So says Sarah…

Fine Art for Kids: Stamps with Hokusai

Posted in Art Activities for Kids by Sarah Lipoff on 05/30/2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

 

While the wind was blowing the other day, The Great Wave Off Kanagawa from Katsushika Hokusai’s Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji came to mind. I felt like I was caught in the middle of one of those humongous waves riding out the storm. So, I figured while the weather outside wasn’t offering up any fun-in-the-sun, the wee tot and I could create something pretty cool.

Japanese woodprint artists would traditionally sign their names using carved stamps along the side of their finished works. Hokusai was known as a master of creating detailed but yet soft prints of everyday life, otherwise known as Ukiyo-e. During the early 1800’s he meticulously created thirty-six wood blocks of Mount Fuji, which were enthusiastically appreciated by the western world and collected by famous artists, such as Claude Monet and Edward Degas. And, people of all ages still find his artworks stunning today.

Well, my wee tot is a bit young to get out the wood carving tools – heck, I’ve done a number on myself using carving tools, so I figured we could stick with something a bit safer. Wood blocks and string to create fun stamps for signing a paper in the style of Hokusai!

Start by inviting your toddler to help find a nice wooden block to use for the project. Any size will work, in fact, we found a triangle that was perfect for this project!

Now cut a length of string at least 3-feet long and attach a piece of tape to one end. Invite your child to press the string to the block and then wrap up the wooden block! You can offer a helping hand, if it’s needed (and allowed), and then secure the end of the string to the block with another piece of tape.

Get out a sheet of paper along with a paper plate. Ask your child what color of paint he would like to use for creating his own unique stamps – just like Hokusai used to sign his artwork!

Help your child squeeze a couple squirts of paint on the plate and then encourage him to tap the string-wrapped block in the paint, and then in a linear formation on his paper. Traditionally Japanese writing is created in a top-down formation, which is how Hokusai signed his artworks. See if your child can do the same!

© Sarah Lipoff

 

If you’ve got an older child, he can create a watercolor painting in the style of Hokusai before using the stamps along the side of his finished artwork. Just make sure the painting is dry so his stamps don’t blend away into the painting.

Don’t forget to find a special spot in your home to display your child’s finished artwork for everyone to see!

 

Sunday Spectacular: Ceilings should be white

Posted in About Me by Sarah Lipoff on 05/29/2011

Today I was able to finish a year+ long project of painting our house. The previous owner’s favorite colors were a bit, um, well…. Check out the before and afters:

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Although, I couldn’t resist having ONE room with some fun-funky color! As you can see, I spent a ton of time cleaning up for our big finished-painting-the-house reveal. Honestly – the moment I cleaned up one room and moved onto finishing the next, the mess just came back!

 

🙂

Fabric covered child bench

Posted in Cool Stuff, Life with Child by Sarah Lipoff on 05/27/2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Every summer I hit the outdoors and do some gardening. And then I get tuckered out when I get to those long wooden flower boxes hanging out on my deck. It seems whenever I plant something in them, they dry out, get forgotten, or don’t do much of anything. So, this year, even after our big spa-deck makeover, I decided to leave them where they were, banished to the end of the deck, and act like they weren’t there. I even adverted my eyes the other day as the wee tot turned one into a mini dirt box, enjoying creating quite the mess.

I finally moved them off the deck and into the garage.

Humph.

But, then, magic! I came across an article from the Motherboard filled with some fun and festive summer painting ideas to bring that outdoor bling indoors. One of those old, boring, flower boxes would make the most adorable bench once painted, perfect for my tot!

So, this is what I did:

To create this super-simple transformation, you only need a couple of basic items, such as upholstery foam, a hot glue gun, flowery fabric and scissors, penny nails, a staple gun, and a sheet of wood 1-inch wider and longer than your flower box. I happened to have an old piece of flooring just the perfect size.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

First, I gave the flower box a vacuum. Really, I used my shop-vac to clean the thing out. There were several old spiders and bits of roots hanging out in the cracks that had to go. Then, I used some indoor/outdoor paint on the outside of the box and didn’t really worry about totally covering everything so it would have a funky-rustic look.

Go ahead and cut the upholstery foam to the same size as the your piece of wood and use the hot glue gun to hold it in place.

Now cut a section of your fabric about 1-foot wider and longer than your box, which means you’ll totally have enough to wrap the foam-topped piece of wood.

