by Meghan Fitzgerald
No matter what we’ve each got on our plates, 2020 introduced new challenges, and if you’re like me, some days just end in a teary defeat. We know from studying pandemics of the past that, after our current physical health crisis and economic crisis, a mental health crisis is sure to follow. Changes to our routines, interruptions to our traditions, strain on our social relationships, political turmoil and the generalized uncertainty of COVID-19 all add up, for adults and for kids. Whew! Need strategies right away to help kids (and you) weather it all? We've got you covered.
All of this has many of us are looking for simple, family-friendly and effective ways to help our kids stay grounded, connected and healthy in body, mind and heart. Sounds good, but how do you teach young children about Wellness? Though there are many lessons that fall under the wellness umbrella, we’ve chosen to focus our recent Wellness class series on three pillars—time outdoors; playful learning; and mindful movement. Here’s why.
Science tells us that simply spending more time in natural settings lowers anxiety and promotes physical fitness, in the near and long terms. In fact, studies show just 2 hours per week can give kids (and us) the mental and physical benefits! Plus, nearly all parents agree that our kids are notably calmer after they’ve spent active time outside. Learn more about how time outdoors bolsters wellness, and know that we’ll continue to directly inspire kids to spend time outdoors and interact with nature elements each week.
Want to get a dose of Vitamin N right away today? Start or end the day with a slow walk around the block, paying extra attention to the sounds, smells and other sensations. Or, try one of the ideas in this list.
This fall, we identified six wellness concepts to reinforce with kids: kindness; gratitude; active energy; joy; focus and wishes for the future. How will we teach such concepts to kids ages 2 to 8? Through play—the ideal way for young learners to make sense of their world. For example, with a little expert framing, simple, playful acts can be a gateway to understanding big concepts. For example, teachers can help kids to learn more about kindness as they play with filling and dumping different materials in and out of containers, using that physical experience as a metaphor for how we fill each other up with acts of kindness. Or, we can help kids can learn to focus their minds as they play sound-making games.
Want to try teaching kids these topics on your own? Take an example like gratitude. Teach kids about gratitude as you make a gratitude tree or work together to create a nature thank you card for your local park system. Or check out hundreds of ideas in our DIY activity catalog.
We know that mind and body are closely connected, and when we combine certain movements with intentional thought, we can bring ourselves into the moment, strengthen our bodies and calm our minds.
I’ve taught both my students and my own kids breathing exercises and poses inspired by the yoga tradition and its centuries of wisdom to help them regroup, center and calm themselves down. These movements don’t eliminate the instances of big feelings or frustration—those are an important part of childhood—but they help soften those rough moments.
Overall, being able to calm one’s body and mind engenders empowerment and resilience that will remain with kids as they grow. Knowing ways to help kids help themselves regain their calm has made both teaching and mothering smoother, too.
Through metaphors from real life, children bring their imagination and experience into the movement. Moving like animals, plants or natural phenomena also deepens kids’ connection to nature and reminds us all that nature is a source of calm and wellness.
Feeling stressed today? Try moving and breathing like lions to relieve tension and channel inner strength in you and your kids!
In our work at Tinkergarten, we humbly incorporate certain elements of the yoga tradition—specifically, yoga poses and a grace for oneself to enter into those poses in whichever way feels right. We do this to give families a starting place for teaching children about the mind-body connection.
Yoga is increasingly present in kids’ lives: one national survey found that millions of kids in the U.S. have engaged in something they understand to be yoga. Recent studies of yoga practices in the U.S. indicate that yoga can improve kids’ balance, strength and endurance, help them focus, boost their active memory, self-esteem, and behavior in the classroom and can even lower their anxiety and stress.
As we continue to see yoga grow in popularity in the US, it is important to honor both the roots and the substance of yoga. Yoga practices are based on traditions that date back thousands of years and originate from South Asia and East Africa. Many yoga programs here in the “West,” including our work at Tinkergarten, incorporate only parts of a yoga practice. We recognize that the yoga tradition, when fully practiced, is a deep, nuanced and multifaceted way of being. Though our work is not to practice the full yoga tradition, we have humbly learned from it, strive to respect it, and honor the people who have suffered great injustices in order to preserve these traditions and teachings.
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