Petitations and Mindful Play for Children
It is possible to practice mindfulness with very young children. I’ve been working at a children’s center for infants to six-year-olds where the adults stay with the children I love teaching them mindfulness.
I leave a lot of what we do up to the kids. I bring a large gym bag full of realist looking cats, dogs, puppies, bunnies, horses, raccoons, guinea pig, sloths and what seems to be their favorites-the unicorns.
We do a Pet Scan Petitation with the stuffed animals where I ask them what the animals are, how they feel, what colors they are, if they have whiskers or tails, if they have a snout or nose, how big they are,
I then ask them if they have pets at home to do a Gratitude Petitation. Most of these kids do. If not, we skip right to their parents. I ask them how much they love their pets or parents and I hold out my hands a little, a bit wider, a bit wider and then as wide a possible. I then ask them how much they love their brothers and sisters. I ask them how much they love their toys. I ask them their favorite foods and how much they love them. I tell them that’s a gratitude meditation and ask them if it makes them feel better.
Next, we usually start with simple songs they can dance to and sing along with. I have stuffed squirrels so they sing two different squirrel songs a few times. They sing a song set to Beethoven’s Fifth and their hands, a pizza song and a few songs that you might remember from your childhood.
We also read a few books. I give them the choice of books that we read and depending on the age of the room (14 months through 6 years) I either read them or talk them through it. They usually choose the book I wrote, Pippi the Puppy Learns Mindfulness first because of the bright pictures of a puppy and her rabbits on the front cover. I also read Frog and Toad stories, Curious George, Richard Scary, and the Grumpy Monkey along with others. The kids, even the young ones have an incredible attention span.
I bring all sorts of other toys with me for the kids to play with including these stretchy rubber band things that look like gummy worms but much chagrin of the kids, you don’t eat them, kaleidoscopes, snow globes with penguins inside, mini lava lamps minus the lights, crayons to color black and white pages from the Pippi the Puppy books, stress balls, and bubbles.
Once I had two little girls take all of the stuffed animals out of the bag and lay on them. Then a two-year-old came in the room crying. They walked some animals over to the little girl and led her back with them and she stopped crying. It was so endearing.
The class runs from 30-40 minutes and most of the kids stay the whole time. I now range from 1-10 kids at a time, the perfect amount being about 6 kids.
The class is tons of fun for me and the kids and all of us keep our energy level up in order to make sure the kids have a good time and learn to be mindful at the same time.