Swami Mommi Baby Food Chart: An Easy Grocery List and Baby Feeding Plan.

The Swami Mommi Baby Food Chart: Making Mindful Meal Planning Quick and Easy!

Mindful eating is about letting our kids learn the way they need to.

Mindful parenting sometimes requires getting messy. But the Swami Mommi Baby Food Chart takes the mess out of meal planning! It’s easy!

When I am busy, and I still want to be mindful of what my baby is eating, I get grab the Swami Mommi Baby Food Chart. Because it is a food chart of food ideas, as well as a grocery checklist I can grab it and go.

If you start with these basic recipes, and forget the processed foods, your baby will be a great eater. My kids actually eat artichokes and mussels among just about any other vegetable, fruit or meat, If that is any indication of how well this list works, I’d say it does just fine as a springboard into good nutrition for good little eaters.

The chart took me a several months to make initially, but I share it with parents when I work with their babies on feeding, as well as use it regularly myself. It was well worth the effort as well because it consistently saves me time.

This list is a baby food chart and grocery list primarily for a baby in the first stages of feeding. It goes through stage 1 and 2 of baby feeding texture and tolerance. Another way to look at it is by age, with this list being for babies 6 months to 1/5 years, depending on your child’s style of eating and personal skills and preferences. It’s a guide and will be applied differently to each unique child.

Baby Food Chart for easy meal planning.

Kids eat what their parents eat. Make it both nutritious and delicious for both with the           Swami Mommi Food Chart! This is baby eating Pasta Sauce from the chart and loving it!

Remember that you know what your baby can tolerate, so you should NEVER give you baby a food they do not know how to handle or that may cause a choking hazard. Puree, mash, or smash the food on the checklist relative to what your baby can manage. Safety first.

At first, your baby might not be eating any of the foods or recipes on the list, but it can help to grow their list of accepted foods, and the Swami Mommi Food Chart can help guide you and your little one. Start with familiar food, and slowly add in new ones.

Make sure that meal time is in a calm and quite place, and that it is fun. I know it’s all about the food acceptance for us moms, but for the kids it’s all about fun, and songs, and smiles, and good memories. I always say that feeding is somewhat about food, but it is mostly about good memories and strong baby-parent trust patterns.

You can view the recipes for each item below by searching online, and add ingredients to the list if you prefer. I keep it simple, organic and Non-GMO.  So for example, if you know how to make broth, just use the ingredients on the list. If you have a specific recipe you or your grandma loves, then add it in place of the one I used. The idea is that the foods below are easily accepted and nutritious for you baby.

So grab the list, get to the grocery store, and pick what you want to try. Remember, after you cook the recipes,  you can also share them with the whole family. You may need to puree a bit for baby, but as they grow the flavors will be well accepted. Once you have the whole family enjoying them, you will save time and money. Time because you only need to cook one meal for everyone, instead of several for different preferences. Money because fresh vegetables and natural foods are often less than processed foods.

Finally, make sure you eat these foods too as an example to your kids. They will do everything you do, so make a good impression. When families that I work with do not eat well, 90% of the time time their kids don’t either. When the parents model healthy eating, the kids do just fine.

Wishing you all the fun and yum possible at your next family meal!

This is a baby food chart and grocery list for babies 6 months to 1.5 years.

mindful meal planning with a grocery list

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Calming Songs for Kids: Valentine’s Day Music Guide for Mindful Moms!

Music and Activities carefully selected this Valentine's Day can calm your kids and help them feel loved.

We are so busy these days, that if we aren’t careful we might just miss our on the fun of the best holiday around- Valentine’s Day. A holiday all about love is just what both families and kids need around mid-school year, winter chilled time of year. To make it easy and practical, we put a high quality Valentine’s Day Music Guide together so you can make memories this year that count.

The music selections are accompanied by kid and family friendly activities such as snuggling under warm blankets, baking, and giving hugs. As a goal we focused on the more cozy offerings.

Why more cozy activities?

We are working off the principle that more hugs equal greater feelings of calm, social connection and happiness. The hormone in our brain that increases these positive feelings is oxytocin. It’s made naturally, but only when we activate our sense of deep touch. For example, when we give hugs or snuggle. Babies and moms achieve higher levels of oxytocin all the time during the early years when nursing and naps actually increase the oxytocin levels in both mom and baby.

But as kids grow, we need to be more mindful of how much we hug each other. We need to remember to snuggle, and hug to help our kids thrive and know they are safe, secure and loved. As grown ups, we can get a message to feel better which raises oxytocin levels as well as other calming neuro-transmitters, but kids need us to help them out.

It sounds simple, but in our house, we actually have to check to make sure we hug enough! We are all so busy! So this guide is a music, activity and good neuro-transmitter stimulant. All natural and so effective to make sure your Valentine’s Day is jam packed with good feelings and great memories. Give it a try!

Music Guide for Valentine's Day
Cozy music for kids and families for a memorable Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day Music Guide for Mindful Parenting–Make Memories!

