June 2016

  • From Zoo to Zen

    As schools put more pressure on young
    students to read and write at earlier ages, children are fighting a battle to
    maintain a lifestyle of learning through play. The preschool years are now
    cutting back on the playtime necessary to develop the sensory and motor skills
    needed prior to instructing skills like handwriting. In addition the increase
    in use of technology is changing culture and creating norms that are deterring
    adequate social skills needed for engaging human interaction and motor skills
    needed for fine motor and daily living tasks. This is having psychosocial
    consequences on children leading to a generation of children that do not enjoy
    learning nor have adequate attention spans to absorb what they are learning.
    Their brains can be compared to a zoo full of monkeys swinging from one idea to
    the next without the skills needed to rest the mind.

    With
    each passing day, the practice of mindfulness is finding its way into daily
    conversation and advice columns. It seems like everyone from comics to
    corporate CEOs are finding ways to zone in on Zen practices to clear the mind,
    escape technology addictions, and find new ways to connect with humans. The
    idea of mindfulness, the state of being aware of the present moment, may sound
    sophisticated, but research now suggests it should make its way into classroom
    curriculum.  In fact, actress Goldie Hawn
    is the founder of a mindfulness classroom curriculum called MindUPTM.
    Its proven benefits include increased optimism and self-concept,
    improved academic achievement, increased planning and organizational skills,
    and increased empathy and other pro-social skills.  

    Here are some simple mindfulness
    activities that I practice with children to foster these skills at an early
    age.

    Body Awareness- Practice squeezing individual body parts upon request while lying on floor face up with eyes closed. Recall which body parts were squeezed at the end of the exercise.

    Breathing Bundy- Practice breathing
    while lying down with a stuffed animal resting on the tummy. Watch the animal
    rise and fall with each inhale and exhale.

    Blind Touch- Practice holding and feeling an unknown object with eye closed. Determine its qualities through the use of the sense of touch.

    I hope you find these tips helpful.
    If you child has difficulty focusing despite practicing mindfulness activities,
    consider consulting with an occupational therapist for additional strategies. To
    learn more about MindUPTM and its research findings, check out the
    TheHawnFoundation.org.

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play
    Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational
    therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more
    information about Playapy services and products, visit
    www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

    Continue reading