The ABC’s Of Mindfulness
By Ashley Smith Santos, MA, RYT
Curriculum Developer for MarcoPolo Learning

Mindfulness is a new buzzword. But what is it exactly? Mindfulness is the art of paying attention, in the present moment, without judgement. Sounds easy, right? Not always! We are often so caught up in the past or future, that we forget to live presently.

How can the practice of mindfulness support children? When children encounter stressful moments (anger, nervousness, frustration), they can use mindfulness to help guide them through it. Mindfulness creates a pause between the incident and the response. It gives them a moment to choose rather than react.

Let’s look at mindfulness from an ABC point of view!

Pay Attention

Try an experiment right now. Pay attention to what’s around you. Notice shapes, colors, smells, sounds.

Teach your child this skill by asking questions. What textures or flavors do you notice when eating dinner together? What can you observe on a walk? How do you feel after a good run around the playground?

The art of paying attention brings us into the present moment and can offer a richer life experience.

Find your Breath

During a stressful moment, the hormone cortisol is released in the body and children have a hard time thinking clearly. Taking deep breaths sends oxygen to the brain and soothes the nervous system. Explore breathing in different ways: blow feathers up in the air, hiss like a snake, use a pinwheel, smell different herbs. A great visualization for kids to inhale/exhale deeply is: “Smell the flower, blow out the candle”.

Experience Connection

Mindfulness teaches us to pause, notice, and breathe. We can then find connections with ourselves, others, and the world. It teaches us to slow down and relate to our experiences. Connection can help children see different perspectives, promote flexible thinking, and gain new insights about themselves.

How can you help your child take small steps toward developing core mindfulness skills?

  • Pay Attention: Ask questions to help your child articulate their present moment experiences.
  • Breathe: Play some breathing games as a family!
  • Cultivate Connection: Take a mindful walk and notice your surroundings.

Ashley Smith Santos, MA, RYT is a yoga and mindfulness instructor for children and families. She is based in California where she teaches young children by integrating literacy and yoga. Ashley is a curriculum developer for MarcoPolo Learning. She is also mom to a two-year-old who finds “snake breath” helpful in the midst of a meltdown! Follow Ashley@omstoryoga for more tips and resources in creating a mindful family experience.

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In the Feelings & Friendships Field Trip in MarcoPolo World School, our animated guides, (the Polos), experience different emotions and learn how to navigate them through breathing exercises and reflection.
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