When I was teaching, my classroom schedule had outdoor time preceding lunch time. What does this mean? It means that, everyday, sweaty, red faces entered the school. The kiddos were dragging their feet and looking down at their shoes. But the feeling the cool and gentle touch of our air-conditioned hallway calmed everyone down, refreshing our over-heated bodies.
When we sat down at the table, our meal was eaten in silence. Not because there was a no talking rule – but because no one had the enough energy to speak.
As everyone ate their meal, eyelids became heavier, which directly corresponded with the amount of yummy food filling our bellies. By the end of lunch, I gently tapped children on their shoulders, asking them to lift their heads off the table and remind them to get their blankets and pillows for naptime. There was little, if any, complaint. Bed time was an eagerly awaited reprieve from the summer heat.
These are probably one of the few times when children are completely calm and quiet. However, playing outside in energy-sapping heat should not be the only way to get children to be cool and collected. In fact, creating situations where children are serene and tranquil can go a long way in setting up children for learning and development and not just naptime.
While reading Teaching Young Children, I read an article entitled “Creating Quiet Space in a Loud World” by Lisa Danahy. The article described activities on how children could practice breathing techniques. Children even used objects, such as feathers and bells, to assist them in the activity.
Danahy, who is also a certified yoga instructor, says, “Using mindfulness tools like meditation helps children manage the stress of these environments (classrooms) and become stronger, more resilient learners.”
Think about that? Have you ever tried to teach a large group activity while children were bouncing off the walls? Probably. I did. It failed. Failed horribly. However, rather than scold children and reprimand them for my poor classroom management, I should start the activity with a sound starting point – such as calming everyone down, priming the minds and bodies for learning.
Of course, breathing techniques are effective for other purposes. I taught children to count to 10 whenever they were angry. I used breathing techniques to calm children how were crying after injuring themselves, that way I could ask questions to assess and inquiry about their injury.
Breathing and meditation are great techniques to use. Calm, collected, and neutral children create a fertile ground for learning and retention. Of course, in teaching children to use these techniques – breathing, counting, and even closing your eyes – you may find yourself benefiting as well!