A Mindful Song About How Kids Love Their Parents

This is a jazzy song to teach toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarten age, or early elementary age. It can be learned in circle time over a couple of days, or in music class for a Valentine’s Day presentation. The words can even be changed, so “dad” is put in the place where “mom” is written, to create a Valentine’s gift for dad too!

Whatever you choose, have fun, and put a smile on someone’s face this Valentine’s day! Love is too good not to share!

This is an easy song for kids to sing for Valentine's Day

This Valentine’s Day Song for Mom can be sung to your own melody or “The Farmer In the Dell.”

Jazzy Valentine’s Day Music for Kids -and the Whole Family

One of the best songs for Valentine’s Day, and one of the most famous as well, is “My Funny Valentine” from the Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart musical Babes in Arms which first debuted in 1937. It has appeared in over 1300 albums by various artists since then.

If taken for it’s lyrics outside of the musical itself, it can be a dear song to apply to just about anyone in our lives that we love. Our kids are no exception.

“You make me smile in my heart, your looks are laughable….and she’s my favorite work of art……..is your figure less than Greek, is your mouth a little weak, but when you open it to speak….are you smart?………stay little Valentine….stay……Each Day is Valentine’s Day!”

Of course our kids make us smile in our heart, and their looks are sometimes laughable. The things they say are often smart beyond their years. And we always want them to stay small and adorable. Stay little Valentine we say when we are quite and aware of the deep love we have with our kids.

Check on this jazzy trumpet version of My Funny Valentine, where Sting sings to his wife. Play it for the one you love, and enjoy the rich sounds of the exceptional arrangement. Kids will benefit from listening to this good song, and they will begin to know a jazz standard as well!

 

You can use this song to have kids relax to during the chilly inside days of February. A cup of hot milk and a heart shape cookie could make this song come to life and stay in your kids ear long after the warm milk has been finished. Fireside and under cozy cuddly blankets could make this song into a family memory or Valentine’s tradition. Couldn’t we all benefit from more chances to love each other while listening to some good music. No question, this jazzy song gives us all the chance for more love this Valentine’s Day.

Good Songs for Kids for Valentine's Day

Singing Simple Valentine’s Songs During Cozy Valentine’s Day Activities

During the holidays there is often many activities that kids engage in that involve crafting and baking. Often, little rhymes and songs are sung as part of the fun. Make sure this Valentine’s Day you are ready with you song list. Make sure your activities always have a hug or snuggle portion too! It makes everyone more calm and happy by increasing the oxytocin hormone levels in the brain. Here are some easy and cute songs to help you get started.

I am Making Valentines ( to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb)
I am making valentines,
Valentines, valentines.
I am making valentines,
For the ones I love.

Watch me as I cut and paste,
Cut and paste, cut and paste,
Watch me as I cut and paste,
My special valentines.

See me mail my valentines,
Valentines, valentines,
See me mail my valentines,
To the ones I love.

A Hug from You (to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb)

It’s nice to get to a hug from you,
Hug from you, Hug from you.
It’s nice to get a hug from you,
So, let’s give one right now.
(Hug a friend)

Pair these songs with a cup of herbal tea, coco or fresh stove-top popcorn bowl, as well as a big blanket snuggle or a Valentine themed book, and you have made magic this Valentine’s Day, despite being so very, very busy.

Don’t Be left in the Dark: Teach Kids About Diversity with Mindful Hanukkah Activities for the Curious.

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Experiencing Hanukkah Teaches Strong Cultural Diversity Lessons

When we experience things, we internalize them and make them our own. Growing up in a home where Christmas was celebrated, it would be impossible to ever lose my sense of what Christmas means to me. It is a wonderful, joyful, sometimes hectic, time of year, that I just love. I feel comfortable in the Christmas season, and all that comes with it.

As an experiment, I decided that I would teach my children the same Christmas traditions that I followed, however I wanted to add cultural diversity to the mix. So, from when my first child was born, we added in Hanukkah as a traditional family celebration. Long story short, the experiment turned out positive.

Starting small and adding each year, my kids are comfortable with Hanukkah as a holiday and won’t hear of not celebrating it. They have internalized Hanukkah, and with it have internalized cultural diversity and greater respect for Jewish customs.

If my kids had only read about Hanukkah from a book, I don’t think they would have gained the richness and deep understanding of Hanukkah, that they have by experiencing it each year.

Timing: When Should a Family Learn about Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is typically celebrated in the winter during the month of December. There are 8 nights to celebrate with the dates changing each year. However, if we miss a night, or even if we miss many nights due to family scheduling needs, we simply adjust the holiday to meet our time constraints. Of course, we try to honor the precise dates, but if that doesn’t work out, we would rather celebrate than miss out on the celebration and quality family time.

Finding time during the winter months is tricky, especially around the holidays. Family bonding can be a way to help kids and parents alike with emotional development and emotional regulation. Kids are often needing down time, and time with family during the holidays at home, and Hanukkah is a perfect island in the sea of presents, Santa activities, and general holiday hectic atmosphere. A lesson in cultural diversity can be a fun way to experience something new, open up communication between parents and kids, and decrease screen time. All great ways to sooth the senses this time of year.

