Mindful Walking for Early Ed.

Preschoolers can experience Mindful Walking with these Easy Steps

Here is a script to get you starting walking with your Early Learners:

“Taking a Mindful Walk means we are going to use our eyes, our ears and our whole body to notice things we see, hear and feel as we go on a walk. We can do this anywhere, but today we are going to take our walk (in the woods, on the sidewalk, in the hallway, etc.).”

“During our Mindful Walk, we want to stay as quiet as possible so that we can really pay attention to what we can see, to what we can hear and to what we can feel around us. Let’s do our best to keep quiet as we walk. This will help us really pay attention to everything around us. I will ask a few questions to help us notice things around us as we walk mindfully.”

“If we walk too fast we might miss something on our walk, so let’s walk slowly. You can stop and look at things as we walk, we just need to make sure we stay together on our Mindful Walk. Let’s start walking.”

What can you see?

“Taking nice slow steps, look around you. What can you see in front of you? (Pause for 30 seconds or so). What can you see next to you? (Pause for 30 seconds or so). What do you see above you? (Pause for 30 seconds or so). What do you see below you? (Pause for 30 seconds or so).”

What can you hear?

“Still walking slowly, notice the sounds that you here that are close by (Pause for 30 seconds or so). Now notice sounds that are farther away (Pause for 30 seconds or so). When we are walking, what sounds do we make? (Pause for 30 seconds or so).”

What can you feel?

“As we continue to walk slowly, notice what you can feel. What can you feel on your skin? (Pause for 30 seconds or so). What can you feel under your feet? (Pause for 30 seconds or so). What else can you feel around you? (Pause for 30 seconds or so).”

“Now let’s just stop and be still- stand, sit or lie down. (Pause for 30 seconds or so). How do you feel after taking a break just to be still?”

“What was your favorite thing that you saw on our Mindful Walk? What was your favorite thing that you heard? What surprised you? Now, let’s draw or write together about our Mindful Walk.”

Have you tried mindful walking with children? What’s worked well? Leave a comment!

Dealing with Uncertainty

How can we deal with uncertainty?

Whether we are educators, therapists or parents (or a combination of these!). there are many things still undecided about how the Fall is going to unfold. Facing this kind of uncertainty can create feelings of fear, anxiety and hopelessness at times.

There are so many things over which we have no control during times of normalcy. This is only magnified when dealing with a global pandemic. Even though we can’t control what happens next in this public health crisis, we can control how we respond to the uncertainty we are facing. Here are three simple Move Mindfully®  strategies to use during these uncertain times – for ourselves, our families and our communities:

Breathe:

The quickest way to change how we feel is to simply slow down our breathing. Hand Tracing helps us consciously slow down our breathing as we trace each finger – breathing in as we trace up each finger and breathing out as we trace down each finger. Focus on one hand and use other index finger to trace each finger as you breathe slowly. Hold hand up or place it on your lap or on a table to trace and breathe. Notice which way feels better. Once we have traced all our fingers on one hand, we have taken five slow breaths. This calms our nervous system and grounds us in our body. It’s much harder to have so many anxiety-producing “what if” thoughts when our attention is focused on tracing our hand as we breathe slowly.

Move:

Balance moves are effective ways to feel more present in the here and now – because we have to focus to balance on one foot! Come into Tree by bringing weight to one leg and either propping other foot up like a kickstand or resting it below or above the knee. While balancing in Tree, choose a word that feels grounding – like Brave or Safe. Think or say this word quietly and just notice what happens. Switch feet to try balancing on the other side. Pick a phrase that feels grounding – like “I can do this” or “I am safe”. Notice if this changes anything in mind, body and heart.

Rest:

Take a break when feeling the weight of all the things over which we have no control. Find a comfortable spot to sit or lie down. Lower gaze to eliminate distractions or close eyes if that is comfortable. Breathe slowly and imagine if everything worked out for the best. What would that look like, feel like, be like? Harness the power of the mind body connection to visualize a great outcome. After spending 3-5 minutes breathing slowly, gently raise gaze or open eyes and notice what has changed in mind, body and heart.

Find these strategies and more in our Move Mindfully® Card Deck (also available for Early Childhood).

We are here to support you no matter what the Fall looks like. Click here for resources on how to bring Breathe, Move, Rest practices into your family, school or therapeutic settings.

Mindful Walks

Mindful walks create a rhythm to start the day.

It’s a Tuesday morning and the sunshine sparkles off the snow outside of Oak Ridge Elementary School of Leadership, Environmental and Health Sciences. The school starts each morning with 15 minute Mindful Walks around the school campus. Here is the structure one second grade classroom uses to make these mindful moments meaningful.

Before the Walk: Setting the Stage

Second graders trickle in the classroom door. Most join the group at the carpet, but a few remain at their desks- some tucked into raised hoodies. Students begin with our Breathing Routine as a way to settle into the morning. Mrs. B opens a big book of nature poems and reads a winter poem by Robert Frost. She reads it once. Closes her eyes and waits. Then, opens her eyes and asks the students what they saw. After a few share, she reads it again.

“I love reading a nature poem before our Mindful Walk. It sets the stage for noticings”. 

 

Getting Outside

The second graders bundle up in snow gear and line up at the door. Walking outside is a physical manifestation for clearing the slate. Mrs. B talks about the importance of this time for connection and healing. This time is different from recess because, as the kids explain, “there is no running or games.” Mrs. B recognizes the importance of this time to practice self-management. Some students do feel the need to run, but continuing to practice each day creates a new muscle memory for slow, mindful walking. Each day the students intentionally walk the same path. There is a comfort in the predictability and structure of the routine.

It is also different from naturalist time because, “we don’t have any work to do.” This time is a gift to… just be. Students notice the shadows cast on the snow from the barren tree branches. A group observes animal tracks and different consistencies of snow. Winter is so beautiful and the morning walk offers an opportunity to slow down and notice. Students are even given the opportunity to stop along the way and move their bodies in various yoga-based movements.

Mrs. B is also able to check in and help students reset for the day. Hand in hand, very little words are needed to forge connection. The combination of movement and fresh air sends endorphins to the brain that allow students (and teachers) to reframe towards the positive. 

After the Walk: Reintegration

After the walk, students gather back at the carpet. Mrs. B reads aloud a short picture book to reintegrate to the classroom. This time, all students join the carpet. “The students are much more willing to participate after our walk”, Mrs. B says. Then, students will transition to their managed independent learning. This is the stretch of the day that requires the most stamina. However, the mindful morning morning routine has prepared their brains, bodies and hearts for the challenging tasks ahead.

A Trauma Responsive Approach

We know that a trauma responsive lens utilizes rhythm- beginnings, middles and endings.  Predictability. Structure. Someone may look at this daily routine and wonder about the time commitment. However, some of the latest research shows an average teacher requires 45 minutes of redirection time a day due to emotional breakdowns. We know that most students do not enter the classroom ready to learn. Routines like Mrs. B’s Mindful Walk allow for students to come in as they are, and join the rhythm of the school day.

What do you use to create rhythm in the school day? Have you tried Mindful Walking? Leave a comment!