Building mindfulness and resilience through expressive-arts and mindfulness activities.
This three-part activity for young school-aged children and their big people combines some silly song making with simple mindfulness insights and exercises to do together.
The Setting: Creating a cozy experience of belonging and calm, through preparing both the physical and mental setting.
The Doing: The project. The child captains the choices!
The Shining: Follow-through: experience mastery through repeated practice and getting to use the new mindfulness skill & expressive art another day.
Making Up Silly Songs...
The gist: Your role is Support Team. You'll be guiding your young partner through the activity while he or she makes the creative choices. Explain to them the gist of what you’re about to do together.
Together, you will prepare your space and do some simple mindfulness activities to ease into a positive mind-frame. Then, you will listen to some examples of silly songs to get into a musical mood. After that, you’ll start the singing, using tunes you already know and making up new words to go with them.
The point of this whole thing is to have fun.
It is NOT to sing like a diva but perhaps more like a laughing hyena.
PART ONE. THE SETTING. Supplies, Physical Space & Mindspace
Short list of simple tunes your young partner already knows (ideas included below).
Writing or drawing supplies, paper, something to write on.
Willingness to relax and have some creative fun.
SETTING UP YOUR PHYSICAL SPACE
Explain that your child gets to choose and create an intentionally positive physical space. Give them their choice of spot for the two of you to sit, anywhere around the house or even outside. Next, together remove scattered items in view to keep the mind’s eye fresh for creativity. Last, let your young creator pick one pleasing object (ex. toy, picture, blanket) to add to your nook that sparks joy with a look.
Tidy spaces help our brains be at ease.
CREATING YOUR MINDSPACE
Explain to your kiddo the point of doing mindfulness activities. Through several minutes of focus on the present moment you and your young Co-Captain can begin to purposefully build a bridge to quiet and calm spaces within. The peace you’ll notice is called an inner refuge – it’s a place you can reach more easily the more you practice, just like tying your shoes, spelling big words, or even shooting hoops. Eventually you can tie your shoes with your eyes shut – eventually you can reach this inner refuge no matter what! Mindfulness skills help us to be healthy on the inside.
MINDFULNESS EXERCISE: The Breathing Hand
Guide yourself and your young cohort through the following steps.
Find a comfortable position sitting or standing. Stretch your spine tall, giving your lungs plenty of room to breathe.
Look at the palm of one hand. Notice the details: take a good look. Just see it.
With the pointer finger of your other hand, trace up and down the sides of your fingers while breathing. Notice the sensations on your skin.
Start at the outside base of your thumb and breathing in, trace up 1 – 2 – 3. Exhale and trace down your thumb 1 – 2 – 3. Do the same for each of your fingers. Be kind to your body; count slowly, but not so slowly it becomes difficult. You can count for your Co-Captain and they can count for you, or just count in your heads.
Mastery Practice: Go back the way you came. (Repeat in reverse.) Or switch hands! However you like, do it at least twice.
In a moment, you’ll start the video. Encourage your fellow mind-space creator to sit comfortably while the two of you talk for a moment about mindfulness. Ask yourselves, did the Breathing Hand exercise feel calming, focusing, or joy-inducing? Remind your young partner, mindfulness skills help us be healthy on the inside, and meditation is a wonderful skill to explore. No worries if this is your first time meditating - it comes with all the instructions included! The big idea for this next step is to expand the feeling of a quietly calm heart. Don’t worry if the two of you can’t sit still for the whole ten minutes (kids gotta wiggle and maybe even giggle when they meet the crab on their nose - you’ll see!). The simple act of focusing on your breathing for even just a few minutes is a proven technique for increasing a sense of overall wellbeing.
Notice how you are feeling after doing this. Throughout your day, remember to take a moment, fill your lungs, breathe deep, and focus on the sensations of it all.
What did your crabs look like? How did focusing on your breathing feel? Take a moment to celebrate your effort and compare notes on the experience.
PART TWO. THE DOING
STEP ONE – Warm Up – Get the juices flowing.