If your family missed out on the exact dates for Hanukkah, try to catch them next year, but enjoy a few days of Jewish holiday excitement this year. During the month of December, the “celebration of lights” will bring a feeling of warmth to your home. Try my suggestions and I bet you and your family will have fun too.

Mindful Holidays: Hanukkah in Our Family Each Year

I have made it a point to teach our kids about diversity from the very start of their little lives, and being blessed with a Jewish Aunt, we couldn’t have been more gifted with various resources to make Hanukkah an enjoyable holiday to learn about. We really feel that in addition to our regular Christmas fervor, we have embraced Hanukkah with confidence in recent years.

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We started with the basics and so can you. Here is what you need to get started:

  1. Menorah: a picture, a felt one, a crafted one or a solid one.
  2. One book that explains the holiday in pictures (kids like this format!)
  3. One book about a Hanukkah that tells a story
  4. Easy Hanukkah food
A good way to enjoy Hanukkah is to try Potato Latkes

Potato Latkes

Easy and Mindful Hanukkah Resources For The Busy Family

You might feel like you don’t know enough about Hanukkah to actually create activities for celebration with your kids, but a few basic concepts will allow you to do so in no time. It’s like opening a door to a dark room you know nothing about. But have no fear, as somewhat slowly you can peek into the doorway, and then enjoy a look at the wonderful light the holiday of Hanukkah brings forth.

To get started, here are a few of our most favorite Hanukkah tips and tricks. These easy and mindfully chosen resources will help you understand this cultural and religious holiday. You will be well on your way to helping your curious kids enjoy some fun with cultural diversity.

Resources for a Mindful Hanukkah that Teach Cultural Diversity

Using these materials will help you get you and your kids celebrating the holiday quickly, and that is the goal. Experiencing the holiday is the easiest and most fun way to learn about it!

Menorah Resources:

First Kids Menorah Soft Toy

Menorah Coloring Page

Paper Plate Menorah

Noah’s Ark Menorah

Picture Book About Hanukkah:

My First Hanukkah Board book

The Complete Guide To Hanukkah book

Hanukkah Story Books:

Oh Hanukkah

Curious George Hanukkah

Cultural Diversity Dreidel game for Hanukkah

Dreidel is a game played by children during Hanukkah. Mindful planning can making cultural diversity easy. Dreidel is a fun game that teaches cultural diversity in a fun atmosphere.

Hanukkah Activities:

Dreidel Game

Gelt Coins Candies for Dreidel Game

Jelly doughnuts are a Hanukkah treat

Jelly doughnuts are a Hanukkah treat! A little mindful planning makes it easy.

Foods to Enjoy:

Hanukkah Treats Cookbook

Hanukkah Cookie Cutters

My Easy Vegan Potato Pancake Recipe. Get to it here.

We cook with the kids to make these pancakes each year. Toddlers love to wash the potatoes, and the older kids love to push the buttons on the food processor (with supervision for safety always). Baby can even try mashed potatoes with some sauteed and pureed veggies an butter mixed in for color and taste. Whatever age your child, cooking and eating these Potato pancakes is easy to adapt to include the whole family.

Music for Kids at Hanukkah (even if they never listened before)

Mah Tovu CD – “Only This”

A Child’s Hanukkah

Hanukkah Party with the Neighbors

This year we decided to have an impromptu party with the neighbor kids who came over for a play-date. We started off with a story about the meaning of Hanukkah from our Complete Guide to Hanukkah book, then a little dancing to Mah Tovu Music CD. For a full description of our favorite Hanukkah music click here.

After a pretty good dance session, we went into the Kitchen to make Easy Vegan Potato Pancakes. Also, known as Latkes, you can save time if you buy frozen ones at the grocery store. Dipping Latkes in apple sauce, ketchup or sour cream all add fun and taste to these little potato wonders.

We made them as a group, with the neighbor watching with interest.  First seeing how the Potato pancakes were cooked, then watching how much our kids liked them was all our neighbors needed to give them a try themselves. Next time we all voted on Jelly doughnuts!

Make sure to check out more easy ideas to make your Hanukkah great by visiting our Hanukkah Music Guide Resource Don’t Be Left in the Dark: Teach Cultural Diversity with the Best Hanukkah Music For Kids.

I hope you try some of these ideas! please share how it went. Here’s to a fun lesson in cultural diversity and a Happy Hanukkah to you all!

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Mindful Music: Jazz Up Their Day With Fun Kid Songs!

songs for kids resources

Mindful Parenting With Music and Songs

The yoga of everyday life includes music. Growing up as a musician and still enjoying my musical gifts, I can’t help but think about what my kids and family listened to each day.

When we really get down to the truth of it, mindful parenting is actually aided by the presence of certain music and music of a certain quality. Karma yoga, the yoga of daily action, would suggest that we select music in a thoughtful way.

