by Lisa S. Wzorek, MA, OTR/L
I wanted to share a few activities that can be done to help our children (and ourselves) practice mindfulness, based on last week’s post. One activity is a tried and true one in my family, and the other is a new one that we tried over this past week.
One thing that I loved doing as a shy and introverted kid to be calm and away from my loud family was building a fort. It was usually a small, dark space but it was my own space and a great getaway. Lots of people and classrooms these days use tents as a “calm corner” for our children to have a place to be calm. When my son was younger, I discovered a fun and easy way to make a tent without the need to purchase another item: simply putting a sheet over our table! Then we would pile blankets, pillows and stuffed animals inside. Calm and relaxing! The one we made in the picture below is using a lighter sheet. You can make use a dark sheet or blanket to make the space darker. You can also put your child’s favorite toys, books, light up toys and wands, and flashlights.
Another activity is making a Mindfulness Jar. You can google this and find different names for it, such as Calming Jar, Meditation Jar, Time-Out Jar, etc. I found two simple recipes that work really well and, if you are a crafter, you may already have all of the ingredients at home.
For the calming jar, you can use an empty plastic bottle or a glass jar. If you have a child that tends to throw objects, the plastic bottle may be your best option. You can use white glue if that is what you have, too. This activity is, in itself, very calming! Fill your container about 1/3 of the way with glue, add about 2 tablespoons of glitter (or however much you want!), then fill the rest of the way with warm water from the tap. At this time, you can add 1-2 drops of food coloring into the mix if you like. Cap it and shake it up until all of the ingredients are mixed together. Here are some of our finished products:
You may be wondering…what do you do with the jars and how do they work? Sit with the jars when you need a calm moment and give them a good shake. Set the jar down and watch the glitter swirl. Focus on the movement of the glitter and take some nice, deep breaths. Focusing and breathing helps to calm our brains and our bodies. Do this until the glitter settles down; then do it again, if you like! When you do this with your child, describe what is happening in the jar. This will help them to focus just on the movement of the glitter and to be mindful.
The act of “doing” with both of these activities has both strengthening and healing components. We’ve already pointed out the aspect of mindfulness and calming. But making our tent and our jars also taps into problem-solving, motor planning, visual motor skills, visual perceptual skills and fine motor skills. Maybe even some math if you are able to work on measuring with your child. If your child cannot participate in building the tent or making the jars, talk out the steps you are doing and bring them into the activity in this way. Talk about the colors you are using, the textures (sticky, wet, warm, messy) and help them to experience it, too. Maybe you can try different positioning with your child inside the tent to read books together and play flashlight tag. Hope you enjoy these mindful activities!