relax and I drew a picture of myself laying in mummy pose.  I made a tree as it is one of my favorite yoga poses. I then wrote calm, balanced, and focused on the branches.  I made a yoga hammock with a heart since I love aerial yoga.  
  • Draw and/or write mindfulness activities that help you feel calm and happy.  Choose your colors mindfully and notice what it feels like to color with the blo-pens. 
  • Reflect on the activity, by asking, “How did using the blo-pens differ from drawing with the colored pencils? Was it harder or easier to focus?” 

Looking for mindful art ideas? Sign up for one of our “Mommy and Me” classes or check out our blog on Lavender Cloud Dough!

Brain-Focused Strategies for Focus

Kid’s Mindfulness and Aerial Yoga

Focus is defined as the center of interest or activity. Focusing your attention on what is happening in the moment is part of being mindful. A easy way for children to improve attention is by focusing on their bodies. Brain-based strategies encourage children to notice their breath and heartbeat, and pay attention to how it changes during and after movement. Learning to notice these internal changes will help enhance focus and resilience.

Four Brain-Based Strategies to Improve Focus

  • Breath Work. Teaching children to control their breath can help them become less reactive when feeling anxious or stressed. Paying attention to breathing also supports functioning in the higher brain regions responsible for cognitive processing, such as the prefrontal cortex. A one minute breathing practice can prime the brain for learning!
  • Yoga. Yoga poses, especially balancing poses require concentration and strength. Paying attention to the sensations in the body, whether active or moving, is an important step in enhancing mindful awareness.
  • Mindfulness. For children, mindfulness is defined as the practice of paying attention, with the senses. Mindfulness fosters the ability to become more connected to the body and mind, which improves awareness and focus.
  • Guided Relaxation. Relaxation stories calm the body and mind. They encourage a healthy imagination and develop body awareness. Not able to come up stories on your own? Stress Free Kids is a great website for relaxation stories.

In Summary,

At Mindful Child, we combine social and emotional learning with aerial yoga to teach children self-control. We use brain-based strategies to help children deepen their understanding of their own mental processes. When children are aware of their brain-body connection they are more resilient, confident, and focused. Neuroscience tells us that practicing brain-based activities will enhance receptivity to learning in both academic and social-emotional areas.

Mindfulness Sequence for Reducing Stress

kids mindfulness kansas city

Children are faced with many stressors, such as friends, homework, school, and inadequate sleep. This mindful yoga sequence emphasizes stress reduction to create a sense of calm, while enhancing mindful awareness, focus, and executive functioning.

Begin with Mindful Yoga Breathing

Lay down on your back. Close your eyes, place one hand on your heart and one on your lower belly. Bring the soles of your feet together to form butterfly legs. Notice your heartbeat and breath. Take ten deep breaths in and out through the nose. Fill your hands go up as you breathe in and down as your breathe out.

Add Some Mindful Yoga Movement

Stand up in Mountain Pose and move through a slow sun salutation three times. Breathe deeply in and out through the nose. Take a few extra breaths in inversions such as Forward Fold and Down Dog Pose. When your head is upside down it is calming to the nervous system.

More Mindfulness

Choose a comfortable position. Take a few deep breaths to settle in. Stare at an object you’ve chosen such as a visual timer. Let it fill up your gaze and mind. Tune everything else out. When your mind starts to wander, notice it, and bring it back. When your timer ends, close your eyes and try to keep the object you have been gazing at fixed in your mind. Take a few deep breaths, and when you are ready open your eyes.

End with a Relaxation Story

Find a comfortable position. Place an eye pillow with Young Living lavender essential oil over your eyes. Read one of the relaxation stories from Mindfulness for Children, to your child or make up your own. Try to include progressive muscle relaxation in your story. After your mindfulness practice reflect on the experience with your child. Have them notice how they feel and ask what they enjoyed with most. This will broaden your awareness of the activities that resonated with your child.

