Off in the clouds…Mindfulness for children

If we live as we breath, take in and let go, we cannot go wrongClarissa Pinkola Estes

Mindfulness…for children?…Really, how does that work?

It does. Amazingly.

Yoga for children and families is my passion. I enjoy finding endlessly creative ways of putting yogic philosophy, mindfulness approaches and themes such as acceptance and self-compassion, into something meaningful and relatable to children.

Off with the clouds activity…

This week in my kids and family classes we were off with the clouds, seeing them float into view and away again.

We started sitting quietly, picturing a clear blue sky.

A pure, light colour.

Bliss.

We felt a gentle, cool breeze that tickled our face. This light wind swept a small fluffy cloud into our view.

Perhaps a few more after that too. These clouds were different shapes and sizes. They all swept across our view.

But then, they blew away.

Leaving behind that pure blue sky that was always there.

More clouds came, and more clouds went.

A thought is harmless unless we believe it.
It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering.
Byron Katie

I asked the children to count for 5 breaths then open their eyes. When I asked them whether any more clouds, or thoughts, had popped up during their counting. It was a resounding yes. Nearly everyone could tell me what they were thinking about. All sorts came out…from lovely memories with siblings, to worries about sick pets going to the vets that day, to spending time with grandparents.

With a huge bag of cotton wool balls, we made these thoughts into clouds on the floor. Some clouds were small and light, some were big and dark (these resembled more worrisome thoughts). No clouds were good or bad. We remembered how they all come into our sky, but then they are blown away.

I gave everyone a straw and asked them all to lie on their bellies and line up on one side of the clouds. We then worked together to use our huge belly breathe to blow the clouds to the other side. Using the breath this way helps develop children’s abdominal strength. Laying on the floor whilst doing this also helps them to connect to the breath coming from their belly, as they can feel their bellies press into the ground as they expand.

The children giggled, and worked together to blow the clouds across the sky.

When the children had gotten half way through moving the clouds, we then played ‘toe-ga’. The children picked up a cloud with their toes, balanced on the spot standing on one leg for 5 breaths, then hopped the cloud to the other side.

I asked the children to alternate their feet to make the game that little bit more mindful, as we tend to be right side dominant and automatically only use the same leg!

This activity is a nice way to start the class, and can link nicely with weather based yoga poses that highlight how we can often ‘feel’ stormy and chaotic, but then we can come back to calm. Weather happens, we can’t change it, we can adapt to it with umbrella’s or taking shelter, or sometimes we just dance in the rain and sit with whatever the weather is that day. This ability to ‘sit with’ difficult feelings or situations is a huge aspect of Mindfulness, and a huge life skill to learn.

To finish the class, we led on our bellies and imagined floating on a soft, warm cloud. Taking a journey through the skies, under rainbows, feeling the warm sun start to peek out through the clouds, before landing back down to the ground.