Position the foam-topped wood in the center of the fabric, foam side down, and get out your staple gun. Slowly start pulling taught the fabric and stapling while working your way around the foam-topped wood. You can fold and tuck the corners to create a nice edge and then secure with a staple. If there’s lots of fabric left hanging about, feel free to trim with your craft scissors.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Place the fabric covered seat cushion on top of your nicely painted  (and dry!)  flower box and center it so there is a small lip around the box. Hammer several penny nails around the outside edges securing your adorable fabric covered foam top!

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Help your child find the perfect spot in your home for the finished sunny bench. Or, upholster the top with outdoor fabric and take that bench outside! We have a sweet little play area at the top of the stairs, and the finished bench turned into the wee tot’s favorite spot to sit and read a book.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

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Help

Posted in About Me by Sarah Lipoff on 05/26/2011

This was absolutely the last time. It was impossible to explain to the husband, and the child screaming in the back seat wasn’t helping matters either. And, she was feeling like a total idiot, causing her body to sweat and her head to swim with emotion.

How could she have run out of gas again? AGAIN!

And, of course, she didn’t have her cell with her. He had just given her a hard time about this the other day when he had tried to call her, wanting to remind her to pick up this or that from the grocery store. Something HE could do, but for some reason wanted the domestic ability to call and tell HER to do it.

As she glided to the edge of the highway she gave into heaving breaths as she realized this was the first time her running out of gas had happened while on the freeway. The cars zoomed by at frenzied speeds, making her feel she was in a movie. She imagined she was and at any minute the director would yell, “CUT.”

But, there was no one to help her now. She didn’t bring her cell; she didn’t even have cash on her. Her wallet contained a debit card with a total of twenty-three dollars and she didn’t own any credit cards. Her daughter continued to wail in the back seat.

Her realization of what a horrible mother she was overwhelmed her. She hadn’t even brought anything for the child to eat or drink.

She was just going to run to the store and had decided last-minute to go to that cheaper place so they could maybe have something other than ground turkey and dry pasta for dinner.

The last time this had happened she was not even a mile from the house, and instead of suffering the humiliation of the husband having to come bail her out, she simply unloaded the child, thanked whatever was above that she had the stroller in the trunk, and walked home. She scrounged around for some change (enough for at least a gallon of gas), walked back to the car via the gas station where the attendant found her so funny he gave her five gallons even though she only had enough cash for one, and then dropped the mini gas can back at the station before heading home and crying herself into a total breakdown.

The time before that she had called her husband. He had been at work and really yelled at her over the phone. He made such a big deal about leaving work and having to save her. He told her it could never happen again. They had a child now, she should know better.

As she sat there staring straight ahead pretending she wasn’t stranded on the side of the highway with an unhappy child in the back seat, she heard a tap on the window.

Her heart heaved as she realized someone had approached the car without her knowledge. Her first reaction was to lock the doors and scream and scream and scream until someone like a policeman came to help. But, she grew up in the Midwest.

People are good.

She rolled down the window and was greeted by a smiling face, which was somewhat disheveled, but looked potentially trustworthy.

“What seems to be the problem, missy? Ya run out of gas or something?”

The voice seemed distant and surreal against the sound of the highway.

She figured he could help.

She was wrong.

* This week’s prompt – Write a short piece – 600 words max – that begins with the words, “This was absolutely the last time” and ends with “She was wrong.”

Here’s the rest of the story:

Help: part 2 and Before

 

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The Scribble Stage: Fun art activities for your little scribbler

Posted in Art Activities for Kids by Sarah Lipoff on 05/26/2011

 

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

The moment a child figures out how to pick up a crayon, she begins an adventure through art from scribbling to realistic creations. Just like with learning how to read or write, children go through levels of development in art – and it is a fun and educational journey. And, with summer right around the corner, there are lots of exciting ways to keep those little hands busy – and out of trouble!

The Scribble Stage

Viktor Lowenfeld, an art education professor at Pennsylvania State University, published Creative and Mental Growth in 1947, detailing the development of art in children. His writing teaches the Stages of Artistic Development, which ties together the intellectual, emotional, and aesthetic growth of art in children. According to Lowenfeld, the first stage of a child’s art development is the scribble stage. Youngsters, from birth to the age of four, explore their abilities to make marks using various materials, including that pen you left out on your home’s walls.

