As parents, we often are urging our kids to focus. “Pay attention…Concentrate… Finish your homework…Don’t be distracted.” So many of us often hear from their teachers that our children have trouble staying on task at school. How can we as parents help?
Focusing and paying attention is not something that we necessarily do naturally. It’s a skill that we can cultivate over time through mindfulness practices.
For young children, and especially for preschool and early elementary children who may have difficulty sitting still to begin with, asking them to sit and meditate is often not the best approach.
Young children respond best to the tangible, versus the abstract. Therefore, having a prop to help them pay attention often works better than other mindfulness techniques.
Props such as a Mind Jar (also known as a calming jar, settle down jar, focus bottle) can work well to cultivate self-regulation and attention.
Recently, The Kitchen Counselor and I led a hands-on family program at our neighborhood farmers market, where we made glittery Mind Jars. The children, as well as their parents, loved the activity. Some worked together as a family to create their masterpieces. A good time was had by all. And when it was time to shake up the jars and watch the sparkly glitter swirl to the bottom, the children — and parents — were mesmerized.
Here are some suggestions for how and when to use Mind Jars:
- When you’re helping your kids transition from school, or an after school activity to homework or cool down time. Shake the jar up and watch the “thoughts and feelings” from the day settle down to get ready to focus on the next activity.
- As a bedtime ritual, to help them settle down to get ready for story time, or after bath time.
- When your child is overwhelmed or feeling anxious. You can help them learn how to self-regulate their emotions by talking to them about how they have lots of feelings and thoughts swirling around in their minds—just like the sparkly glitter that’s swirling around in the water when you shake up the Mind Jar. When their feelings and thoughts have had a chance to settle down, their mind is now ready to think clearly, like the clear water on the upper portion of the jar.
- To help YOU calm down!
***IMPORTANT TIP: No matter when or why you’re using a Mind Jar, take long, slow, deep belly breaths while watching the swirly sparkly glitter fall to the bottom***
Here’s how to make “Sparkly Swirly Mind Jars”:
Clear plastic container with tight fitting lid (we used clear plastic bottles)
Elmer’s Washable (non-toxic) Glitter Glue – choose your favorite colors!
Hot (but not boiling) water (adult supervision recommended)
Fill container 80% with hot water (leave about 2 inches empty). Fill the rest of the jar (or whatever looks good to you) with one or multiple colors of glitter glue. Screw lid on tight and…
Place container on flat surface and watch the colors settle down while you take long slow deep belly breaths
If you’re making Mind Jars with young children, here are some books you can read to them as part of this fun activity: