Mindfulness and breathing

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is essentially being aware of your surroundings and being present in that moment, aiming to focus on and appreciate the feelings and emotions that result from that awareness.

Our children, especially in early years, are hungry for our attention and I’m sure you have noticed that they can see when we are not 100% present, for example, scrolling through our phones, focusing on dinner preparations, even sitting and drinking a coffee. I am certainly not suggesting we not do any of these things, just that your children notice them. However, it is important to make time to be present with your little one(s). We all know how fast this time can fly. I know it only feels like yesterday that my 2 and 4 year olds were little babies that fell asleep in my arms.

Being mindful with your child can help strengthen your bond and reduce anxiety.

Activities to practice with your little ones

Touch and Massage

Touch and massage helps to reduce stress and promote bonding between caregivers and their children, especially infants. Emotional bonds are formed through touch and it builds a foundation for both emotional and intellectual development later in life. There are some fantastic YouTube videos out there showing basic baby message techniques, below is one example:

However, just simple touch such as hugging, or stroking baby’s face, can make such a difference.

I used baby massage a lot when my girls were younger, I found it really helped to relieve gassy tummies, and calm them down during teething.

Making Eye Contact

It may seem simple, and it is, but another way to really bond with your child is to make ‘loving eye contact’. A relaxed, loving gaze, with a soft smile can encourage baby to mimic your behaviour and is a form of baby mindfulness.

STOP

Parents and caregivers can often get lost in frustration, your little one could be crying for the silliest of reasons, they don’t want to eat the food you just lovingly prepared or they just don’t want to sleep. It is important in the situations to step back and STOP.

Stop. Stop what you are doing.

Take a breath. Take some deep breaths and observe your breathing – in through the nose and out through the mouth and bring yourself to the present.

Observe. Take note of your emotions, what is happening right now.

Proceed. Now you are present with yourself, your feelings and what is happening around you, you can continue.

Being Mindful in Nature

Something that we continuously practice as part of our Wild Fife Babies and Bairns sessions is mindfulness in nature. Walking with our children, taking in the sounds, sights, smells, textures and tastes is encouraging ourselves to be present in our surroundings.

Morton Lochs (Tentsmuir Nature Reserve)

Something I have found incredibly helpful when out walking with my little girls, especially when I can see they might be getting tired, is to stop and get down to their level or before they were walking I would make eye contact. I would then say ‘hold on, sshhhh, what can you hear?’. I’d encourage them to be quiet by whispering and I would tap my ear to show I am listening. Then I would whisper and sign what I could hear. Don’t worry if you don’t know Makaton or sign language, you can just do your best guest at what may be the sign for running water, or wind etc.

You can also do the same thing with what you can see, touch, smell, and even taste. Just be sure to talk about what you are experiencing and if they can talk, encourage them to do the same.

For older children you can channel their ‘Spidey Senses’. Find a comfortable sit spot, or somewhere to lie down, ask them to close their eyes and then they can use their ‘Spidey’ senses to hear, smell, and touch.

Breathing Exercises

Starfish Fingers

This may be suitable for older children, however, starting that simple touch when your little ones are small can help them transition to this more detailed breathing exercise when they are older. You can use this exercise any time and any place. I often talk about observed breathing when my 4 year old starts to show signs of stress or tiredness.

Elephant Breaths

Now for a bit of fun! Standing or kneeling with feet/ knees shoulder width apart – hang arms down in front of you and as you breath in raise arms up above your head. As you breath out, lower your arms (you can make a big elephant noise when breathing out).

Bumble Bee Breaths

Another fun one to do with children. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, cover your ears with your hands, breathe in through the nose and hum when breathing out.

Breathe like a Snake

Like the bumble bee breaths, you make a sound when breathing out. Breathe in through the nose and hiss on the exhalation. You can move you hands to pretend to be snakes too.

Teddy or baby on the Belly

Deep belly breaths or ‘yogic breathing’, I often find to be the most calming of breathing exercises, for myself and my little ones. We lie down on our backs. When they were babies I would lie them on my belly, but now we place teddies on our bellies. This time you breathe in and out through the nose. With your inhalation lasting for 4 counts. You should be able to see and feel the rise and fall of the baby or teddy on your belly.

Deep belly breathing with teddy

Positive Affirmations

Starting positive affirmations young is important. They help to build confidence, self belief and inner strength. Finding time in the day to sit and breathe with your little one and go through a few affirmations can help to reset and bond. Since my eldest daughter was 3 years old I have sat with her occasionally (especially at times when I can see she is struggling to control her emotions) and I say “I am…” then she finishes with “strong” or “beautiful” or “caring” etc. Now she is old enough to say it to herself, with a big smile on her face.

Post by Hollie Sutherland – Wild Fife Babies and Bairns Session Leader

Useful resources

Breathing exercises:

https://www.parentcircle.com/simple-breathing-exercises-pranayama-for-kids/article

Benefits of infant massage:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1751485119300704?casa_token=UD2qlbOe0b4AAAAA:O_e6KHBKDZOFkYonmBlH7rwHzz0TTWrJxjprf9Oed-GTMOdQint41-xPbz7K0MuqC-lOQ_AZAA

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1130862120300322

http://www.momentsaday.com/how-to-practice-mindfulness-with-a-baby/

Positive Affirmations:

If you know of any online resources that you think might be helpful for others, please feel free to get in touch and we can share them here!

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