Windmills strengthen and tone the entire body, making them a popular warm- up exercise in physical education, yoga, and martial arts. Windmills are also good for improving brain power. Moving opposite limbs across the body engages the brain and integrates brain hemispheres.
What are the Benefits?
Windmills stretch your arms, shoulders, core and lower back. Windmills are also a core exercise as you use your core muscles to twist and return to an upright position.
Cognitively, windmills strengthen the brain. Windmills require your child to cross midline, which refers to being able to reach across the body with arms or legs. Midline is an imaginary line down the center of your body. Being able to cross midline is an important developmental skill that is linked to reading and writing.
What to Say.
Stand up tall in Mountain Pose with your feet apart.
Take a deep breath in. Stand up taller.
As you breathe out, bend over and touch your right foot with the left hand.
Breathe in as you stand up.
Time to switch sides. Keep going!
Windmills are a fun and easy brain break. They can be done almost anywhere and best of all they are building brain power! Want more easy ways to build your child’s brain? Join us for an aerial yoga class or read Mindfulness for Children.
With the stress and uncertainty in the world today mindfulness resources are needed more than ever. Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive effects of mediation and mindfulness on physical and psychological health. Mindfulness can help your child develop an inner calm and happiness. Even though using an app to be mindful seems contrary to yoga and mindfulness, desperate times require desperate measures. The coronavirus has closed avenues to yoga and mindfulness in person and left us in a world of social distancing, requiring us to step out of our comfort zones and try new ways to practice mindfulness. Here are a few of my favorite mindfulness apps:
Smiling Minds. This FREE app was developed by psychologists and educators and has mindfulness programs from age seven to adults.
Headspace. The Headspace app teaches meditation and mindfulness in just a few minutes a day. It offers breathing techniques, visualization, and special programs for kids.
Stop, Breathe, & Think. This friendly app was made to guide people of all ages through meditations on mindfulness and compassion. It even has features designed specifically for kids.
Breathe, Think, Do, with Sesame. Sesame Street is a wonderful resource for not only mindfulness, but growth mindset as well. Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame is a research-based app that helps your child learn Sesame’s strategy for problem-solving to teach his monster friend to take deep breaths!
According to science, yoga has a multitude of health and mood benefits. The benefits of yoga are boosted if you pair it with mindfulness. If you want to add a little movement to your child’s mindfulness practice, there are several places to practice yoga online. For the next few weeks, online yoga may be the only option. Here are a few of my favorite online yoga resources for families.
Cosmic Kids. Cosmic Kids offers free online adventures for kids. The Cosmic Kids website has lesson plans and guided meditation scripts that are reasonably priced. There is even a free Cosmic Kids lesson plan sample!
Yoga Ed. Yoga Ed teaches the basics of yoga and mindfulness through breathing exercises, yoga poses, games, visualizations, and relaxation activities. They have different yoga themes and age ranges to choose from, making this an easy way for kids to have a yoga and mindfulness practice at home.
Yoga and mindfulness are powerful ways to calm down kids and sharpen their minds. Even though times may be scary and unprecedented, remember to engage in self-care and model healthy lifestyle choices. Children learn by example…
The ancient yogi’s thought we had monkey minds, with our thoughts randomly jumping from branch to branch. But they also recognized that even the wildest little monkeys can be mindful too. Monkey Mindfulness allows children to act like monkeys and then use the calming power of their breath slow down.
What are the benefits?
Monkey bites are a healthy, fun snack for children. Bananas are full of potassium. Peanut butter has protein and healthy fats, making this a great snack for little growing bodies. Introducing a little chaos and then using the breath to calm the mind teaches children to self-regulate.
What to say.
We are going to pretend to be monkeys. Monkeys jump from branch to branch just like our thoughts sometimes do.
Stand up and jump across the room just like monkeys. Let’s hop on one foot, now the other foot. Wow, you were fantastic monkeys.
How can we calm our monkey minds? Right, with our breath! Sit in Easy Seated Pose and take ten big balloon breaths.
Mindfully eat some monkey bites. Look carefully at your banana. What do you see? Smell? What do you taste?
Now we are going to add something to dip our bananas in. I’m going to put a little powered peanut butter on your plate.
Using your mindfulness skills, be a food detective and notice how the peanut butter changed your banana.
Take a bite dipped in peanut butter. What do you see, smell, and taste?
How did it taste different from the first bite without the peanut butter?
Want your child to learn more ways to be mindful? Sign up for a camp or class!
Do you remember making paper creations as a child? Once you learned the initial folds the practice of folding the paper became calming and meditative. Origami is a peaceful art activity that can promote mindfulness in the form of a focused attention meditation. Focus is required to fold the paper correctly and your child’s sense of touch is activated keeping him engaged as he makes the folds. There is also the intrinsic reward of making something wonderful out of an ordinary piece of paper.
What are the Benefits?
Mindfold Butterfly helps children build patience, focus, and concentration. Mindfold Butterfly also enhances relaxation and eye hand coordination. This activity improves executive functioning skills and mindful awareness.
What to Say.
