Studies support students on the spectrum benefit from mindfulness activities. In addition, adults participating with children will also improve their own wellbeing. Mindfulness activities can be introduced to our youngest students and are fantastic for inclusive settings. Here are five activities increasing self-awareness, self-regulation, and relationship skills, while decreasing stress and challenging behaviors.
Strike a Pose. As each pose brings attention to how we feel physically and mentally, we begin to focus on ourselves and our senses. We notice our muscles stretching, balance, and touch. We can feel strength and confidence. Don’t forget to use visuals, videos, and modeling! Be sure to allow for play, creativity, and student choice. It is more about the process than the perfect pose!
Breathe in, Breathe out. Our breath is a powerful tool. It can redirect our thoughts and bring us to a calm. Introducing fun activities and practicing during the day, we will allow for this skill to become a habit and be used when we need it most. Using props, such as cotton balls, straws, and pinwheels makes our breath something we can see! Visuals, such as breath cards, videos, or the Hoberman ball helps guide our breathing. There are amazing children’s books allowing for interaction, such as Alphabreaths and My Magic Breath.
Mindful Music. Music in the classroom can set a mood. Music Apps such as Myndstream offer playlists with purpose allowing you to choose from focus, sleep, recovery, and relaxation. These categories are developed through research, so all you need to do is select the mood you are looking for! Singing bowls and a bell chime can also be used for mindful listening, asking the students to pattern their breath or movement to the sound and then silence. For example, breathe in when the chime is quiet and breathe out for as long as you hear the chime ringing. Another example might be to sway your arms when you hear the singing bowl and freeze once the sound stops.
Finding Balance in Nature. Nature is good for kids and natural lighting is very important for kids on the spectrum. Ideally, getting our kids outdoors to play, taking walks, and gardening are ideal activities to be mindful and enjoy the sunshine. Just taking a quick break sitting under a tree can allow a period of quiet and calm for you and your children. But what if we can’t get outdoors because of lack of greenspace, daylight, or weather? We now know that images of the outdoors serves the same benefits of wellbeing. Having window views or nature scenes, plants, and other natural elements added to your indoor environment will bring the outdoors in. Open the blinds and watch the rain or snow fall. Again, apps and videos with nature imagery is a good backdrop for lunch or a brain break.
Savasana. For many of Yogis, the resting pose at the end of a yoga practice can be one of the most peaceful times of their day. The lights are dimmed and the music is calm. We are prepared for it, because it happens at the same time of the yoga practice each session. This can hold the same magic during school or home time. Fifteen minutes before packing up, bring out the rugs, blankets, mats, or cozy seating and set the tone for a connection with your kids that is truly special. Weighted objects or a small stuffy can help create focus. If your children agree, this is a fantastic opportunity for sensory pressure or a hand massage. There are lots of unscented, organic lotions available too!