Lowenfeld breaks the scribble stage into four sub-stages titled the disordered, longitudinal, circular, and naming. During the disordered sub-stage, a child creates light or dark scribbles with little or no control over her motor skills. Longitudinal scribbles show the beginnings of controlled repeated motions and understanding of movement. During the circular sub-stage, a child further explores her control over mark-making implements. In the naming stage, she begins to tell stories about her scribbles along with naming them, even though they are non-representational.

Innate Learning Instincts

Marvin Bartel, a retired professor of art at Goshen College, finds the scribble stage to be about how things sound and feel, along with the pure joy created for children when drawing. Bartel calls scribbling a child’s “job” which, “grows out of their innate learning instincts.” This means those unsuspecting walls are at risk of being covered with scribbles, as a child does not understand, that the family’s walls are not for her mark making. Bartel suggests placing pads of paper on easels, or directly on walls, for a child to comfortably, and wall harming-free, create scribbles when she so feels inclined.

The early desire to scribble enforces Lowenfeld’s thoughts that a child’s brain is developing and learning from their first artistic creations. Dr. Susan Sheridan finds scribbling to be “ an artifact of the evolutionary connections between speech and literacy.” These simple marks are a way for the brain to synchronize activity in the multiple layers of the brain tissue for language processing and problem solving. When a child is concentrating on her mark making, she is training her brain to be attentive, encouraging her brain to visualize shapes and forms, and organizing patterns of thought.

Scribbling Activities

The scribble stage may seem to continue for years. But, this stage eventually turns into the preschematic stage. Those looping round circles will become somewhat representational potato-head bodies with small protruding lines for arms and legs. While a child is so fanatic about scribbling, do engaging art activities that show interest in her artistic expression, along with creating some wall-worthy art, even if it is a bunch of scribbles.

Tape and Crayons

-During the scribbling stage, a child is experimenting with grasping, holding, and pressing objects, which develops the small muscles of her hands. Use masking tape to create an artwork that boosts fine-motor skills and expressive line making.

-Offer the child small strips of masking tape and encourage her to press them onto a white piece of paper. This encourages her hand to grasp and press the tape.

-Once she’s positioned the tape and ready to move on, give her a selection of crayons and have her cover the entire paper. While she is coloring, test her color recognition skills by holding a crayon and asking her what color it is.

-When the child’s finished, have her remove the lengths of tape and discover what lies underneath.

Watercolor Markers

-Allow a child to scribble using washable markers on a piece of white paper, inviting her to use the markers on the paper and not in her mouth.

-Although it looks like a lot of scribbles, ask the child about her creation. Susan Lemons, Child Development specialist, reminds parents that the scribble stage “isn’t about the product, but the process.” Encourage her to make big looping scribbles and small round scribbles, motivating her to explore the way she can create marks.

-Give prompts, when necessary, about holding a mark making implement or how to use it properly, such as reminding her that markers belonging on the paper. This benefits her understanding of different art materials.

-When she is ready, remove the markers and provide her with a wet paintbrush, showing her how to paint over her scribbles. Re-wet the paintbrush as needed as she continues to cover her marks.

Edible Finger Paint

-Separate a prepared batch of vanilla pudding into small cups, adding drops of food coloring to create a selection of colors.

-Touch is one of the five senses and doing art activities that allow a child to explore how things feel benefits her early sensory development. The five senses are how a young child learns about the world around her.

-Place spoonfuls of the pudding finger paint onto a white paper and invite the child to use her fingers as line making tools, and enjoy tasting them while she works.

-Along with exploring her sense of touch, assist the child’s understanding of her sense of taste. Do a taste test with the pudding finger paint, asking the child if the different colors of finger paint taste similar or different. Ask her about words she feels describe the taste of the pudding.

No matter the activity, allowing children to explore their budding creativity during the Scribble stage encourages brain development and builds self-esteem. Spend time creating with children – you might find yourself enjoying some scribbling, too!

*This is an article I originally wrote for Funderstanding.com, a great site with a wealth of information for educators, students, and parents – go check them out!

 

Potty training 101: Bribery

Posted in Life with Child by Sarah Lipoff on 05/25/2011

 

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

I know I’ve shared with you in the past how we were “attempting” potty training at our house, but I’ll be real honest, that’s mostly encompassed purchasing a potty seat and putting it in the bathroom. The wee tot finds the potty seat to be very entertaining and a great thing to walk around carrying and then standing or sitting on. But, to actually use the thing? Nope.