Coping Skills for Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are the most common childhood-onset psychiatric disorders. Anxiety disorders in children are associated with educational underachievement and co-occurring psychiatric conditions, as well as functional impairments that can extend into adulthood.

The most recognizable cognitive pattern in anxiety is worry. The child ruminates on “what if” thoughts about negative events that might happen in the future. Worrying is an attempt to prepare and to feel in control. Unfortunately, the brain treats every “what if” thought as something that WILL happen rather than as something that MIGHT happen. This activates the fight or flight reaction even when no actual danger or threat is present.

With coping skills training, your child learns to relax at the first sign of the stress response.  They are able to counter the “what if” thoughts with coping thoughts when faced with a challenging situation.

What are the Benefits of Coping Skills Training?

Coping skills training reduces stress and anxiety. It can improve sleep, happiness and resilience. Coping skills training improves relaxation and calmness, while promoting the ability to manage difficult emotions.

Step One: Relax and Be Mindful

Coping Skills Training at Mindful Child Aerial Yoga is made up of evidence-based relaxation techniques. Here are some of the techniques we use at Mindful Child:

You can significantly reduce stress and anxiety with these techniques, but it will take daily practice. Additionally, the techniques should be taught in the order listed above. Deep diaphragmatic breathing should always be taught first. Poor breathing habits diminish the flow of gases to and from your child’s body, making it harder for them to cope with stressful situations. In addition, to following the specified order it is important to make the activities FUN. My book, Mindfulness for Children: 150+ Mindfulness Activities for Happier, Healthier, Stress-Free Kids, contains breathing and relaxation techniques specifically for children. Better yet – if you are in the Kansas City area, sign-up your child up for a aerial yoga and mindfulness class, camp or kid’s yoga night out.

References

Ma, X., Yue, Z. Q., Gong, Z. Q., Zhang, H., Duan, N. Y., Shi, Y. T., … Li, Y. F. (2017). The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults. Frontiers in psychology8, 874. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874

Manzoni, G. M., Pagnini, F., Castelnuovo, G., & Molinari, E. (2008). Relaxation training for anxiety: a ten-years systematic review with meta-analysis. BMC psychiatry8, 41. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-8-41

Immune Boosting Super Breakfast

For better or worse your child’s brain and overall health is affected by what he eats. To stay healthy and happy your child needs a strong brain and a strong immune system. Science tells us that kids that start their day with a healthy breakfast miss fewer days of school due to illness. If your child starts the day filled with an immune boosting super breakfast their body is full of germ-fighting goodness to help keep them healthy, calm, and focused all day long!

A Super Yummy, Superfood Breakfast Recipe

Ingredients

Mix the yogurt, protein, and honey together. Add in the berries (a variety is better for the brain), and sprinkle Bunches of Crunches on the top. Voilà – in 10 minutes you have made your little one a superfood breakfast that will prime her brain for learning.

What is Bunches of Crunches?

Bunches of Crunches is yummy GRAINola that is filled with superfoods such as amaranth, chia, and millet. The super grains are combined with dark chocolate and sea salt making it amazingly delicious.

Why use Young Living Protein Powder?

Young Living’s protein blend is like no other. The delicious Vanilla Spice and Chocolate blends offer 25 grams of protein and provide essential amino acids for the brain and body. Pure protein complete contains tyrosine, which feeds the focusing chemical messengers (dopamine and norepinephrine). It also contains tryptophan, which feeds serotonin, a calming chemical messenger. Lastly, it contains glutamic acid, which feeds GABA, another important calming neurotransmitter. By adding Young Living pure protein complete to your child’s diet you are supplying them with the perfect blend of alertness and calmness.

