Yoga and Mindfulness for children.
11/5/2023 0 Comments
Do you know those mornings?
I know when you are tired, play is probably the last thing on your mind. You may feel overwhelmed and overstimulated yourself during their high energy moments and I want you to know that how you are feeling is okay. Please be gentle with yourself. Just as their nervous system is out of balance, yours may be too. These practices may just help you both come back into a balance.
The nervous system is in a state of overstimulation
Play is crucial for a child's nervous system development, especially for hyperactive children like those with ADHD. When a child is hyperactive, their nervous system is often in a state of overstimulation, making it challenging for them to focus and regulate their emotions. Yoga and mindfulness offer valuable tools to help these children.
Playful yoga can help balance this energy
In hyperactive children, their bodies are flooded with excess energy, making it difficult for them to channel it appropriately, and when you haven't got much energy yourself, this can feel intense.
Engaging in playful yoga poses can help them release or balance this energy and develop body awareness. Mindfulness exercises, such as deep breathing or simple meditation, can teach them to manage their impulses and stay present in the moment.
Saying "Calm Down" just doesn't work
Instead of just asking them to calm down, parents can playfully incorporate yoga and mindfulness techniques into games. Here are 5 of my favourite games and practices I do with my children when they are feeling hyperactive...
1. Pizza restaurant
This is one we played before even leaving the bed this morning. Sometimes our pizza massages (where you pretend to make a pizza on your child's back, kneading the dough, spreading the sauce etc) are a really calm practice but because he had so much energy it involved some playful wrestling to prepare the pizza. Pizza restaurant usually involves some run away dough that you catch and start to try turn them into pizza. I use massage and hugs and sometimes when my child wants some tickling (because he loves tickles.) With any game we use positive touch, it's always child led. Consent is always asked for before we start the game and they can say no or stop anytime they have had enough. My children love these types of games and for my eldest, it is fun because they are not a hugger so having this playful way to connect with positive touch is really great.
Physical contact and proprioceptive input can have a calming effect on the nervous system
When engaged in this game, children experience physical contact and proprioceptive input, which can have a calming effect on their nervous system. Proprioceptive input (sensations from joints, muscles, and connective tissues) helps them become more aware of their body's movements and positions, promoting a sense of body awareness and control.
For hyperactive children, who often struggle with sensory processing, positive touch provides a grounding sensation. It allows them to release pent-up energy in a controlled and safe environment, preventing them from feeling overwhelmed.
2. Mr McGregors Garden
This game has evolved so much over the years! It used to be sneaky trees, then it was grumpy neighbour and now we call it Mr McGregor's garden (from Peter Rabbit) because the grumpy neighbour reminded one of my students of Mr McGregor (Thank you Josh for the brilliant idea!).
This game takes having some space, the length of a room, or get outside if possible (getting outside will have added benefits that will help in calming hyper children!). It can even be played in the kitchen while the kettle is boiling. This is a favourite in both my classes and at home.
How to play
You stand at one end of the room (or a chosen point outside) and your child or children stand at the other end, leaving a decent amount of space between you. The idea here is that you are Mr McGregor and you do not want bunnies in your garden! When you are not watching they must hop like bunnies to get to the other side and tap you on the shoulder (or get to the wall). When you are looking , they must stand still in tree pose. This will help with balance and focus. You can then switch around so they can be Mr McGregor.
I like to make this game super dramatic. Be as grumpy as you can, tune into that character who really does not want bunnies in his garden! I usually say "I only want to see trees in my garden."
I take a walk around inspecting the trees too, this encourages children to hold the pose a little longer. Encourage them to change sides each side (change the standing leg).
Decide with the children what the rules should be if they get caught moving. Do they have to go back to the start, go back a few steps or stay still from that moment? We want to keep this fun and if their is confusion about the rules, especially when playing with multiple children, it can take-away from the fun! When one child is arguing that another player has to go back to the start but that player thinks they should stay where they are - it can bring frustration, so I recommend making it clear.
3. Stop and Go
There are a few ways I play this with my children. I have used it when my 4 year old (at the time) was feeling too hyper to stand still and brush his teeth, I have used it to balance energy before bed and I have used it just for fun during our Family Yoga practices. The idea here is that we are balancing energy by using opposites.
