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Saturday, April 13, 2019


My dear friend Barbara Gruener is my guest blogger today. This blog is WONDERFUL and POWERFUL because Barbara explains what mindfulness can mean to you and your students. She also has some meaningful activities and tools that can promote mindfulness in your classroom.

Though I’d been an educator for thirty-plus years at that point, it wasn’t until about three summers ago when I first sat in on a mindfulness growth session and truly experienced what I’ve now come to know as something I simply cannot live without, the practice of mindfulness. Simply put, mindfulness means being in the moment, fully present, mindfully aware, without judgment.

It’s also something I wish I’d done better when my own children were young.

I’m finding that mindfulness is called a practice because it takes lots of practice. Every. Single. Day. And just because I’ve been studying it, been creating ways to nurture it, been attending summits to research and learn everything I can about it doesn’t mean that I’m there yet. Quite the opposite, actually. The more I learn about this calming practice to keep me fully present, the more I find gaps that keep me wanting more.

More awakening. More practice. More calm.

Here now, five ways to help you and your students get more mindful when your minds start to get full.

Magical Breathing

There’s nothing easier in the practice of mindfulness than turning something automatic, like breathing, into something that you do with intention. Try variations of the deep breath, like box breathing. Popular with military personnel, this deep-breathing technique asks you to breathe in for four counts, pause and hold it for four counts, exhale for four counts, and pause again for four counts. Use your pointer finger to draw a square to make it more tangible. Or, for fun, try backward breathing. Exhale first, then inhale.

My students also enjoy something we call straw breathing.

For straw breathing, you’ll need a straw for each child and some hearts or other cut-out shapes spread out all over the floor. Ask students to deep breathe into the straw as they pick up one of the paper shapes. They will then pause their breath as they travel that shape from where they found it to a designated home basket, where they will deposit the shape by exhaling slowly and deeply. Students can race against one another to see how many straw breaths they can take as they pick up the hearts off of the floor and move them to their safe place.

Don’t stop there; try rainbow breathing, labyrinth breathing, five finger breathing, and shapes breathingfor more ways to engage your mindful learners in the practice of mindfulness to elevate energy and to center and calm.

Mindfulness Mantras

A mantra is a short phrase that we can repeat to help us focus and stay in the moment. It will also help center us and bring us back to mindful awareness of our real-time circumstances to help us unwrap the present. One of my favorite mantras is Be where your feet are.                                                

Try this: Adopt a four-word phrase like Peace begins with me; start by touching your pinky finger to your thumb, then move through the other fingers to make it a touchstone. Add some deep breathing to unwind and restore: Inhale courage, exhale worries. Make your mantras tangible and cross your midpoint by using your right-hand pointer and middle fingers to tap out your mantra as you ascend your left arm from your wrist to your elbow and back down again. Switch sides and repeat it a few more times.

Button Bowls
Tap into the senses with a collection of all of the spare buttons that you and your class can collect. Put assorted buttons into a bowl and listen while little fingers manipulate them; can you hear the rainforest? If not, what does it sound like to you? Look at the bright colors; how many can you see? Feel the different shapes, sizes, temperatures, and textures.

Which button reminds you of your mom? Your dad? Your grandparents? Your teacher? Do you have a favorite button? What draws you to that particular one? Spray the buttons with an essential oil for an added mindfulness treat.

Calming Containers 
Fill a water bottle with water and add ½ teaspoon of water beads. Watch them grow from small, dry, brittle beads to fully-hydrated, colorfully-squishy bouncy balls. Put a drop of food coloring into the water before sealing the bottle up tightly to give your younger learners a visual tool to use as they enjoy the visual benefits of watching the water gently rocking the beads back and forth.

If you’ve got older learners, consider adding a drop of an essential oil like lavender so students can unscrew the cap and inhale the fragrance to reduce stress and increase productivity.

Scent-sational Shakers
A common roadblock to scents is that diffusers have been banned from classrooms and/or schools out of sensitivity to students and staff with allergies. I get it; I, too, have an eye disease that prevents me from enjoying anything strongly scented or perfumed. A beautiful alternative is capturing those scents and decentralizing them so that they are available when needed without causing unwanted allergic reactions.


My favorite way to infuse scents is by soaking a cotton ball with the desired essential oil and putting it inside these shakers. Now my salt shaker smells of citrus and the pepper shaker holds, you guessed it, a peppermint scent.

Check out a few of our favorite mindfulness apps:


For more on the benefits of mindfulness, click {here}; for posts and other resources, visit my Mindfulness Pinterest page.

P.S.  Check out Barbara's book on character education.  This is exactly what is needed in each home and classroom right now!