In this weeks episode of the Everything Preschool Webinar, we focused on mindfulness in preschools.
Our webinar started out with a fantastic breathing and grounding exercise from Mary Gallagher, Founder of Amazing Day Academy based in the US which set the tone for the whole webinar, as well as showing us from the get-go how accessible practicing mindfulness is… you can even do it on a webinar! “Make sure your feet are on the ground and take deep breaths… imagine a warm light centred above you and invite it down to the crown of your head… bring it down your cheeks into your jaw and neck, and let it wash over your shoulders into your chest and stomach… as it moves down, picture the light transforming into a root that is grounding you from your tailbone to the centre of the earth… release…” – Mary Gallagher – Amazing Day Academy
The most common question our webinar attendees asked is what actually is mindfulness? And a key thing mentioned across all panelists was ‘to be aware’.
Allison Morgan, Founder of Zensational Kids also based in the US, said mindfulness was awareness without judgement and paying attention to the present moment.
Aisling Halpenny of Oriel Yoga here in Ireland, agreed and mentioned it’s important to notice the sensations of the moment, for example, the touch of the breeze or the feeling of your clothing. Mary emphasised the point of being aware by sharing that instead of writing ‘mindfulness’ in her journal, she wrote ‘mind full of mess’ which brought both humour and awareness to where she was personally.
Next, we moved onto discussing strategies for incorporating mindfulness into the lives of children which is where Tracey Blanchfield from The Confidence Clinic here in Ireland gave a simple but fantastic tip of just asking the children to check on their inside weather to understand how they are feeling.
Allison and Aisling agreed and also expressed the importance of breathing. Allison recommended using a simple prop- a feather. If the child needs to calm themselves down, they can blow on the feather slowly, if they need to wake up, they can take short, fast breaths and make the feather dance. Aisling discussed a similar idea in terms of inhaling and exhaling- to inhale you smell your flower and to exhale you blow out your candle. These types of visualisations can help children regulate their breathing but in a fun way that they understand.
Aisling also mentioned other resources that you can make with the children for example, filling a jar with water and glitter and shaking it and breathing until all the glitter is settled, or making eye masks out of socks and lavender to help them sleep.
And finally, if you as an educator or parent are not at peace and grounded, then you will not be able to help the children achieve that goal, so we discussed the importance of taking care of yourself.
Tracey’s main tip was not to be scared of mindfulness and to just do a little bit every day. There’s no point reaching for it just in an emergency, it needs to be a normal, daily practice, so start small, build on it and trust yourself.
Aisling said to practice gratitude before your class or while you’re driving to work and followed up on Tracey’s tip that it’s important to repeat the process daily.
Mary used a fantastic metaphor involving a saucer and a cup! Look at yourself as a cup and fill it up (with sleep, exercise, fuel for our bodies). When you pour from your cup, you are giving to others which is especially relevant in the childcare profession, but if you keep pouring from your cup, eventually you’ll have nothing left for yourself and you can’t give what you don’t have. So instead, you have to make sure you are completely full so that it spills over into the saucer which you can then share with other people, leaving your cup completely full for yourself! Giving from your saucer is not selfish, it’s sustainable.
And the final tip is from Allison who said to use your hands to hold yourself- on your head, on your heart, set a timer for two minutes and just breathe. People say they don’t have the time but I’ll leave you with this question that Allison asked: you just have to ask yourself, are you worth two minutes?