Supporting Children to return to Class

After close to 3 months of home learning tomorrow we’ll be welcoming all the children back, teachers and parents across the country are breathing a sigh of relief, but we’re also feeling anxious; is it safe? How will the children cope? How will we get them caught up? If we are feeling this anxiety many children will be. For some children they won’t be able to articulate this verbally, there are many reasons why the might struggle to do this. Instead they might show their anxiety though issues around bedtime, heightened emotions or changes in behaviour.

As I have shared in other posts mindfulness can have a vast positive power on children, impacting in a positive way children’s physical and mental health. It boosts self-control, increases attention, soothes and calms as well as promoting kindness and patience.

The impact of regular mindfulness has been found to change the brain-structure particularly in the areas of the amygdala and hippocampus, which control the emotions, learning and memory. Especially for younger children these are key areas for their development cognitively, socially and emotionally. Regularly practicing mindfulness therefore is definitely worth it, and will be particularly helpful in supporting children returning to school. As a teacher and school leader I’ve not set in stone my catch up interventions for maths and English but I have created a specific mindfulness room for my EYFS children and created a set of lessons and timetable for using that room.

The best way to get children to engage in mindful behaviour is not to approach it as a lesson that children are being forced to participate in but as a fun, interesting and inviting. Here then are 20 mindful activities that you can practice with children at different times of the day.

Daytime activities

1) Sitting down for dinner ask children to share 5 people they would like to send kind thoughts to and why. This can lead to interesting conversations and also helps you to find out about how their day has gone without the usual answer of ‘don’t remember’.

2) Rose and thorn, this is another good dinner time activity ask your children to share their favourite thing about the day and their least favourite thing. Encourage them to share how they felt both physically and mentally at those times. Join in the activity yourself so as to model explaining how different emotions make you feel.

3) Blowing bubbles, when children appear upset or angry before dealing with the issue support them to calm down by encouraging them to blow bubbles slowly. Not only do children enjoy bubbles, which helps them to let go of the emotion they’re feeling but it also helps to regulate their breathing.

Blowing bubbles helps regulate breathing and distract children from overwhelming emotions.

4) Tune into the body sit down together and take it in turns to feel each other’s heartbeats. Once you’ve done this sitting down get up and jump or run on the spot for one minute then sit and feel each other’s heart beats again. Discuss the changes and what caused them. Talk about other times you feel your heart be change such as if you’re nervous or tired.

5) Have a mindful snack, before you eat it describe the smell and texture as you eat keep describing the smell and texture but also the taste.

6) Take a mindful walk, stop to look at nature, feel the texture of leaves or smell different flowers, have a search for mini beasts.

Mindful walks to focus on the moment

7) Now it’s getting warmer lay down outside and look for shapes in the cloud. Tell each other stories about the pictures you see.

8) Have a mindful meal. Ask your children to help you cook dinner, sit and choose the meal together, shop for ingredients, make the meal and eat it together. Discuss how the meal tastes and smells, how different parts were prepared etc.

9) Buddy breathing or teddy bear meditation. Children choose their favourite soft toy place it on their tummy while they lay down and take slow deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Encourage children to notice how it feels.

10) Teach children scanning. When they’re feeling a particular emotion encourage them to scan their body and notice how it feels in different places.

11) When children get home from school encourage them to give you an emotional weather report. So foggy might equal tiredness, rainy might signify upset, sunshine, happiness. Once you’ve established how they feel you can then tailor the evening to manage these emotions.

Choose different types of weather to describe emotions

12) Try a guided meditation together (this is an example from headspace but there are many other examples and apps out there).

13) Enjoy the little things. During a particularly happy moment take time to stop and enjoy it, notice the pleasant emotional and physical feelings.

14) Colour your feelings, print out some mindfulness colouring sheets and ask children to choose colours to reflect their current mood. Start colouring encouraging children to focus on the colouring, after 5minutes stop colouring to look at the colours again do the children still feel the same would they like to change any of their colours?

15) During a conflict press the pause button as those involved (possibly including yourself) to describe the feelings they have currently both physically and emotionally.

Bedtime activities

16) When children get into bed at night take a few minute practice squeezing and letting go, tense different parts of the body for 5seconds then slowing realising them.

17) Try a bedtime meditation. There are a lot of apps out there where you can follow one but click here for my script:

18) Rainbow breathing. Lying in bed children take a deep breath in through the nose and then slowly breath out through the mouth as they do this ask children to imagine the breath coming out as a different colour.

19) Play some relaxing music or sounds. Encourage children to close their eyes listen to the music and tell you what they picture as they hear the music.

20) The magic balloon, ask the children to close their eyes and imagine blowing up a big balloon when the balloon has got really big it lifts you up in the air and carries you to your favourite place. Click here for a fuller explanation of this technique:

These tips are available to download here:

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