Magazine article Montessori Life

Being Present, Paying Attention

Magazine article Montessori Life

Being Present, Paying Attention

Article excerpt

Being Present, Paying Attention Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) By Eline Snel Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, 2013 Paperback, $17.95

Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) provides an introduction to the practice of mindfulness for children. The author, Eline Snel, is the founder and owner of the Academy for Mindful Teaching, in Leusden, the Netherlands. She has piloted a successful Dutch program, Mindfulness Matters, that aims to help children ages 4 to 19 manage stress and improve focus and overall well-being.

The book is filled with practical, hands-on (mind-on?) exercises. Most are brief, lasting less than 5 minutes, although some take mere seconds. The author provides specific examples of when each type of exercise might be helpful, such as right before bed or during a conflict between parent and child. Some of the exercises are narrated on an included CD, voiced by the mellifluous Myla Kabat-Zinn. In "The Spaghetti Test," the listener is guided through a full-body relaxation, instructed to clench and then relax each muscle in the body, moving from the head through the feet and toes. This anxiety-relieving exercise is presented in a concrete way that is accessible to anyone willing and able to focus on the 5-minute CD track. KabatZinn closes the exercise endearingly, telling the listener "I hope you have a lovely day today."

In general, the exercises seem as if they would be most effective for children 6 and older, although some could be modified to fit younger children. And parents and teachers, I'd venture, could benefit just as much as youngsters from these gentle and fun mindfulness practices. Snel's statement that "there are three fundamental qualities that have a relaxing effect on the often demanding task of parenting: presence, understanding, and acceptance" is a simple yet enlightening reminder to anyone who spends time with children, as a parent or otherwise (p. 15). Snel then goes on to explain each of these qualities:

Presence enables you to simply be here-in contact with this moment.... Present in all those moments of happiness, misfortune, routine, and everything in between. …

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