For example, when I was brushing my little ones teeth and he was feeling hyper, I told him to run down the corridor and back again, then he'd have to stand statue still. I'd do a few brushes and then tell him to run again. The balance of high energy and stillness. I didn't need to struggle to brush his teeth, I met his energy, helped him to find stillness - even just for a moment and it was fun!
We also do this with dance parties in the kitchen. This can be like a musical statues approach where the music plays and then you pause it and everyone freezes (this could even be in a yoga pose, I like to use yoga cards and hold up a different yoga card every time the music stops). You could also use songs that use contrasts - my favourites are:
All I wanna do is dance - Kira Willey
The Goldfish - The Laurie Berkner Band
Party Freeze Dance - The Kilboomers
Yoga Clock (Tick Tock) - Karma Kids Yoga
4. Balloon Breath
When we engage in deep breathing or pranayama practices, we activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us feel calm and centered. This is especially important for hyper children, who may spend too much time in a state of sympathetic activation.
By teaching our children to focus on their breath and practice calming techniques, we can help them regulate their nervous systems and find a sense of balance.
One simple breathing exercise that children can practice is called "balloon breath." To do this exercise, have your child sit comfortably and take a deep breath in. As they inhale, encourage them to imagine that they're filling up a balloon in their belly. Then, as they exhale, have them imagine that they're slowly letting the air out of the balloon. Repeat this exercise for several breaths, encouraging your child to focus on the sensation of their breath moving in and out of their body. This can also be practiced laying down.
If your child struggles to visualise the balloon, place a teddy on their belly and encourage them to lift the teddy on an inhale and lower the teddy on the exhale.
If you'd like to work with the breath more you may be interested in this Free Pranayama Guide.
5. Downward Facing Dog Pose
This pose helps children release excess energy and tension while building strength in their arms and legs. To do the downward dog, come onto all fours with your child. Then lift your hips up and back, keeping a bend in the knees and finding length in the spine (this means not rounding the back or putting too much pressure on the wrists). From here you can find any movement that feels good, like bending one knee and then the other.
If your child has a lot of energy, you could even take turns being the dog and the owner. The owner takes the dog for a walk around the room. Children love the silliness of being a dog but being the owner makes for an interesting role reversal where the child gets to be the one in charge. This can be really good especially for children who often feel powerless (think younger siblings who might get 'bossed around').
The 'dog' can be encouraged to sit and stay as well as walk - this plays back into the 'Stop and Go' I shared earlier. When your child is still either in a sitting position, laying down or holding dog pose, encourage slow breaths - you could even practice panting like a dog! With one big inhale and then lots of little exhales.
The struggle is real
Let me start by saying, I see you. I see you running after your hyper child, trying to get them to calm down so you can finally sit and have that much-needed coffee. I know it's not easy. But supporting their nervous system and managing their stress through playful yoga games and mindfulness will make such a difference.
As a parent myself, I understand the struggle. I used to tell my hyper child to calm down, just like many of you probably do, actually I'm pretty sure I still catch myself saying it! But then I discovered the power of play and mindfulness. I started engaging in these practices with my child, and the change was palpable. My child became more in tune with their body and emotions, and I became more connected with them.
So, fellow parents, caregivers and teachers, I invite you to join me in this journey of supporting our children's emotional and mental well-being. Let's be playful with our children, let's engage in yoga games together, let's practice mindfulness and meditation with them. Let's not just tell our children to calm down, let's show them how to calm down (and have some fun along the way!).
Remember you are your child's best teacher. Take notice of what helps them and what maybe making them more hyper!
Together, we can create a world where our children thrive emotionally and mentally.
Doors are open and I'd love to welcome you into our community!
Family Yoga Game Night is a place where we make looking after children's well-being fun and accessible!
In today's world, with so much going on, it is more important than ever to prioritize our children's well-being. As parents and teachers, we have a responsibility to ensure that our children grow up with the tools they need to not just survive, but to thrive!
My mission is to help create a comforting and supportive environment where children can thrive and manage stress. I believe in mindful and conscious parenting techniques and love communicating with children through play. I use this as inspiration for how to teach children the amazing practice that is Yoga.
Join me today and let's work together to support children's nervous systems and promote their overall well-being.
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What games and practices will you be trying? Does anything else work for your child when they are hyper? Comment below!
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