For example, when I want to create a calming background for my kids while they are drawing, yoga music for calming such as chanting, ocean or nature sounds, or music consisting of certain musical tones is what I would select. When I want a more upbeat background for activities such as cooking, I play some cultural music such as salsa or swing music from the 30’s.

One of my most-loved musical experiences comes from a beloved collection of music under the Guess How Much I Love You CD/book title. The 3-CD set came along with the book. The CD includes author Sam McBratney’s audio reading of the book, as well as a selection of lullabies, soothing classical music and nature sounds.They are designed for baby or child to play and rest while listening, but they really affected me the most!

When I first got these CD’s my little baby would sleep or play and I would just cry and cry tears of joy that only these sweet little songs could bring up. I couldn’t help myself!  They tugged on my heart-strings so wonderfully, and made me aware of the immense love I had for my baby. I wouldn’t miss out on all this wonderful awe thanks to the music, even if I did feel a little silly for all the tissues I went through. The music helped to bring me to a mindfulness that I might have missed in all my daily busy-ness. It was a gift when I still didn’t know how important it was to be mindful. It allowed me to stop and realize joy. This music would not let me miss out on the love in those moments with my baby.

If you want to listen to this book with some of the music in the background to help your little one unwind or get ready for restful sleep, click Guess How Much I Love You Kids Story with Music

mindful listening to music

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Check out these musical resources when mindfully selecting music and kids songs for your family.

Music Together is an organization that provides organic music experiences for families and children through classes and online. It gets the family involved in music enjoyment, and just like a language, when the family speaks the same language, in this case music, the child is sure to learn. Even if you don’t know a thing about music, this organization will allow you to be an example for your child.

Putumayo Kids is the best resource I have found for the classroom and home world music. They pick songs that are easily accessible to both the newly-trained and the seasoned ear. The tunes are fun and very well produced. Putumayo kids has been my favorite and go to source for world music for the past 10 years.

Jazz at Lincoln Center We Bop Program

Kindermusik is a valuable educational music resource.

Calming Music and Songs for Kids:

The Earth Spirit music by R. Carlos Nakai is so focusing it could be used to calm for yoga sessions, used as a meditation, or background music to create a calm home or classroom environment. I listen to this CD even when my kids aren’t around. It is fantastic!

Multi-Cultural Music and Songs for Kids:

The Gipsy Kings are a easy transition to Latin Music. Kids and parents can enjoy their music quickly even if Latin music is unfamiliar.  The GK’s are from Europe and draw from many traditions, including flamenco, salsa, Cuban music and even rock and roll, with an energetic and driving sound.  We listen to The Best of the Gypsy Kings in the car all the time and cook tacos with it on in the background.

A great CD for African music is African Playground. We absolutely love this CD and have some favorites the kids can’t help but dance to. For a more African to American transition in music, we listen to Jazz and Blues Cd’s we pick up from the Library.

Teach Me German is a fun book and music combination that has kids’ songs in German and short reading lessons in an easy format. Kids can color each lesson page, and a few pages can be done at a time. Teach Me More German is the next book in this series. We used these books around the Christmas holidays as their are special holiday sections, but it takes kids on an adventure through the year, so it could work in any season.

In the same vein is Teach Me Everyday Spanish, a book we’ve used year after year. The songs are fun and they have a mix of English and Spanish so even the kids who are listening for fun won’t get lost! It’s really easy and we have also used Teach Me More Spanish as supplement to the other Spanish-language resources we use at home to encourage our kids to learn multiple languages. Fun coloring, story-telling and kids’ songs!

Exploring the Senses with Music and Songs for Kids:

Explore music through the senses, SEEING the universe as never before, with great songs from  The Mighty Sky musical experience. These songs for kids have been awarded the “Smart Media” and “Notable” medals by the American Library Association and Academics Association. This collection rocks and creates a beautiful picture of the universe through music.

A great CD related to all things food and also for all the Barenaked Ladies fans out there! Snacktime is BNL’s take on a kids’ CD that does not disappoint. Whether you have a picky eater or kids who love to eat, this CD makes food a feast of musical fun. We play this in the car just for giggles! Then we sing it in the kitchen because we know all the lyrics.

Auditory Meditations for Kids:

These are tracks I love to use in my work with kids and with my own family. My favorite is Mermaids and Fairy Dust.

Yoga Songs for Kids:

Self awareness allows for mastery of emotions.

Calm parents are a model for calm kids. Music and mindful activities can help!

One of the best yoga recordings I have found is by Kira Willey. Her music in Dance for the Sun takes kids on yoga adventures they can listen to AND do! It is really a ton of fun for the whole family.

Folk Songs for Kids and Families:

John McCutcheon’s music in Howjadoo is down-home fun with a level of musicianship that kids can understand and grow into, while still having fun!

Try the Johnny Cash Children’s Album for a grounding experience for the whole family. Johnny’s voice in it’s booming bass style wakes us up to the grind of daily life but in a fun way which kids can grasp. Great songs.