For starters, here’s a warm-up silly song to listen to that doesn’t have any words at all! Can you sing along when you listen a second time? Are you smiling yet??
To get into the musical zone - let your melody-making-self flow with some sounds and rhythms that hit the spot.
Now, let’s take the song making to the next level...
Here are the original lyrics for Row Your Boat and Twinkle Twinkle next to their shiny, new, 100% homemade parodies.
CHALLENGE: Make up yet another version of one or both of these songs!
Click on the sound clip to hear a sample of the new Mow the Lawn sung to the tune of Row Your Boat.
Original silly song parody of Row Your Boat
STEP TWO – Create – Song Making
If you’re looking for ideas for inspiration, you could help your young creator think of times in the day that could be jazzed up and injected with joy by a minute or two of plain old silly singing. A new song to suit a daily chore, or the silliest most ridiculous song ever – could change groans of annoyance into giggles of delight.
You both may be surprised by how a normally ho-hum or even unpleasant moment can be turned around with a habit of silliness and even solidarity when you sing as a team!
Here’s a list of well-known melodies ripe for the tweaking:
Successful Silly Song-Making Steps & Secrets…
Help your young creator to let the silly ideas flow! Ideas that don’t work at first might lead to the keepers.
Help your Co-Creator to choose a song with a melody they know well.
As Support Team, find or write out the original lyrics or words. It can help to see the rhymes as well as to clap out the beats of the original as you two are coming up with your new words.
Together, find the rhythms and sounds of the words or phrases that anchor the flow. Now, start to make up your own words that fit in the musical spaces.
The anchor phrase in Row Your Boat - “Row Your Boat” - became Mow the Lawn.
Once your young creator lands on your new anchor phrase – begin to figure out other words that somehow make sense (or not) and fit in with the rhythmic flow of the sound. Let it keep morphing as you play with this fun word puzzle.
Sing it out loud together as you go. Try different word mash-ups. You’ll be surprised at how fun it is when you actually come up with something that fits and works.
Be careful, it can be hard to stop once you’re on a roll!
Remember to allow and to help your young creator to be the lead on this. You are supporting the fun. Your young cohort is leading the creativity and captaining the choices. If the two of you are both having different ideas you could agree to make up multiple songs! There’s no limit here. You can make up as many songs as come to you. You never know, you might end up with a Greatest Hits Album.
STEP THREE - Mastery Practice
Once you’ve got the new lyrics, try out singing the whole thing together a few times through. Does it work? Does it need a tweak or two? If there’s a chance you might forget the lyrics, record the two of you singing them or write them down if you haven’t already. Post your shared song online or on the fridge to share the giggles.
This belongs to the two of you, but especially to your young one. If he or she likes it – if it brings giggles and smiles – IT’S GOOD.
The goal for this activity is to put a smile on your faces and laughter in your hearts; to experience a sense of well-being & connection in the moment.
PART THREE. THE SHINING. Share. Shine. Celebrate.
Challenge your young partner to help remember to sing the song if it naturally goes with a daily activity, or decide when the perfect time of day would be to sing it and bring on the giggles.
Find ways to celebrate your young creator’s new creation. Hum it around the house, encourage your child to teach it to people at home, in school, at church, over the phone to family… Sing it together Opera Style, or to your pet or the neighbor’s dog. The big thing is to have fun with it together and to help your young one to continue to feel the fun and the happiness the two of you have created.
Singing in key is a lot less important than singing with glee.
Now that the two of you have got the idea for how to create silly songs, you may choose to make singing a happy habit. Weaving this intentional joy and laughter into our days is a great way to let our inner spirits Shine On!
Even if you don't always sing loudly, humming quietly or just recalling the ditty in your mind can put a smile on your face and a spring in your step.
You can also choose to share the mindfulness moments as a tool in your pockets to pull out when the two of you have a spare moment or need to wind down. The Breathing Hand could be a fun way to settle down to focus, and the Breath & Crab Meditation could be a daily 10-minute break to share and build your sense of inner refuge.
Just like with practicing sports, Mindfulness Practice makes us masters of healthy, happy minds!