Adrian 2 years Feed

🕉Mindfulness with Children (☮️PEACE Education)

Do you practice mindfulness with your children? A big part of Montessori education is teaching children to be mindful, respectful and ☮️peaceful with oneself and others. However, in this hectic busy world, when we have no time to stop and "check-in" with ourselves, even less with others: both physically and mentally - When is the right time to introduce the Practice of Mindfulness to our children? When is the right time to teach them meditation?

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Mindfulness means maintaining present awareness of our feelings, thoughts, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment. It also implies acceptance, being able to think and feel without judging — without believing that there is a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel at a given moment. My own mantra has always been that "whatever happens, happens for the better, even if, at first, it seems like things are turning for the worse." So, when we practice mindfulness, we are present in the "now" with every fiber of our being, without reminiscing about the past (whether it is of happy moments or grievance) or imagining the future.

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Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhist meditation and is the English translation of the Pali word "Sati" which means "activity." However, a secular practice of mindfulness has entered the American mainstream in recent years in part through the work of Jon Kabat-Zin and Eckert Tolle. Research studies have supported the conclusion that the practice of mindfulness is strongly correlated with well-being and perceived health and that worry contributes to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. We usually worry about the future: however, those imagined events might never even materialize, and at a present, there is little we can do about them since they are in the future ... out of reach. So, by bringing our attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, by bringing mindfulness into our daily lives through the practice of meditation, we can experience true bliss and happiness of "now" and reduce both rumination and worry. So, let's stop worrying and start living!

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While with Julia (6 years old), I have been discussing the concepts of being in the now and enjoying the present moment for a while now, with Adrian (2 years old), we are just starting ... And, to bring mindfulness to toddlers, a lot has to happen: they have to be well rested, fed, not overly stimulated, calm and able to sustain their attention for longer than few seconds. 

DSC_0831.JPGRead here "Mastering the Art of Letting Go!" in a post "Practicing Mindfulness at 1 year old with a 🖌️💧Buddha Board."


Also, what type of meditation should be introduced? Meditation is classified into two categories based on the way we focus attention: Focused Attention and Open Monitoring.

(1) Focused Attention Meditation (object of focus): entails focusing the attention on a single object like a breath, a mantra, visualization, part of the body, external object, etc. Examples are Samatha (Buddhist meditation), some forms of Zazen, Loving Kindness Meditation, Chakra Meditation, Kundalini Meditation, Sound Meditation, Mantra Meditation, Pranayama, some forms of Qigong, and many others. See the Mindfulness Glitter Jar Meditation below. 

See here details on the "DIY Mindfulness Glitter Jar Meditation Tool for Kids Calming Jar."

 

(2) Open Monitoring Meditation ( a process of monitoring): entails monitoring all perceptions: either internal (thoughts, feelings, memory, etc.) or external (sound, smell, etc.) without judgment or attachment. It is the process of non-reactive monitoring of the content of experience from moment to moment, without dwelling on them. Examples are Mindfulness Meditation, Vipassana, as well as some types of Taoist Meditation. Zen🕉 Garden Meditation SandBox (below/buy here) is a type of Mindfulness Meditation: a miniature version of the traditional Japanese meditative garden. Assorted stones and other objects provide visual interest and a counterpoint to the garden's serene patterns. 

Children are born mindful, and with wisdom we can keep this skill alive: 'Montessori is wonderful in this way'. - The Dalai Lama

All you need to participate in the art of Zen gardening:

  • purified sand (you can also use salt, sugar, polenta or any other tiny grain),
  • small objects: e.g. marbles, polished rocks (we also added a starfish, shark tooth etc.),
  • a small rake,
  • and a tray to contain everything.

A Zen Garden is a mindful tool to bring a child to the "now" - to the precious eternal moment of the Present, offering a child an opportunity to sensorially explore the sand, gracefully raking around objects, thinking only about the precise movement of the hand, focusing only on the sparkling white sand and the design a child chooses to create. These moments are truly meditational, quieting the mind and enriching the soul.