Family Music and Songs for Kids:

Ziggy Marley does a great job with his album, Family Time. It’s upbeat and a great listen to put the whole family in a happy mood!

music for kids, kids songs about the moon

Coconut Moon is a master music compilation for silly family fun. The Green Chili Jam Band rocks these kids’ songs, so parents can just sit back and laugh. Here is an example of just one silly song called Lard. It’s sure to bring laughter.

Holiday Music for Kids:

An amazing CD that creates the a feeling of warmth and love around the Christmas Holiday is Christmas Folkjul. I cried when I listened to this music in my car, driving home once late holiday evening alone from work. This has become a consistent request for the whole family.  Don’t let one more holiday go by without this true musical gem.

Practice of Spirituality: Parents Reduce Distraction and Increase Joy!

Beautiful place inspires mindfulness and joy.

Out On the Edges of Life Is Where There Is So Much Joy To Be Found.

Everyday, I strive to be mindful of my choices. It’s easiest, of course, when I turn off the devices and don’t over-schedule. As a mom, if I am grounded and centered, the day goes better. As a occupational therapist, it’s the same deal. I can work with my clients more efficiently when I am calm, centered and focused.

I started to wondered if other moms and therapists alike use spirituality in their daily lives. IF they do, how do they do it? In an age where religion and spiritual practice is markedly less evident than the generation of our parents, how were we making it through the day as grounded as our parents? Were we really doing the work as occupational therapists from a grounded place?

I was looking for answers to some of these very questions when I saw that the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association was hosting an upcoming workshop titled “Spirituality in Occupational Therapy.”

As it turns out, I am not the only mom, or for that matter, therapist, that thinks spirituality is an important part of the daily grind. In fact, many of us use it as a coping mechanism, a regular component of our dealings with family and clients alike, and as a buffer to the outside world. When surveyed at the Duquesne University Annual Celebration 2017, during the presentation by clinical scholars studying “cultural responsiveness in current occupational therapy practice”, greater than 80% of therapists reported that they used some form of religion or spirituality during their daily therapy sessions.

As a mother, I often see and hear moms talking about being calm and having the ability to deal with difficult parenting situations. One of the biggest topics on mom blogs and during play-date water cooler talk is how to motivate their kids without yelling! Moms want to know how to live with intention, be more efficient, and be more helpful for their families. They want to feel grounded instead of scattered in a thousand directions. Moms want answers – even moms who feel they are doing a good job. They want to know how to be most efficient, creative and calm.

Moms want to enjoy the bonds they have with their kids. Sometimes, parents are so over-scheduled that they barely remember the amazing connection they once had with their children when they were smaller. There is just so little time and so many more distractions than ever before. Parents want to make life simple. They want to hug their kids, before their kids are grown.

Mindful parents have time to hug their kids.

A Hug Is So Simple, But It Means So Much.

So where can we find answers to all of these questions?

The workshop “Spirituality and Occupational Therapy” strongly affirmed the basic need for spirituality in the lives of both therapist and client. Occupational science is based on the mind-body-spirit paradigm with whole theoretical models based on this paradigm. The presenter, Rebecca Austill-Clausen, drew attention to this basic premise in occupational therapy, much to my delight. It’s what drew me to the profession in the first place.

Ms. Austill-Clausen further reviewed AOTA’s definition of spirituality as “the aspect of humanity that refers to the way an individual seeks and expressed meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connection to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.” Additionally, the 2005 AOTA Position Paper states that “occupational therapy can use complementary modalities in preparation for an occupational therapy treatment session.” In terms of Occupational Therapy, we are literally swimming in a sea of possibility in how we engage with spirit as therapists.

Mindfulness and connection to spirit brings good days.

Decide That You Are Going To Have A Good Day! Connect To Your Spirit!

BUT do we engage with Spirit?

Do we allow ourselves this simple gift or do we see it as a luxury?

Are we addicted to stress and feel strange if we are centered?

Do we force our patients to do exercises and programs simply because they are billable?

Do we ask our patients what gives their day meaning?

In all of these questions I have a hunch that we do the right thing. We are quite smart when it comes to all things spiritual as a profession in general. However, it’s always good to get a reminder to engage with our own spirituality on a daily basis. This type of self-care is an ever-present need for us to attend to, so we don’t burn out.

What results is joy. More joy with family and friends. More joy at work. More joy in our heart! And choices that result in even more joy!

And that is what Rebecca Austill-Clausen exemplified in her presentation. She showed us complementary techniques that brought her joy each day in her own life, that also spilled over into her work as an occupational therapist. Seeing someone be open about what brought them joy was inspirational in itself.

To tell you a little about what I do for a mindful practice, each morning I start my day with meditation. Honestly, without it, I don’t have very productive or calm days. I have noticed a true quantifiable difference. I have also recently cut down on my Facebook and web-surfing time so I can be less distracted from the moment that exists in the physical world around me. My thoughts are more present and not in cyber-mind space. I have time to give hugs and kisses to my kids.