I do know that pull-ups are messy, pee has ended up on the living room carpet, kitchen floor, and in front of afore-mentioned potty seat when child has gone sans diaper, and that having the tot sit on the potty before getting in the tub – while the water is gushing to induce pottying – does nothing. But the minute you place her toes in that nice, CLEAN, warm water, she’ll pee like you can’t believe.

So, my half-hearted attempts have been that. Not so great. And, really, there’s no rush, I know the wee tot will potty train when she’s ready and you can’t really rush into things. But, she’s showing signs of being ready, like having predictable bowel movements, telling me when she’s gone number 2, and being really interested when anyone else is using that potty.

And I’m tired of those diapers, and I know she can do it

I KNOW she can do it.

After our Easter incident (involving a total melt-down over the discovery that the chocolate rabbit’s head comes off when you bite it – but it tastes really good, but rabbit’s head is GONE) she’s been walking around asking for, “rabbit,” which translates to “chocolate.” It finally hit me the other day how to make this potty training thing work.

Rabbit/chocolate.

This is what it’s come to – total bribery. I have a bowl full of small little chocolate goodies right there in plain sight next to that potty seat. And, for now, every time the babe takes off her diaper, sits on that seat, and has any sort of success, she’ll get a treat.

For a brief moment, I felt a bit concerned about my total okay-ness with using bribery to induce happy potty training. But, after some research, discovered that I’m not the only one doing it. My friends over at Parents are all about using the mini choco-treats, and I love how Baby Gooroo reminds that treats during potty training are beneficial, but shouldn’t be continued long-term.

As I said before, I’m not all stressed-out about potty training and whenever it happens is great by me. There’s no punishment when an accident happens in my house, just laughter and hugs. And, I’ll admit, what bugs me the most is when other parents ask me how old my child is and then gasp when I say she’s not potty trained yet (because you KNOW, girls get it before boys, right?). Each child is special and unique, which means they will potty train when they are ready and able, not by a certain age.

I’m using bribery for potty training.

I’ll let you know how things turn out…

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The food tyrant vs. pizza poptarts

Posted in About Food, Life with Child by Sarah Lipoff on 05/23/2011

 

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

The other day while we were at the preschool, one of the boys had a slice pizza for lunch. My daughter hadn’t seen pizza before (yes, gasp), and she was slightly interested. You see, pizza contains the dreaded tomato, and the food tyrant had refused to touch, smell, or eat anything containing any of the red stuff. So, I was totally surprised to hear, “pizza” from the back seat the entire ride home. I figured I could make pizza, but in an easier-to-eat-less-mess version perfect for the little ones, which cleverly hides that tomato by making…

Pizza poptarts!

These are totally easy to make, and for those of you not interested in putting together stuff from scratch, you can use frozen pizza dough and your favorite pasta sauce. I decided to take things a bit further by making our own pizza dough and fresh tomato paste with a couple of tomatoes that were just begging to be eaten.

Ingredients

1 package yeast

1 cup warm water – about 100 degrees Fahrenheit

1/4-cup olive oil

1-teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon sugar

2+ cups flour

3 fresh tomatoes

1/4-cup olive oil

2 garlic cloves chopped

1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

1-teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon sugar

Red pepper to taste

Fresh spinach, basil, oregano

Mozzarella or provolone cheese

How to make ’em

Start by making the pizza dough. Put the yeast, sugar and oil in a mixing bowl and gently pour in your nice, warm water. You don’t even need to stir, just walk away for a minute or two and then return. You’ll find a mixture that’s a bit fluffy and bubbly, which is the result of thatyeast getting all happy with that sugar. Sprinkle in your salt and then slowly start adding the flour.

Once the mixture starts pulling together in the bowl, dump it out onto a floured work surface and give the dough a couple of good kneads. That means roll it forward and back a couple of times, and then squish it up and do it again. Keep adding flour until it doesn’t stick to your hands and feels just like a baby’s tushy.

Place your dough back in the bowl and cover with a fresh towel. Let it rest for about 30 minutes – the amount of time it takes to make homemade sauce!

Chop up your tomatoes and add them to a medium-sized saucepan. Add the garlic, vinegar, salt, sugar, and oil, too. Hold off on adding any other seasoning until later.

Let the concoction come to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. If things start drying out, add a small amount of water. Stir every couple of minutes to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of your pan.

