Pebbles and Dancing: How Mindful Play Creates Emotional Resilience in Kids.

This is an account of an amazing day. It is an account of when my husband started a new job a few years ago. I thought it was worth sharing.

My daughter Gigi and I begin our day with a celebratory breakfast. My husband started a new job, and to celebrate, Gigi and I pull together a “basket of office supplies” gift  and a mega breakfast. I am not sure which one of us enjoyed it more. We were all  smiling throughout our time together.

After our morning routine, Gigi and I headed out to the playground that she calls the “castle”. It is constructed out of timber and has multiple towers and bridges, making it look like a castle with a moat of pebbles all around it. She is really most into the pebbles so I decide to accept where she was and make the most fun out of it. The towers and draw- bridges will have to wait a few more months.

This playground is fun when experienced mindfully.

Pebbled playground leads to fun sensory play.

Once we get there, I realize that she is in bliss with the feeling the pebbles bring to her hands. We start talking how these pebbles feel hard, how big ones feel heavy, and how our clothes and hair are the opposite in their softness. Two other little girls, Rachel and Nina, join us. They kindly ask if Grace would like to play with them. My guess is that they are really asking if they can play with us.

We all make pebble cakes and pebble pies. We create apple chocolate cake, berry cake, strawberry pie, and blueberry muffins. We all start talking about how rocks feel hard, and soon Nina and Rachel are running around finding all the hard objects in the castle. Hard poles, hard chains, hard swings, and when all options are nearly exhausted, they even say they have “hard heads”! The same process is completed with all things soft and soon everyone is giggling.

How Kids Learn Emotional Regulation

We pretend to be pirates of the castle and are sailing on our sea of pebbles to distant islands. Grace is happy to have playmates and I am happy to have everyone so excited learning about the textures of our pebble wonderland. This is where it all begins for Gigi and her emotions. She is creating inner resources of joy and happiness that she will use to regulate her emotions when things get rough.

If Gigi can describe her emotions as she feels them in her body, she will one day be the master of them. She won’t be afraid to deal feelings as they make themselves present in her life. It takes little effort on my part to give her a vocabulary for her tactile experiences, and hopefully experiences will present themselves that will enlarge her vocabulary in detail, degree and also in relation to her multiple senses. Sadness can be “heavy”, anger might feel “hard” and peace might feel “soft”. Gigi will be prepared to deal.

Nina and Rachel continue to play with us. Rachel begins hugging me and tries to sit on me like a horse. At this point, I realize it is great to be playing with these little girls, as they so need attention. Their mom is on the other side of the castle the whole time. She can not see her children as they play and she does not check on them once during the forty minutes we are playing. Nina begins to initiate hugging more and more, and so as to avoid any major attachment that can not be fulfilled, Gigi and I decline their offer to go to the ice cream shop, and head on our merry way to our next destination, a dress rehearsal of a dance performance in the city.  I truly hope that Rachel and Nina find the attention that they need.

Sensory Play: How Mindful Movement Encourages Play

Gigi and I attempt to eat lunch, but Gigi is so excited about the dancers that she can’t begin to concentrate on her banana. We end the meal early, and head to the theater to see the dress rehearsal. The venue is a converted bar with a stage; it is very hip and has lots of room for Gigi to move “be a dancer” herself as she waits.
The second stage normally used by the musicians is not in use, so the dancers say that Gigi can go up on the stage. She is spinning, twirling and looking quite proud as she says “I’m a dancer!” She even tries the lifts as I swing her around the stage and she copies the dancers’ lunging patterns to the music. We both really enjoy ourselves.

Self awareness allows for mastery of emotions.

Calm parents are a model for calm kids.

How Good Memories and Emotions Help Me Stay Calm

As we leave the venue to find our car, I notice the sky becoming darker and darker. We have driven almost the whole way home when it begins to rain, and before I can process what is happening, cars are turning around in front of me due to downed trees. I also turn around and try an alternate route. As I navigate, our car begins to rock, the surrounding trees look horizontal, and the traffic lights take on the appearance of feathers being tossed by a majestic wind. Regardless of the nature of this wind, I am intent on getting home as fast as possible. Shingles from the roof are scattered on the front lawn; gutters and molding have been detached from the roof, and there is no electricity.  We make our way inside.

Once we are settled in, I check with my neighbors and soon learn there was a tornado that touched down a mile from our home. It is still raining, and Gigi continues to nap. My own emotions of ”heavy”. Fear subsides and gratitude for my blessings begins to “soften” me once again. Because I too have had an amazing day of great memories, calming down isn’t hard.

We are safe and sound at the end of a beautiful day.

Mindfulness leads to a mastery of our internal emotions. Mindful parents rasie mindful kids.

Mastering our emotions through awareness let’s use steer our ship well and weather any storm. Emotions light our way.

If Gigi can describe her emotions as she feels them in her body, she will one day be the master of them. She won’t be afraid to deal feelings as they make themselves present in her life. It takes little effort on my part to give her a vocabulary for her tactile experiences, and hopefully experiences will present themselves that will enlarge her vocabulary in detail, degree and also in relation to her multiple senses. Sadness can be “heavy”, anger might feel “hard” and peace might feel “soft”. Gigi will be prepared to deal.

Nina and Rachel continue to play with us. Rachel begins hugging me and tries to sit on me like a horse. At this point, I realize it is great to be playing with these little girls, as they so need attention. Their mom is on the other side of the castle the whole time. She can not see her children as they play and she does not check on them once during the forty minutes we are playing. Nina begins to initiate hugging more and more, and so as to avoid any major attachment that can not be fulfilled, Gigi and I decline their offer to go to the ice cream shop, and head on our merry way to our next destination, a dress rehearsal of a dance performance in the city.  I truly hope that Rachel and Nina find the attention that they need.

Sensory Play: How Mindful Movement Encourages Play

Gigi and I attempt to eat lunch, but Gigi is so excited about the dancers that she can’t begin to concentrate on her banana. We end the meal early, and head to the theater to see the dress rehearsal. The venue is a converted bar with a stage; it is very hip and has lots of room for Gigi to move “be a dancer” herself as she waits.
The second stage normally used by the musicians is not in use, so the dancers say that Gigi can go up on the stage. She is spinning, twirling and looking quite proud as she says “I’m a dancer!” She even tries the lifts as I swing her around the stage and she copies the dancers’ lunging patterns to the music. We both really enjoy ourselves.

Self awareness allows for mastery of emotions.

Calm parents are a model for calm kids.

How Good Memories and Emotions Help Me Stay Calm

As we leave the venue to find our car, I notice the sky becoming darker and darker. We have driven almost the whole way home when it begins to rain, and before I can process what is happening, cars are turning around in front of me due to downed trees. I also turn around and try an alternate route. As I navigate, our car begins to rock, the surrounding trees look horizontal, and the traffic lights take on the appearance of feathers being tossed by a majestic wind. Regardless of the nature of this wind, I am intent on getting home as fast as possible. Shingles from the roof are scattered on the front lawn; gutters and molding have been detached from the roof, and there is no electricity.  We make our way inside.

Once we are settled in, I check with my neighbors and soon learn there was a tornado that touched down a mile from our home. It is still raining, and Gigi continues to nap. My own emotions of ”heavy”. Fear subsides and gratitude for my blessings begins to “soften” me once again. Because I too have had an amazing day of great memories, calming down isn’t hard.

We are safe and sound at the end of a beautiful day.

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