A mindful mom giving her kid a kiss!

A Simple Kiss Goes A Long Way Through the Day!

I have also tried to be responsible in decreasing chaos and clutter in my home and in my head. Less stuff, less shopping, less violent movies, less news feed.  This has allowed me to observe life around me for the gifts it brings and not all the distractions and things to accomplish. Finally, I have worked to reconnect with nature. To take a walk, stop near a stream or enjoy a sunset. Less distraction overall has allowed me to experience nature in a more vibrant way.

The results have been wonderful. I feel like I have regained my sense of direction, with more time in each day, more hope that things will be good, and more self care.

Now, taking you back to the Duquesne University Celebration, with the >80% of therapists acknowledging that they had used spirituality in their daily therapy sessions, I want to challenge you to turn your own spiritual practice and mindfulness up a notch in your own personal life. Why? This will undoubtedly trickle down into your therapy practice and family life, with not only you benefiting, but everyone around you benefiting as well.

You will find that spark of childhood wonder again. I promise.

Mindful parenting can bring a sense of childhood wonder back to your life!

The Sparkle of Childhood Wonder Isn’t Far Away. Find Your Wonder.

It’s quite simply a “feel good” challenge.

13 Minute “Feel Good” Mindfulness Challenge:

Try these simple mindfulness activities for 7 days. Stop. Enjoy. Repeat.

If you try these simple activities for just one week, you will notice a difference.

The “Feel Good” Challenge will run through the Spring of 2017. We are looking for feedback and your own personal stories. Please comment and let us know how this challenge worked for you!

  1. Stop 3 times each day and focus on your breath for 1 minute. Breakfast, on the train, in a meeting, anytime.
  2. Take a walk for 10 minutes. To get a healthy snack, to buy a magazine, to observe a garden or get fresh air and sunshine.
  3. Limit device use. Reduce your engagement on social media by half.

These three activities will take a total of 13 minutes of your day. You may find that by reducing social media engagement you will actually have more time in your day to relax. Try it. See how you feel.

If you miss a day or a few days just add more days until you get to 7. Be easy on yourself, but try to do it for as many days in a row that you can.

There’s no need to journal. You’ll feel the difference and it won’t be easy to forget. You might even decide that you want to continue your 13 Minute “Feel Good” practice well into the future.  I hope it will help you as much as it did me.

*To learn more about Rebecca Austill-Clausen, and her book Change Maker, click here. Living from a place of authenticity makes her an obvious example of spirituality in action.

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Baby Sensory Play: Don’t Make the #1 Mistake (I did!)

how to do sensory play with kids without mistakes

As a developmental therapist, Montesssori homeschool teacher, and mindful mama, I frequently think of how to set things up so they go smoothly. This time however, it went all wrong. Hopefully, this learning moment for me will help you avoid the same mistake with your little one!

So the scene is set.  My little cutie is ready to play and I have all my materials and a whole bunch of space in the family room. Perfect! Let’s do sensory play!

Montessori-based Sensory Set Up

I set up my special textured rug first. It was soft to the touch, with fringes throughout, and vertical lines and love bugs all over it. After that, I put our a soft red blanket, a winter bear, and Montessori inspired toys including wooden balls, wooden snowflake cutouts, wooden bowls, spoons and little non-edible puff balls. Lastly, I went with the soft and warm theme and had a basket of hats, gloves and scarves.

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Before we even got onto the rug, baby was ready for sensory play. She wanted the puff balls and pushing them into her sock made her giggle. She enjoyed the added sensory feeling on her toes and liked the challenge of using her thumb and pointer finger to get them out!

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The room was quiet, the sun was shining and baby was headed for the center of the carpet. First the bowls were interesting and the snowflake cutouts attracted her attention. Unfortunately, her attention didn’t remain on these items long, and I was a little curious as she usually spent 5-10 minutes with these items when seated at the table. She moved on to the bear and then the hats and gloves, then onto the puff balls again, and then back to the bear!

After several minutes of baby switching toys every other second, I realized I had made a sensory play mistake, one commonly made, but still, not one I thought I would make as a developmental therapist. I should know better!

#1 Mistake in Sensory Play: Set up too many items, or items that are over-stimulating. Baby loses attention and instead of exploring, they just go wild!

Result of Mistake: After sensory play, baby is all charged up, and hasn’t seen or processed any of the toys designed for exploration and learning.

Rule of Thumb to Avoid This Common Mistake: Make play balanced so that the sensory items are not over-the-top stimulating. If you have all the senses involved or too much of one sense at one time, baby can lose focus. We call this “shutdown” where the growing nervous system shuts down and focus can’t happen. Baby goes wild, or at the very least gets quite hyperactive.

In this case, I overdid the visual and touch senses. Too much color, too many toys, too many things to touch and explore.

 

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After a few more minutes of play, as I tried to figure out how to correct my mistake, baby just about lost her marbles. Well, at least her puff balls. She went back and forth between snow cutouts, wooden balls and puff balls till she just couldn’t stand it any longer.