In summary, loading your child’s breakfast with super foods may improve grades, enhance attention, and keep your little one healthy. Gluten free, healthy foods are not tasteless, in fact, they are great-tasting if you find the right products. So start your child’s day off with superfoods so they are super ready to learn. Avoid the junk foods – after all you are what you eat…

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Relaxation Training Quickly Calms the Body and the Mind

Applied relaxation training brings together a number of evidence-based relaxation techniques. The combined effect of these techniques helps reverse the effects of stress quickly and powerfully. Mindful Child Aerial Yoga classes incorporate a variety of research-backed relaxation exercises to help children calm themselves, when they encounter a stressful situation. For this blog, we will focus on one of our favorites, progressive muscle relaxation.

What is Progressive Relaxation Training?

The technique of progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) was developed by Jacobson in 1944. Yes, it has been around a LONG time. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) consists of tensing and relaxing individual muscle groups. It helps children to develop body awareness and teaches them how to release muscle tension. When your child practices PMR exercises, they may start from the top of the body and progress to the bottom, or vice versa depending on the exercise. Progressing through muscle groups sequentially makes it easier for children to follow along.

What are the Benefits?

Progressive Muscle Relaxation helps your child recognize the difference between tension and relaxation in each of the major muscle groups. This relaxation technique develops body awareness and has been clinically proven to reduce anxiety, stress, and pain.

What does the Research Say?

  • After a 12-week relaxation program, researchers observed significant decreases in young athletes confusion, depression, fatigue, tension, and anger scores. (Hashim, Hanafi, & Yusof, 2011).
  • Thayer, Newman, and McClain (1994) found exercise to be the most effective mood-regulating behavior. However, their research discovered the best strategy to change a bad mood is a combination of relaxation, stress management, cognitive, and exercise techniques. Hmmm…sounds like our aerial yoga classes.
  • Lupen and associates (1976) studied the effect of PMR on hyperactive children. Significant improvements were noted in behavior, attention, concentration, and cognition. Frequency of practice was positively linked with improvement. This means the more the children practiced the more they improved.

Kid’s Aerial Yoga and Progressive Muscle Relaxation

At Mindful Child, we incorporate PMR into our ending relaxation story. We do this in our mindfulness therapeutic sessions and in our aerial yoga classes. PMR is introduced in the aerial hammock, which adds an element of fun to the exercises. PMR does not have to be taught in an aerial yoga hammock to reduce stress, all that is needed is a quiet environment and a comfortable position.

References

Hashim, H. A., & Hanafi Ahmad Yusof, H. (2011). The effects of progressive muscle relaxation and autogenic relaxation on young soccer players’ mood states. Asian journal of sports medicine2(2), 99–105. doi:10.5812/asjsm.34786

Lehrer PM. Varieties of relaxation methods and their unique effects. Int J Stress Manage. 1996;3:1–14. [Google Scholar]

Thayer RE, Newman R, McClain TM. Self-regulation of mood: strategies for changing a bad mood, raising energy, and reducing tension. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1994;67:910–25. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Lupen, M., Braud, L., Braud, W, & Derer, W. (1976). Children, parents, and relaxation tapes. Academic Therapy, 12, 105-113

Aerial Yoga Hammock Tips For Home Use

Is your child hooked on our amazing aerial yoga classes?  Are they begging for their own aerial yoga hammock for home use?   If so, this is the blog for you!

Why Buy An Aerial Yoga Hammock?

Aerial yoga gives children the feeling of safe, weightless flight. Participation in an aerial yoga class has a wide range of benefits for children of all ages, such as cognitive, neurological, motor, and developmental.

There are multiple therapeutic and sensory benefits associated with aerial yoga.   Not only is your child having fun, they are strengthening all aspects of their health. Yoga in the aerial hammocks is a great tool to regulate the central nervous system, increase body awareness, and help children become aware of their own social and emotional needs so they can self-regulate their behavior.

What type of aerial yoga hammock is best for my child?

Aerial hammocks are available in single or double point.  Preference is typically individualized as each type of hammock has it’s advantages.

At Mindful Child, we have specially designed our Mindful Child hammocks to move easily from a single point to a double point depending on what poses we are doing. This way we can have the best of both worlds!