Whether you practice Focused Attention and Open Monitoring, the true purpose behind all meditational “means” (either object of focus or process of monitoring) is effortless inner silence - quiet, “empty” and introverted awareness or “Pure Being.” It is in this state of “pure effortless presence” – being in the now - where the attention is not focused on anything in particular but is reposed on itself - the deeper states of consciousness can be discovered.

With children, in an effort to introduce this state of pure presence, practicing (1) Focused Attention Meditation might be a good starting point for children to develop stamina and ability to sustain their attention. Also, holding something tangible (like a pebble or a marble), while focusing on a familiar object, might be less abstract and more inviting for a child. So, to put this to practice, we read a book A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles (buy here) where four pebbles are selected to represent an image of nature and its corresponding qualities: 🌸FLOWER (FRESH), ⛰MOUNTAIN (SOLID), 🏞STILL WATER (REFLECT), and 🌌SPACE (FREE).

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In this book, each pebble is presented as a tangible way for children to return to their breathing and their bodies; and to connect to the world around them since each pebble also represents the quality the child can associate with. A 🌸 FLOWER represents beauty and freshness, while a ⛰MOUNTAIN stands for solidity and focus. Still calm 🏞WATER, like a clear lake, reflects the surrounding, so the child is encouraged to reflect things inside and around. Finally,🌌 SPACE, like the big blue sky with lots of space in and around, inspires the child to feel free and at ease. 

A child is gently encouraged to meditate - that is "to think quietly about something" while sustaining attention on just one pebble at a time, so we decided to practice "Drawing Meditation" by focusing on STILL WATER while painting a picture of a lake. 

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Julia and I breathed in and out and smiled at each other as we painted the water. We had not uttered a word during the entire drawing session. Our whole focus was the lake: its stillness, the calmness and clarity of the water and the extent of how much of the undistorted and beautiful surrounding is being reflected in it. Just like with a person: when the inner self is tranquil, still and calm, one can see things for what they really are - undistorted, clear, true.
DSC_0372-001During this Drawing Meditation, we used watercolors, and it was a very special experience: we were doing it together (my painting is on the left), sharing the process, meditating, slowing down, reconnecting with our inner-selves and focusing on the qualities of water, while trying to reflect things just as they are, inside and around.


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Our ☮️Peace Inspired📚Books:

  1. Silence Book (buy here) gently encourages children to stop, listen, and reflect on their experiences and the world around them.
  2. If the World Were a Village: A Book about the World's People (buy here) explores the lives of the hundred villagers. Children will discover that life in other nations is often very different from their own. If the World Were a Village is part of CitizenKid: a collection of books that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global citizens.
  3. The Listening Walk book (buy here) is one of the children's favorite! Discover your world filled with wonderful and surprising sounds which otherwise get drowned-out in our noisy environment.
  4. A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles book (see above/buy here) shows a child a concrete way to be mindful by connecting to a pebble representing an image of nature.
  5. Meditation Is an Open Sky book (buy here) offers a terrific introduction to simple child-friendly mindfulness/meditation exercises.
  6. What is God? book (buy here) is an eloquent introduction to the ideas behind God and various religion, which brings forward complex ideas in a way children will understand. It is written with a simple clarity and beautifully illustrated with just the right blend of seriousness and humor.
  7. Maria Montessori: A Biography For And By Children book (buy here) is written in a simple child-accessible way and is full of children's drawings depicting the life of Maria Montessori.
  8. Mindful Movements: Ten Exercises for Well-Being book (buy here) offers children gentle series of physical movements based on Yoga and Tai Chi movements, as an approach to Buddhist teachings. Mindful Movements book is a great meditational "yoga" manual: simple enough for a child to follow and substantial enough to provide a simple base for meditational movements. 

DSC_0014For more book ideas, see here "☮️PEACE Education•Have you Filled a Bucket Today? 📚Book."  