Let’s make a mindfold origami butterfly. Origami is an art activity where you fold paper to make amazing mindful creations. Remember to breathe in and out through your nose and really focus on your folds. Sometimes origami can be tricky if you haven’t done it before so we need to really engage all of our senses and be mindful. Remember to use kind words to yourself and keep trying even though it may be a little challenging. I’m going to play some music while we fold.
These are the steps to mindfully fold your paper:
Fold your origami paper in half (vertically). Then unfold it. Make sure there is a crease
Next, fold the paper in half (horizontally). Then unfold it.
Fold the top left point down to meet the bottom right point of the paper. It is a diagonal fold (making a triangle). Then unfold it.
Fold the top right point down to meet the bottom left point of the paper. It is a diagonal fold (making a triangle). Then unfold it.
Bring the two middle folds together (right and left middle of paper) and the paper will fold in to itself making a triangle.
Turn the triangle upside down.
Take the right corner and fold it in to make triangle. Take the left corner and do the same thing. The straight edges from the top should line up to make a diamond.
Turn it over so the triangle point is at the top and fold the bottom of the triangle up.
Tuck the tip that sticks out over the top down to make the head, but only do the top piece of paper. Turn it over. Unfold the triangle to make your bottom wings.
Behold your beautiful butterfly! Want to learn more ways to practice mindfulness? Sign-up for a Mindful Child camp! Camps are full of mindfulness and FUN!
Parents, if you need a visual step-by-step guide this YouTube tutorial will show you the origami butterfly folding steps.
Vitamin D is a not only a vitamin, but a hormone as well. As a hormone, it helps with the absorption of calcium, which supports strong bones and muscles. It boosts your child’s brain by activating genes that release brain chemicals that play a role in mood and cognitive processing such as dopamine and serotonin.
Why is it important?
Every tissue in the body has vitamin D receptors, including major organs, such as the brain and heart. Our immune system also needs vitamin D to function. It fights diseases and even reduces the likelihood of developing the flu. When vitamin D is deficient your child’s brain functioning is compromised, which may result in psychological disorders such as depression and ADHD.
How does it boost my child’s brain?
Vitamin D is linked to serotonin. Serotonin is referred to as the “happiness hormone” for a reason. An optimal level of serotonin is of significant importance for the brain and mood. If serotonin is low depression and mental health issues may occur. Research has also linked vitamin D with executive functioning (higher level cognitive skills needed to regulate behavior), memory, and cognitive impairment.
Ways to naturally boost vitamin D:
Spend time in the sunlight. Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because the sun is one of the best ways to receive this nutrient. Science tells us vitamin D from the sun is present twice as long in body than vitamin D from supplements.
Eat fish. Wild-caught fish is rich in vitamin D. Salmon is especially great for the brain and contains about 50% of the daily recommended intake. Other types of fish also contain vitamin D such as shrimp and tuna.
Exercise. Harvard recently showed that vigorous exercise can boost vitamin D. Aerial yoga can be vigorous…
A healthy diet and plenty of sunshine are always the best ways to derive vitamin D. However, if your child is deficient, talk to your doctor about whether a supplement is needed. It’s always important to have levels checked with a blood test to confirm a deficiency and talk to medical professionals about the risks and benefits of supplements before giving your child any kind of supplement. Sunshine and running are free brain-boosting ways to increase vitamin D and best of all, they don’t require blood tests!
Hogberg G, Gustafsson SA, Hallstrom T, et al. Depressed
adolescents in a case-series were low in vitamin D and depression was
ameliorated by vitamin D supplementation. Acta. Paediatrica 101(7),
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Peaceful Pigeon Pose is a yoga restorative pose that is a deep hip stretch for children. If your child has tight hips, a gentler variation is doing this simple stretch on your back. This is a pose that is usually done at the end of a yoga class when hips are more open; thus, it may be better for you child to begin with the modified pigeon on their back and then move to the full version. Afterwards discuss the two versions of pigeon with your child and see which one resonated with them and why.
What are the Benefits?
Peaceful Pigeon stretches the hips, glutes, hamstrings and groin. Peaceful pigeon pose opens the hips. Pigeon pose promotes inner peace. It reduces stress and tension.
What to Say.
We are going to be Peaceful Pigeons. Lay on your back and cross one ankle over the opposite knee. Making a figure four. Flex your toes.
Now lift your knees up. Thread your arms through the triangle between your legs and clasp your hands around the back of your leg.
Breath in and out for 5 breaths.
Bring knees together and rock side to side for a moment before switching sides. Notice how you feel.
We are going to be Peaceful Pigeons one more time, but in this version our pigeon is going to sit up tall and puff out his chest.
Begin in Down Dog. Bring your right knee forward toward your right hand. Angle your knee to the right and slide your shin forward as much as comfortable.
Extend your left leg out long behind you. Try to not lean to one side or the other.
Take a deep breath in as you sit up tall. Breath in and out for three breaths.
Tuck your toes and come into Down Dog for a moment before switching side. Notice how you feel.
Peaceful pigeon can be done on the ground, in a hammock, or even facing a friend! If your child has tight hips or just needs a little stress reduction sign them up for one of our aerial yoga + mindfulness 12-week session!
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 psychology, 8, 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 psychiatry, 8, 41. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-8-41
Teaching fun, therapeutic, aerial yoga and mindfulness to children