Single Point Hammock. The single point allows for lots of spinning and hours of fun and is better suited for children who like fluid movement and spinning.

Double Point Hammock. The double point allows for more stability.  There is a gentle rocking motion, but you do not spin.  The double point is easier to swing in and sway side-to-side.

Swivel. Rotational devices or Swivels are not necessary for Aerial Yoga Hammocks, but they do allow an additional spinning component to single point hammock use.  Swivels also decrease the force placed on the attachment point.

Mindful Child Aerial Yoga uses swivels, while performing single point poses, to allow versatility with hammock use, full movement in all planes, decreased twisting of hammock straps, smoothness with movement and extra fun!   Most kids love how the swivel adds a sense of flow to movement in the hammock and allows a spinning component, but some kids and adults can be overwhelmed by spinning, which can lead to nausea.

Where Should I Buy An Aerial Yoga Hammock?

Not all hammocks are created equal and do not move the same.  We recommend buying hammocks from Mindful Child Aerial Yoga.  Sorry, we are a little bit biased.  Our hammocks are made from the best aerial fabric on the market.  They are strong, soft, and easy to clean!  Mindful Child  fabric has been safety tested to 2,000 pounds.  These aerial hammocks are machine washable and can be placed in the dryer, which is important if you want to kill viruses lurking on the material.

When buying equipment or a hammock make sure you use only high quality, safety rated equipment.  We use Black Diamond safety rated climbing gear.  REI and MooseJaw also provide safety tested equipment.

How Do I Rig A Hammock at Home?

Ceilings vary, which makes it difficult to give advice on how to hang hammocks.  Safety should never be comprised to save a few dollars.  It’s important to have the hammock installed by a licensed contractor that understands aerial rigging.  All hammocks need a strong support beam, a six foot diameter, and padded flooring beneath the hammock.

Once your hammock is installed be prepared for reduced stress, improved happiness and hours spent moving, creating and playing!

 

Four Ways to Reduce ADHD Symptoms

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a complex disorder that can affect individuals across the lifespan. In recent years, ADHD has been on the rise in children. Neuroscience has shown us that Dopamine, a neurotransmitter important in mood regulation, is lower in the brains of children with ADHD. Additionally, the brains of individuals with ADHD are structurally different with reduced volume in regions responsible for focus and attention such as the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum.

The good news is…

The good news is the brain has neuroplasticity, which means that it can grow and change with stimulation and the right nutrient intake.

Enhance your child’s well-being using these strategies:

  1. Limit processed foods. Children should eat real, whole foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, and seeds.  Whole foods are full of nutrients that your child’s brain and body needs to function correctly.  A whole food diet can aid in neurotransmitter production, cognition, and enhance health.  You do not need to eliminate all packaged and processed foods, but significantly reducing processed foods is the best thing you can do for your child’s health.
  2. Reduce sugar intake. Sugar is harmful to all kids, but it is especially harmful to those with ADHD. Research has found that sugar can dysregulate levels of dopamine, which are already lower in children with ADHD. Added sugar, that is processed and doesn’t occur naturally in whole foods such as fruits, is harmful to the brain and body. One can of soda contains 10 teaspoons or more of added sugar, which is more than the daily minimum, not to mention the other harmful artificial ingredients such corn syrup.
  3. Load up on healthy fats. Healthy fats are good for the brain and nervous system because both, are mostly made up of fats. Omega-3s are an example of healthy fats that reduce inflammation. Healthy fats can be found in nuts, salmon, and avocados. These fats keep your child’s brain healthy by helping neurotransmitters function properly.
  4. Exercise regularly. Exercise helps dopamine functioning. It is not only important for physical health, but mental health as well. Movement promotes the release of “feel good chemicals” such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. Our favorite form of exercise is aerial yoga. Other forms of exercise such as running, biking, swimming and karate are also good for the brain and body.
  5. Be Mindful. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention on purpose. When your child practices mindfulness it trains their brain to slow down and focus.

