How To Do Mindfulness With Your Kids Before Bed
These past few weeks I have noticed myself become so intensely in tune with how I spend my time with my daughter. I already get emotional when I think how one day she won't be the only child that has stolen my heart (and I am not even pregnant yet). I want to breathe in as many moments with her before our family size grows. One of my most favorite times of the day with Winter is before bed---it's my time to practice mindfulness with her, wind down from the day by stretching and spend uninterrupted time with my girl.
I am always the one to put Winter to bed. Perry, of course, does it when he can. But actually, I prefer it because it's one of the only times during the work week that Winter and I get uninterrupted quality time.
She has become so good at self-regulating. She will often tell us when it's time to get her milk and her snacks (she insists that we bring up cashews, raisins, and Cheerios for her to munch on while we read).
Bedtime is between 7:15 and 7:45 PM, so we start winding down and playing in her room anywhere from 20-45 minutes before then.
Our bedtime routine always consists of reading, laying in her teepee and looking at the "stars" (which are projected onto the walls by a light machine) while listening to relaxing music and teaching her deep breathing and mindfulness (I will get into what I do to model mindfulness for her later).
Winter is drawn to music, and we've been using the Soundbub by WavHello, which is a portable blue tooth speaker and white noise machine to play her favorite tunes. We've always used a white sound machine but I wish I had known about this company sooner because the blue tooth feature is my favorite. We love to stream bands like Iron and Wine, Bon Iver and soft jazz to the Soundbub. It comes with 2 pre-programmed white noise tracks and a white noise album with 14 more sounds in the VoiceShare app (which I will talk more about below). It also clips onto the stroller quickly so we can enjoy some tunes while we walk.
If you have followed me for awhile you know that I am a school psychologist, so I have a background in teaching kids to identify and regulate strong emotions. It's so essential for me to pass down these skills to my daughter. Even though she is just a week and some days shy of turning two I do not think any child is too young to learn these skills. Also, developing a strict mindfulness practice saved my life after battling a really bad bout of postpartum depression and OCD. Hence why I sing from the rooftops about mindfulness at any chance that I can get.
So, to teach Winter mindfulness I typically turn on one of the white noise sounds and ask Winter to get really quiet and listen to the sound. She loves to tell me to "Shhh" while placing her little finger over her mouth. I usually play each sound for about 5 seconds while I model how to listen quietly. After each sound I talk to her about what sounds I heard on the Soundbub. She is getting quite good at identifying the sounds and will often say the sound name before our five seconds is up. This exercise teaches mindful listening. As she gets older I will ask her to listen to the white noise as well as any other sounds she can hear (i.e. the sound of her breath, the sound of Perry downstairs playing music, or any other sound outside her window). This exercise takes about one minute in totality and is a great way to introduce to your kids what it feels like in their bodies and minds to focus on the present moment with thoughtfulness.
The other way we practice mindfulness is to listen to a personalized mantra that her father and I recorded on the Soundbub using the Voiceshare app which can be used to record voice messages, lullabies and stories from your loved ones to share with your little ones. We have been tweaking what we say to her as the months have gone on and I think we finally found the perfect version. Before we turn out the lights and before we rock and hum I instruct Winter to play her mantra. She knows exactly which button to push. When she plays it she hears both Perry and I take turns saying this:
Winter, sweet Winter Gates
You are mighty
You are kind
You are loved and oh so important
We are because of you
Where you go, we go too
You are strong
You are mighty Winter