Swimming and cycling, day camps and sleepovers, watermelon and all the ice cream; summer break is what our children live for! And though they may have us believe “back to school” is the last thing they want to hear about, kids tend to get restless as the summer season draws to a close. After all the free time and gallivanting, children can benefit from a few guided activities to help them rebalance. Here are five simple activities for you to do with your children that will foster calm in their minds (and invite peace into your home!).
1. Yoga with Intention
Every morning is a fresh start. It’s important for children to know that they can begin their day by making good choices (regardless of the tantrums and sibling rivalries of yesterday). 20 minutes of yoga in the AM is a great way for kids to wake up their minds and bodies. If your family is strapped for time during the week, keep this as a special weekend activity. Roll out your mats and guide your child through the following poses:
1. Cat/Cow – Wakes up the spine
2. Downward Dog – Brings fresh blood to the head
3. Tree Pose – Encourages balance
4. Archer – Brings courage and focus
5. Camel – Opens the heart
6. Easy Pose – Closes practice
Seal your mini-practice with palms together in front of your heart, asking your child to set an intention for their day. This simple step encourages children to feel grounded, whatever the day may bring.
2. Cloud Associations
Clouds can inspire creativity and a sense of peace because of their weightlessness and ever changing form. Choosing a day when there are many clouds in the sky, take your child on a walk to the park or lie in the quiet of your own backyard. Gaze up towards the clouds and take turns describing what you see. Notice the different shapes and patterns that form, and watch as they roll and change in the wind. Let your child lead, and listen with interest. Follow along as they talk about what they see and how they feel.
3. Mandala Colouring
In Hindu and Buddhist symbolism, a mandala is a geometric figure representing the universe. Their circular designs are often intricate, inviting you to spend time in contemplation as you look at them. Today you’ll find dozens of beautiful designs neatly bound into colouring books to be enjoyed by both young and old! Kripalu has a printable pdf available with many patterns ranging in complexity. Ask you child to choose one they like and spend time colouring together. Encourage them to explain their choice of mandala as well as the colours they use. There is no right or wrong way to do this, and the act of colouring is far more important than the resulting picture. When your child feels as though their mandala is complete, suggest that they hang it close to their bed to remind them of the cosmos of which they are a part.
4. People are Good
Turn on the news and you’re guaranteed to hear stories of hate and fear around the globe. Not only can this be confusing for kids, but it can also defeat their innate sense of hope. In light of all the negative media, take the opportunity to talk to your child about the goodness that all people have inside them. Think about how many different people live on this earth, and how our differences make us interesting and unique. Remind your child that - though we practice different rituals, speak different languages and eat different foods - we all have goodness inside and want to feel loved. Ask your child to suggest some ways to be kind to others and to respect all people regardless of how they look, talk, and live.
5. Bedtime Routine
Bedtime is a special time for your child; it concludes the “story” of his or her day—and everyone wants a happy ending! Give yourselves about one hour before bed to practice a bedtime ritual, which you repeat every night. This will give your child a sense of security as well as something to look forward to. There is nothing sweeter than drifting peacefully off to dream land. Here is an example:
Bath – 20 min (bathe, play, brush teeth)
Stories – 20 min (pajamas, a story or two)
Snuggle – 15 min (talk about all the good things that happened today)
Prayer/Meditation – 5 min (sung or spoken softly)
With all the excitement of summer it’s easy for kids to get over-excited, not to mention over-tired. The good news is a little one-on-one time is all it takes to help them channel their (crazy) energy into thoughtful activities. Spend a few moments every day talking with your child, and listening to their thoughts and feelings, and you’ll have calmer kids in no time!