In Summary,

If your child has ADHD, you can reduce symptoms naturally by exercising regularly, eating healthy fats, reducing sugar, practicing mindfulness, and limiting processed foods.

References

Schnoll R, Burshteyn D, Cea-Aravena J. Nutrition in the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a neglected but important aspect. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2003;28:63–75. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

Kim WK, Cho S. Sugar and cognitive performance. Korean J Nutr. 2007;40(Suppl):50–65. [Google Scholar]

Christiansen, L., Beck, M. M., Bilenberg, N., Wienecke, J., Astrup, A., & Lundbye-Jensen, J. (2019). Effects of Exercise on Cognitive Performance in Children and Adolescents with ADHD: Potential Mechanisms and Evidence-based Recommendations. Journal of clinical medicine8(6), 841. doi:10.3390/jcm8060841

Gratitude Journal

This week our camp theme was gratitude. At Camp Gratitude we made mini gratitude journals. When children think of things they are grateful for it activates the calming part of the nervous system. This helps children to feel not only calmer, but happier. With school getting ready to start, now is a perfect time to make the gratitude journal a healthy habit. Every morning, before school, have your child write or draw one thing he is grateful for in a journal or on the bathroom mirror. What a great way for a child to start, not only their day, but their new school year!

Here are a few prompts to get you started. Ask her to write or draw about:

  • A person you appreciate.
  • A place that makes you happy.
  • An item you love (e.g., backpack, waffles, bike).
  • A skill or ability you are awesome at.
  • A person who makes you laugh.
  • Your favorite song.
  • Something that you accomplished that made you feel good.
  • A sport or hobby you enjoy.
  • A pet you love.
  • A teacher who showed you kindness.

Benefits

Learning to be grateful helps children to develop executive function skills, which are higher level cognitive skills needed to self-regulate. Being grateful increases mindfulness and compassion for others. Being grateful can shift your child’s mood and enhance her overall well-being.

What to Say

  • Did you know that practicing being grateful can make you feel happier and healthier?
  • Each morning think of one thing you are grateful for and write or draw it.
  • Notice how you feel.

Check out our mini gratitude journal from Camp Gratitude.

Want to learn more ways to help children be grateful?  Sign up for  Mindful Child Teacher Training or buy my book, Mindfulness for Children.

Daniel, T., Mindfulness for Children. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2018

Health Benefits of Summer Camps

Kid’s today face daily stresses on the mind and body. Summer camps are a great way for kids to unplug from technology, reduce stress and enhance physical and mental health. Way to go summer camps!

Here are some of the recognized benefits that our yoga + mindfulness summer camps can provide your child:

  • Boosts Brain Power! Science tells us yoga and mindfulness can promote healthy brain development and boost resilience.
  • Builds Life Skills. Yoga and mindfulness helps children learn self-control, kindness, gratitude, patience, and other important life skills.
  • Cultivates Learning. Children need to move to learn. Cross-lateral movements integrate both sides of the brain, which enhances learning.
  • Reduces Stress. Mindfulness teaches kids to be less reactive to daily stressors. Deep diaphragmatic breathing is quick way to calm the nervous system. The best part is kids can do it anytime and anywhere.
  • Promotes Strength and Flexibility. All of your child’s bodily systems are supported by movement. Yoga strengthens and stretches your child’s entire body.
  • Inspires Happiness. Research tells us a consistent yoga and mindfulness practice produces GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitter that plays in an important part in your child’s mental health. Increased GABA leads to feelings of relaxation and happiness. Yay GABA!

This blog focuses on the benefits of our Mindful Child camps, but camps, in general, are a wonderful way to promote health and reduce screen time. Regardless of the camp you choose, most summer camps have many character building experiences and offer exercises that build confidence and self-esteem. They are also a great way to explore different hobbies without a long term commitment.