SPONGE-SQUEEZING THOUGHT BUSTER
SUPPLIES: BUCKET, SPONGE, FOOD COLOURING, WATER
- Have your child imagine their body is a sponge, and that their body can absorb thoughts and feelings that are helpful as well as ones that aren’t.
- Help them recall an unhelpful thought and the uncomfortable feeling they often battle. For example, “This is a horrible day. I feel so sad” or “My sister always gets me in trouble. I feel really mad.”
- Take a big sponge and place it in a water bucket. Encourage your child to squeeze all of the water out of their sponge by using both hands. Let them know that as they’re squeezing out all that water from the sponge, they’re also squeezing all of the unhelpful thoughts and uncomfortable feelings out of their body and mind.
- Invite them to fill the sponge with water and squeeze it out again (and again, if needed) until they’ve got all the water out of the sponge and the entire thought (and the sad, mad, scared or anxious feelings that went with it) is out of their body. It’s okay if it’s not completely gone.
- Help your child imagine a helpful thought and a more comfortable feeling they’d like to bring into their mind and body instead.
- Have your child imagine the thought and feeling as a colour, then use natural food colouring to magically turn a glass of water into drinkable thoughts and feelings for that colour.
Conquer Monkey Mind with Square Breathing
“Monkey Mind” is a state of having your thoughts racing – it’s brought on by anxiety or stress. It’s like having a wild monkey in your mind that’s jumping around and swinging from tree to tree.
Monkey Mind can be distracting and make us irritable or anxious. This breathing exercise is a great solution for children who want a discreet way to deal with their stress.
- Have your child think about whether they sometimes notice their thoughts racing through their mind or their heart beating fast. Ask them if they’ve ever had too many thoughts or too many worries at the same
- time. Let them know that a racing mind or heart is their body giving them a warning that they may have too much stress.
- Let them know that one way to tame Monkey Mind is to use a special way of breathing called “square breathing.” Square breathing helps us lower our heart rate and put the monkey to sleep.
- Ask them to imagine breathing around a square. Start at the bottom left-hand corner and breathe up the square by inhaling for four counts—one, two, three and four.
- Now ask them to hold their breath along the top of the square while you count—one, two, three, four.
- Next have them exhale along the right side of the square while you count—one, two, three and four.
- Finally, have them hold their breath again along the bottom of the square: one, two, three and four.
- Encourage your child to continue square breathing until they notice their thoughts become more still. Sit for a moment together and enjoy the effects.
Some children may find square breathing difficult, but they can easily master triangle breathing by inhaling along one side, exhaling along the second side and holding their breath to finish. Most children find holding their breath after the exhalation to be the most difficult step. Teach children that they can avoid taking a sip of air by placing their hand on their tummy; it’s the easiest way to track whether or not air is coming in.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness allows you to be fully present, aware of where you are, what you’re experiencing in the present time moment. During mindfulness you actively observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance – without judging them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening your experience.
Breathing mindfully allows us to voluntarily activate our brain in ways that calm the body. It can vastly improve a child’s wellbeing and should be practiced regularly to make its effects more powerful. It’s like exercising any muscle; the more you flex it, the stronger it becomes. Low and slow mindful breathing is a powerful tool to calm the heart and mind right before something challenging or before sleep.