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In Montessori ☮️PEACE education, when two children are experiencing conflict, it can be difficult for each child to truly👂🏻 listen to what the other child is saying. To assist with this, one child can hold a symbol of ☮️PEACE, which generally, in a Montessori classroom, is a🌹 rose (we are using a handmade ❤️heart; a 🕊dove can also be used). A child holding it would state why s/he is upset and then pass the ☮️symbol to the other child who then has a chance to respond, passing back and forth until each child had expressed their feelings and felt adequately acknowledged. Finally, reconciliation would end with a 👋🏻handshake signaling ☮️ PEACE. So, when 👧🏻Julia and👦🏼 Adrian would have a disagreement, I would gently remind them to go to their ☮️PEACE corner and retrieve the ❤️and speak their hearts💖. They would then sit across from each other on the rug and express their frustrations. Let me tell you, it always works and the PEACE is signaled with a 🤗 hug.  Read more here

DSC_0052 For more on mindful practices, read here "🕉Zentangle Mindful 🖋️Art for Children." 

 

IMG_9207Read here 🎥"Emotions (Body)•Feelings (Mind) ✂️DIY 😃😮😡😢☹️😆Puppets ♻️🚽Craft."

 

DSC_0316-001 For more on meditation, read here "Guided 📿 Meditation with 🎶Neoclassical Music." 

Mindfulness is closely connected to Montessori education. Here is a short exert from Michael Olaf: Mindfulness Practices in Education 

Mindfulness is a quality of focused attention on the present moment accompanied by a non­‐judgmental stance;  its  “systematic  cultivation has been called the heart of  Buddhist meditation”. Mindfulness practice is fundamentally simple: focus on the breath; pay attention; be aware. “Mindfulness is cultivated by assuring the stance of an impartial witness to your own experience. To do this requires that you become aware of the constant stream of judging ... and learn to step back from it.” One needs to learn to trust in own intuition and authority. Yet, conventionally, we train children that teachers are the judges and will reinforce their judgments with grades, gold stars, and demerits. Thus, child’s own sense of authority is rarely paramount in this setting, rather they are subjected again and again to adult judgment. Thus, it can be concluded that Montessori education as a form of mindfulness education.

So, what can we do to help our children become more peaceful, mindful persons? As a parent, you can lead by example by developing your own meditation practice and then showing your children the way. Also, establish a quiet "Mommy and Me" time when you can speak to each child and discuss what had transpired during the day and how they felt about it: did something happen in the school, or you might want to take this time to express that when you raised your voice, for example, you did not mean to upset anyone and you apologise for that and so forth. Moreover, set realistic expectations and make it relatable - on a child's level. Lastly, make it special, make it personal - let it be! 

Read here  about Montessori Peace Education and our Peace Corner in a post "Montessori ☮️PEACE Shelfie (Grace & Courtesy, Gratitude, Pillars of a Peaceful Character)." 


Sound Cylinders - Sensorial Activity for 2-3 year old toddler

What are sensorial activities? From birth till about seven years of age, children have very sensorial relationship within their world – they utilize all of their five senses such a sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell to learn about their environment. Anything that triggers their senses, goes directly to their brain. Each Montessori sensorial activity triggers just one sense: allowing a child to discriminate the order and grading of their environment.

Sound Cylinders are a traditional Montessori material that isolates just one sense  - the sense of hearing. This activity can be offered to a child starting from two and a half (you can always try earlier and see if a child responds), and is usually presented after introducing the Knobbed Cylinders, Pink Tower, and Binomial Cube

Sound cylinders come in two (red and blue) identical sets of six sealed wooden cylinders that make a distinctive sound when shaken. The cylinders are graded from very soft to loud, and each cylinder has either a red or a blue top. Each set is contained in a wooden box with a matching red or blue lid.

Your child will learn:

  • auditory/sound discrimination by exploring one sense - a sense of hearing;
  • sense of order;
  • matching the sounds, since sounds made by the cylinders are paired, i.e. the sound made by one cylinder in the red set matches the sound made by its equivalent cylinder in the blue set.

With a younger chid, you may want to start with just three sets of distinct cylinders: arrange blue in a column on the right and red in a column on the left. 