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She handled it well for the most part, crawling off the rug and sitting her bottom in the basket for a giggle. I wish I could be so calm and jovial in times of stress!

 

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Sensory overload! Too much visual stimulation with too many “feeling” toys on top of it all!

So I regroup and try again after a few minutes pass and baby calms down. I let her just crawl it off in her natural play space. Good thing she is a pretty good self-regulator.

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Simple Montessori-based Sensory Play Set Up

My new sensory play set up, was much simpler. I scrapped the overly visual rug and went with the soft blanket. Still red and alerting, but just one tone. I also focused on the winter wear, thinking her positive experience with them in play would help when she needed to actually wear them, when we were headed out the door into the cold winter weather.

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After spending 10 minutes with the winter gear, she approached the wooden cut outs behind her. She attempted to get them herself, and explored them for 10 minutes as well. Now I feel like I am doing something right. She is able to focus and learn within this new sensory set up.DSC_0019

After a few more minutes, she went back to the winter gear and showed me her skill at combining. Combining is a developmental milestone where babies take one toy they know about and put it with another toy they know about. You know, to see how they might work together, or not!

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So after a total bomb at the beginning, this time, winter sensory play went well.

After working with thousands of kids, developing sensory plans and playing with them directly, I can only hope you realize as a mindful parent that there is a bit of trial and error that has to happen when it comes to your specific kids sensory play needs. My baby needed it toned down, but your baby might have been just fine with the original set up.

Mindful Parents Sensory Tip to Avoid Mistakes:

Simply look to see if your baby is able to focus on the items presented in the sensory activity. If they can’t, the set up is too much for them. If they can, you probably nailed it.

Our little ones learning through sensory play is the idea that we as mindful parents are trying to create. The very idea that you read this article till the end says you are well on your way to preparing a great sensory and Montessori play time for you child.  Most importantly, have fun! Remember, you are loving you baby when you spend time playing with them! Hopefully this little tutorial will help!

 

Yoga for Kids-Outside the Studio.

              Sometimes the yoga we need comes to us outside the yoga studio. My daughter and I learned this very lesson on our trip to Kripalu Yoga Center, experiencing each day, each new tree, each flavorful morsel, each fresh new experience with joy. 

Yoga Activities for Kids – Outside the Studio

Three years ago my family and I decided to visit Kripalu Yoga Center in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. We went so my husband could complete an in-depth study of Yoga nidra (the form of deep meditation that’s sometimes referred to as “yogic sleep”). I went to refresh my soul and bond with my daughter in any way the yoga center offered.  My husband was tired of long days at work, I was happy to be moving on from my position in the school system where I’d been for two years, and my daughter was ready to spend quality time with both of us. Once packed we hit the road already exhausted.

mindful travel with kidsWe took the trip slowly and stopped in Chautauqua, New York, for a day to enjoy the lakefront breezes, crisp air, and beautiful sunset. We were honestly so out of tune with the natural beauty all around us that we took a few hours to transition from “grumpy” to “calm”. However, once we were at ease it was smooth sailing. An ultimately non-gluten free meal (we are generally a gluten free family) of fresh baked pizza and ice cream, eaten lakeside, made for the very best end to our first day of travel. (For what it’s worth, I suspect Coppola’s in Bemus Point uses really high-quality ingredients, because no digestive or sleep issues were reported after our meal!)

I know, I know.  Pizza & Ice cream may not strike you as very mindful, but bear with me.  They are an infrequent indulgence, shall we say, but as a way for us to relax -and that’s including relaxing the “rules” and dietary guidelines we generally follow, at least for the evening – it hit the spot something terrific.

An early start the next day began with a quick trek to the Bemus Point playground. Our daughter was delighted to have the chance to move a bit before the six-hour drive to Stockbridge, MA, and the Kripalu Center. Little did we know that the tranquil lake would turn into a veritable sea of fast food, family-unfriendly food options as we crossed New York state via I-90. Several rest stops (and ice cream cones – milk is healthy, right?) later, we entered Massachusetts, ready to be done driving and to settle into our accommodations.

We’d rented a cabin in Stockbridge through an online service.  As we entered the scenic Berkshires, our eyes were filled with panoramas of green mountains and the pristine lawns of neighbors enjoying old time summer homes along the Stockbridge Bowl lake shores. Luckily for us, our cabin did us just right! Cute and cozy and filled with years of love from a history of summer family fun, the cabin set the stage wonderfully for a week of relaxing, bonding and rejuvenating.

Soon after we arrived, my husband got an early start to his conference at Kripalu and spent the next 4 days from 7 am to 9 pm learning about the practice of Yoga nidra. Although Yoga nidra feels like deep sleep, he was tired by the end of each day and ready to cozy up in the cabin by 10 PM. My daughter and I had the days to spend exploring, something we both enjoy.

Nature is an outdoor yoga studio.

Walking in nature allows for Mindful Parenting.

