It is International Yoga Day today. Yoga is NOT just about physical aasanas. It is also about mindfulness and awareness of your own self - physical, emotional and spiritual. As important as it is for adults to practice mindfulness, it is very essential these days for little kids to practice mindfulness. There are so many distractions for kids today - right from flashy toys to gadgets; they too need some time to connect with themselves. Mindfulness can help children improve their abilities to pay attention, to calm down when they are upset and to make better decisions. In short, it helps with emotional regulation and cognitive focus.
If you are wondering how to develop mindfulness in your toddler or how to introduce meditation or any spiritual exercise to your toddler (which is very important in today's world), here are some tips!
1 Start With Yourself Start doing it yourself from today. Toddlers LOVE to imitate adults. You will wonder how beautifully they will start following you in no time and they will be proud of this fact too!
2 Set A Rhythm Waldorf philosophy talks so much about setting a rhythm in a child's life. It makes the life of this little being more predictable & setting a rhythm has so many more benefits. Set an everyday rhythm for any mindfuness exercise - which means meditating or chanting mantras at a specific time of the day every day so that the practice is set into the daily rhythm of toddlers - remember they do not have much sense of time or days as yet. We have started this 'family meditation time' as a ritual with me, my husband and my son every night to introduce him to what is called 'silence lesson' in Montessori. Mindfulness and meditation come naturally to us - I'm an energy healer and Reiki practitioner myself and husband is a serious Yoga practitioner.
3 Sweet & Simple
Toddlers cannot process too much simultaneously, so initially, keep it super simple so that they are not overwhelmed with the entire exercise. You can even start with a simple Om chanting two or three times or just counting their breaths up to 5.
4 Keep Your Expectations Low Initially, when we started family meditation time, my son just roamed around in the room while my husband and I chanted mantras. But remember that children are listening and observing all the time, even the time when we think they are ignoring everything around them. Gradually he started sitting with us during chanting and now he chants along with us when he is in a good mood, but with eyes open hehe. When he is in a super playful mood, he even monkeys around on our laps while we chant. So the key here is to be consistent in our practice and kids will assimilate the practice gradually, but may not exhibit it always.
5 Do Not Limit Mindfulness To Meditation Or Chanting Mindfulness is not just sitting with eyes closed and chanting mantras or concentrating on the breath. It also means being present and aware in your day-to-day tasks. One great way to be mindful when you are outdoors with your toddler is to make him listen to the bird sounds, the sound of trees waving, the sound of water flowing in the streams and so on. We do this with our son and now he himself tells me - when we are in a park for e.g. he would say, Mumma, listen the koyal singing, Mumma which bird's sound is this, Mumma, I hear an ambulance siren and so on. And many times we realize these sounds only after our son singles them out! And I wonder when did we lose this capability of registering everything that is happening around us...
6 Prayers & Gratitude It is a great idea to involve the little ones in prayers. It is equally important to teach them to express gratitude. The only way is to say grace and courtesy words often ourselves - to our little imitating monkeys! :) It is so heartwarming when my son says sweet thank-yous when I set up new Montessori shelf activities for him or when I get him his favorite stuff to eat etc. And it is so funny and amusing to listen to something like this from my son - Mumma, I got a glass of water for you, say thank you.
A final note: This is not limited to any religion of course! Every one can benefit from mindfulness and yoga by adapting to their specific belief systems.
Please do share what else worked for you in developing mindfulness in your kids!
Kuhoo Singer Gupta is Mom to a charming little prince A, who came into her life after many years, wounds, scars, prayers and struggles. She writes about her adventures in parenting, early learning, Montessori, healing and other creative stuff. A version of this article appeared in her blog The K Junction.
If you would like to write about your parenting journey, do write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. It takes a village to raise a child!