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You will perform a pairing exercise: take one red cylinder and shake it near a child's ear.


DSC_0100.JPGThen try to find a match from blue cylinders, asking a child “Does it sound the same?” 


DSC_0100.JPGA matched pair is placed in the middle.

Control of Error – numbers on the bottom of each cylinder must match representing a pair.

Extensions:

  • Introducing language: you can present a Thee-Period Lesson to teach a child terminology: loud vs soft. 

                    Presenting a Three-Period Lesson:

                            (P1) “This is  loud; this is  soft."

                            (P2) “Will you show me loud/soft?

                            (P3) Ask the child: “What is this?" 

  • Grading one set of cylinders in order from loudest to softest.
  • Use a blindfold to further isolate the sense of hearing.  

 


Learning All About ⏰Time

Today, we are learning about the time: how to tell, read and write time, and the importance of time in our lives, and how we should cherish and not waste it. Since there are only a finite amount of hours in a day, we shall spend time wisely, and if we waste time on something not very important, we might end up not having enough time to do what really matters to us. So, today we are learning how to choose wisely on what to spend our time and on what not to. 

About Time book (buy here) tells an intriguing story about inventing the art of telling time. At first, no one knew the difference between a minute, an hour, and a day. Then people started creating tools to measure time. First, they used the sun, the moon, and the water, but soon they started building clocks. This book is a good introduction to a broader subject of time, including history of time making, and exploring various timepieces through the ages from an Egyptian shadow clock in 1500 B.C. to electric clocks in A.D. 2000.

Moving from general to specific, we shall learn how to tell (read) time. At this technocratic age, electronic digital clocks are pervasive, but I trust they teach children little about the real time. Yes, Adrian at 35 months can recite: it is 4-43, but does he really understand what it means? I think more proper clocks for children are Clocks with Arabic numbers and real bell alarms, which will go off when the time allocated for an activity had elapsed, having children experience the passage of time.

DSC_0029I purchased the 3-part Clocks cards to practice time-telling. (Free download for your personal use here.)
DSC_0029Adrian matching the hour as shown on the picture-clock to the numeral (the red series).
DSC_0029Exploring the bell alarms (buy a clock here).
DSC_0029The cards come in three color-coded groups: hourly, half-past, quarter-past, quarter-to.

DSC_0006 copy.JPGJulia matched all the cards, arranging them in matching columns, where first had all 5 o'clocks'; second all 6 o'clocks etc.
DSC_0006 copy.JPGLastly, Julia counted 60 marbles to represent 60 minutes. 

Julia and Adrian love their clocks, and they take them everywhere around the house. Even if at a minimum, they learned to be aware of the passage of time, it is a good first step in our Time Learning Study.


The Cycle of an Apple and Apple Serving Activity

It is Fall here, in Western Hemisphere, and apples are everywhere! So today, it is all about apples! 

DSC_0002.JPGApple Serving  Activity


DSC_0002.JPGWe Love these Montessori aprons: independence = confidence = happy child


DSC_0002.JPGLearning about the Life Cycle of an Apple
DSC_0002.JPGThese are traditional Montessori 3-Part Cards. Read more on matching cards here.


DSC_0002.JPGFirst, Adrian matched the picture cards.


DSC_0002.JPGThen, although not reading yet, he visually matched all the label card.


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Now, let's slice an apple. I removed the skin of an apple, as it makes much harder for a toddler to pierce the skin. This way, a little wiggling with an apple slicer  gets the job of slicing done.


DSC_0002.JPGTime to work - time to eat.
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Time to chop and time to serve:)

It is amazing how much more Adrian would eat of the food he himself prepared. 


Counting animals with marbles - early Math

Today, we are exploring animals, counters, quantity and numerals. Adrian would count the animals, and then place a corresponding number of marble underneath, filling just the exact number of empty square boxes. 

DSC_0022Zebra - is Adrian's favorite animal:)


DSC_0022Adrian would count a marble for each animal and then find the numeral that corresponds to that quantity.
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Read here for more on our math curriculum.