The first day we spent visiting the outdoor beauty of Kripalu. Huge willows provided a wonderful area for games of hide-and-seek and huge trunks for tree hugs. The flower garden provided a path to meet and greet many wildflowers and interesting trees. New seedlings provided conversation as we walked back to the center’s dining hall to enjoy our organic lunch! By the end of our first morning, I was refilled with inner warmth and my muscles began to relax and let my mind ease.

We took the afternoon to visit the quaint town of Lenox, just 1/2 mile down the road. We happened upon a bakery for a sweet treat enjoyed on the porch as French music played through the speakers above. My daughter played a game of “I’m going to eat it” as she ran back and forth between her pastry and the end of the deck. I took the time to enjoy my Birthday blueberry tart complete with pink box and white bow wrapping. We ended our visit to Lenox with a walk and the purchase of warm and cozy sweatshirts.

The next day was just as dear to us as we found the Kripalu lake for the first time, and met some of my husband’s fellow conference-goers, lovely women from Hungary and Iceland; wonderful souls, open to sharing their insights on deepening their practice of yoga and glimpses of their lives in far off lands. Equally as amazing was the crystal-clear lake water. I could walk out to my waist and still see my feet. It was the clearest water I had seen since visiting the Caribbean. It seemed to speak refreshment with each step I took….pure bliss.

Mindful parenting while my child swims in a clear lake at Kripalu.

A clear lake at Kripalu Yoga Center makes a great playground for the kiddo.

Getting into the rhythm of the week, it became a regular occurrence for my daughter and me to eat with my husband in the center’s dining hall. With the gluten-free pancakes the best I have ever had, eating together as a family was a chance to touch base and stay connected, as well as to satisfy our taste buds. We enjoyed rice milk, homemade teas, brown rice wraps, gluten free breads and a variety of culinary explorations – just a few of the menu items that helped my stomach smile from deep within. This was the experience of Yoga Eating for sure!  The center has a silent dining room available, to allow mindful and ‘aware’ eating, a practice I’ve been considering for my own home.

I think that of all the trips I’ve taken, the retreat at Kripalu ranks up there as one where I had the least amount of concern about the quality of the nutrition that my family and I were ingesting – and their dedicated staff really made sure that the nourishing foods were prepared with taste, texture, and quality in the forefront.

After dinner the kiddo and I would either read books and snuggle in the cabin or play in the Kripalu playroom. The playroom itself was plain but exquisite in its simplicity…a highly ‘Yogic’ playroom, you might say. We played “mama” to little horses who needed mommies, we tickled the keys on the toy piano, and rode in circles in the big red Radio Flyer wagon. As evening drew near, we were sure to snuggle up with a book, whether at the cabin or in the playroom. Sometimes we read about baby whales, sometimes about wolves, and if we were really up for a fine time, we read our book on manners (one of my daughter’s favorites).

The following days drifted together in a relaxed haze with rain drops sprinkling our heads as we roamed between our wonderful cabin, the graces of Kripalu and the town of Lenox. We even happened upon the Berkshires Co-Op Market to get their very special offering of Vermont brewed Kombucha Tea. It was so potent I think I experienced a full detox from just one bottle, yet with comfort and ease. The market itself was oh so special with every organic item my mind could imagine!

As the conference wound down, I noted that husband began to look a bit sad, and in asking him he reported that his bonding with so many wonderful people had been so rewarding; it was leaving them that was to be difficult. I encouraged him to get his good friends’ contacts and even proposed a trip to Iceland to catch up with friends in the year to come. Hubs was thankful for the suggestions and encouragement, and was glad to hear I understood his feelings. He offered to look after the kiddo at mid-day, so that I could take a break and have some time for myself in the bookstore and whirlpool room and to take advantage of the Yoga Dance classes at noon on our remaining days. Who could turn that down? I looked forward to some wonderful R&R experiences.

Yoga Dance was the first luxury I enjoyed with other mamas. It was a heart-centered class, in which we were encouraged to move our body and limbs as part of the outer world that radiated from pure expression at our heart center. Being moved by the rhythm and the spirit deep within I let loose and took up my space on the dance floor. It was as though I was a winged bird set free for the first time. Following up with another amazing lunch, time at the bookstore and a trip to Lenox, I was in my element. The day ended with 30 minutes in the whirlpool and hot showers. My whole body had been restored.

We left the next day, after another Yoga Dance and whirlpool adventure, as well as one last yummy Kripalu lunch. My daughter hugged each tree and my husband made peace with his desire to stay in touch with his new friends. We traveled back to Chautauqua for one more overnight, with a sunset on the lake thrown in for good measure, before getting back to Pittsburgh late Sunday night. After unpacking only the essentials we all snuggled in for a long summer night’s sleep.

Kripalu is a unique place.  I enjoyed writing this as a ‘travelogue’, so to speak, but I also needed to emphasize that opportunities for mindful, meaningful experience for a kid and her parents can be found in many places outside the studio proper where we perform asanas; whether on retreat, on vacation, in the people you meet, and in the moments both memorable and mundane.

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