For my last post I shared with you one of my adult clients’ favorite mindfulness strategies for managing anxiety. If you missed that one and an explanation of what mindfulness is, you can catch up here: https://emergetherapyllc.com/got-anxiety-got-5-minutes-this-mindfulness-practice-can-help/. The one sentence definition is that mindfulness means paying attention on purpose to the present moment– without judgement. Today, I want to share with you one of my kids’ favorite ways of practicing mindfulness.
In general, kids “get” mindfulness more intuitively then we as adults do. They spend more time engaged in the right here right now, and less time planning, worrying, and ruminating. However, explicitly teaching mindfulness to kids has great benefits. From reducing impulsivity, to managing stress (yes, kids stress too!), to improving executive functioning skills, there are plenty of reasons to sit down with your kids today and practice mindfulness together.
But how to engage them? One of my favorite introductory mindfulness books is called _Moody Cow_, by Kerry Lee Maclean. In the book, Peter, AKA Moody Cow, has a horrible and painful day. He makes some poor and impulsive decisions when he’s angry that lead to others’ suffering, as well as to his own suffering. His wise grandfather cow gets called in to help Moody Cow calm down, come back to the present moment, and clear his mind.
In the book, Peter and his grandfather make Mindfulness Jars. These simple contraptions that require few materials are excellent tools for helping kids practice mindfulness! They allow for lots of customization, so each child creates something truly personal and meaningful. This personalization leads to them being more engaged in this practice than using something store-bought.
To make your own mindfulness jar, you will need a few materials. Only one, the liquid glycerine, is a little hard to find- but you can easily order it on amazon or find it in the beauty/hair styling products at some drug stores.
Here’s what you will need:
-A jar that seals tightly (I use mason jars for older kids and plastic jars for very young kids or classroom use)
-Liquid Glycerine (see above for where to find it)
-Glitter of any color or size
-Clear dish soap
-Food coloring or glitter glue (both optional)
To make your mindfulness jar:
- Fill jar about 75% full with WARM water
- Add liquid glycerine until jar is nearly full
- Add one or two TINY drops of dish soap
- If you’re using glitter glue or food coloring, add a few small drops now
- Close the jar tightly and shake it all up
- Finally, start adding your glitter. Some kids like to do this as Peter does in Moody Cow- one pinch for each angry or worry thought. Others just like to mix and match glitter colors until they make something they love. Either way is fine, as the real mindful magic happens after the jar is already made. Shake and shake and shake to combine- you will need to shake a whole lot if you used glitter glue. If the glitter floats on top and won’t submerge, add a tiny bit more dish soap. If your top is full of soap bubbles and this bothers you, simply scoop out some of the soap bubbles from the top and discard them.
Once you are done making your mindfulness jar, you are ready to practice!
Coach your child to get into a comfortable, seated position. You might like to ring a bell or singing bowl at the beginning of your practice and at the end- my son always requests this part.
Now, have your child shake up his or her jar until the glitter is swirling all around. The glitter represents your thoughts,tumbling around in a frenzy. The water is your mind. Set the jar down still on a table, and watch quietly. Coach your child to stay silent until all of the glitter has settled at the bottom of the jar and all is still. If you’re using a bell, ring it again now, listening silently until no more sound can be detected.
Check in with your child- how is he or she feeling? What was it like watching the glitter swirl all around? What was it like watching the glitter settle like the thoughts in their mind? Do they feel any differently now than they did before starting?
You can keep your child’s mindfulness jar in a prominent place. When you notice your child is stressed, worried, or getting angry, you might ask them if they want to use their jar. Please treat this as an invitation to your child and not a demand, and certainly, never, ever as a punishment. This jar is a tool for helping your child practice mindfulness, so you want to avoid associating it with “bad behavior.” You might set up a time each day to practice together. Maybe before bedtime, as a way to help settle our thoughts before bed?
While I said this is an activity for kids, I must also confess that I love it and many of my friends do too! It’s hard not to love a beautiful and simple cascade of glitter. I often find myself borrowing my son’s jar, and I recently made my own! Teens seem to really love this activity as well, since their lives are full of stress and they can make this all their own with unique color combinations.
Check out this video of my son’s mindfulness jar in action!