Even the youngest children can sense distraction. Working on being in the present has been increasingly more beneficial in today’s modern society. I grew up in Singapore - a society where a children take up many after-school activities and stress during childhood is common. How often do our children pause to think, look around and listen; and cultivate more awareness of their bodies and their surroundings? It is important for us to create an environment for children to practice mindfulness, supporting their growth as they mature from babies to toddlers to children.
During a child's early years, the most effective way to practice mindfulness with them is to embody it. Children are constantly seeking our attention and affection, and can sense when parents or caregivers are distracted. As a parent or caregiver, the best we can do with an infant is to focus on the present moment no matter what is happening. In practice, this can be holding a baby in silence and maintaining eye contact with a gentle, caring demeanor. This reflective mirroring behavior is a good way of teaching infancy mindfulness.
As time goes by, toddlers discover new languages, gain mastery of their bodies and begin to exert their independence. When toddlers are in a good mood, practicing mindfulness can help them become more familiar with the sensations of happiness and gratitude. Conversely, when they get upset, mindfulness can help toddlers move on from the fleeting experiences that might have made them cry and instead focus their attention on new sensations.
Mother Nature is a good teacher and playmate. Encouraging children to explore the outdoors, away from technology stimulus benefits their mind and physical development. Here are some playful activities that focus on mindfulness for children while having fun in the great outdoors! And the best part? These activities are accessible, do not cost anything and provide a wealth of knowledge.
- Identify the colors of flower around your neighbourhood
When you see red roses, yellow tulips, pink hydrangeas or white peonies, point at them and ask your child to share what colors they see and details they notice about the shape, petals or leaves.
- Observe insects and organisms
Children are usually inquisitive and curious about little creatures crawling around. At the park, stop near a garden and ask your child if they can spot any insects or moving organisms. Point to the bug and tell your child its name - like butterfly, ant, spider or ladybug.
- What is that sound?
When walking around the neighbourhood, birds may be chirping. Invite your child to a game asking them to identify which birds are making sounds. This is a great opportunity to educate them about different species of birds we see daily.
- Go on a scavenger hunt!
Prepare a small bucket or an empty egg carton and go on a journey to discover the beauty of nature. Create a list that includes items like gray rocks, pebbles, fallen leaves, twigs and flower petals.
Photo: Nurture and Thrive
Before the day ends, find a quiet space to reflect with crayons, coloured pencils and paper. Ask your child to draw how they feel, write a paragraph about their day and note down what they saw at the park. Do the same yourself and share these reflections with each other before bedtime. This is a pleasant activity for parent-child bonding and encouraging authentic conservations.
“Journaling is paying attention to the inside for the purpose of living well from the inside out.” ~ Lee Wise
Written by Jacqueline Tan