Gently pour your sauce into your blender and give a whir until everything is nice and smooth. Now you can pour it back into the pan and simmer for a couple of minutes more. Go ahead and season as you like, with red pepper flakes, additional salt, sugar or a sprinkle of pepper. Hey, if you love other stuff in your sauce, like rosemary, go ahead an add it, too!

While the sauce simmers away, you can re-visit your pizza dough. It should have doubled in size and look nice and happy. Go ahead and set your oven for 450 degrees Fahrenheit and get out a nice baking tray. Lightly grease the tray with olive oil and set it nearby.

Pinch off a golf-ball size of dough and place it on your lightly floured work surface. Roll, roll, roll the dough until it is as thin as you can get it and shaped in a rectangular form about four by six inches.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Now you can turn off your simmering sauce and use a small spoon to put some on half of the rectangle, spreading it about without getting too close to your edges.

Add your favorite fillings such as fresh spinach leaves, a sprinkle of fresh chopped basil or oregano, sliced mushrooms, pepperoni, red pepper, olives……. Whatever you like! We stuck with the basics and sprinkled some fresh herbs. Don’t forget the cheese! I happened to have some sliced provolone on hand so added some small slices.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Then, gently folded the dough over on top of itself. Use a fork to carefully press the edges and add a couple of holes to the top of your pizza poptarts.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Brush the finished creation with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Carefully place on the baking tray, and repeat! Leave an inch or two between your pizza poptarts on your baking tray so they don’t get all caught up with each other.

Place your filled tray in the oven until the tops are golden brown, which will happen in about 12-15 minutes. Enjoy hot or eat them on another day fresh from the toaster!

And, these pizza poptarts totally passed the food tyrant test!

Summer outdoor art activities

Posted in Art Activities for Kids by Sarah Lipoff on 05/20/2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

With the weather finally seeming like spring (what was up with that rain last week?!), summer is right around the corner. I am dedicating myself to spending more time outdoors and using the grill this summer. You see, the wonderful grill was out on our newly renovated spa deck, which was great and all, until it was time to grill. The deck is right off our bedroom located down the stairs and around the corner from our upstairs kitchen. Who wants to trek raw meat through the house? Not I! So, last summer that grill sat in the corner of the spa deck collecting wasps.

Really.

After we re-did the deck, the grill ended up in a much better location, and I was ready to entertain again! When having guests over, I like to keep things light, simple, and super easy. This way I can keep one hand free for eating and the other for helping out the wee tot if she needs assistance. I found some fantastic ideas for eating nice and light from my friends over at Ladies’ Home Journal, which enticed my taste buds (and made me suck in my gut), sending me in the kitchen to marinade, get out the shish-kabobs, and heat up that grill.

But, what to do with all the kiddos when the adults are ready to kick back and maybe add something stronger than sparkling water in their fresh fruit drinks?

Outside art!

I figured I could have a couple of great go-to activities ready for when the kids got bored with shuffling about from adult to adult. They could enjoy some basic and engaging art activities that didn’t require lots of attention!

Herb painting

Head over to the herb garden and harvest some of that extra tall rosemary or basil that’s flowered. They can quickly be turned into fun and wonderfully scented paintbrushes that can be dipped and swirled in paint and then tapped, tapped, tapped on white paper! Older kids can take things a bit further with the help of paintbrushes and create prints. Encourage kids to paint over the herbs with brushes, press onto paper, and then lift revealing a cool print! Use washable paint to ensure if things get a bit out of hand, no one goes home grumbling about stained clothing…

Colorful bubbles

Turn individual bubble containers into exciting art implements!  It’s as simple as adding a few drops of food coloring to bubble containers, giving them a quick shake to disperse the color, and then marking the outside of the containers with a marker to show the kiddies which color of bubbles they are using. Tape large sheets of easel paper to a fence or the side of the house and let kids blow colored bubbles and watch what happens when they pop on the paper. This is a fun project everyone will totally enjoy – even the adults!

Fruit and veggie prints

Slicing and dicing for fruit salad or kabobs? Save a few for a surprising art project! Slice apples, lemons, oranges, zucchini, or mushrooms in half and place on paper plates. Cover a picnic table with a large sheets of easel paper and place the fruits and veggies on the table alongside a few paper plates with a squeeze or two of washable paint and invite the kids to gently press the items (cut side down) in the paint and then onto the paper. They can experiment with making patterns and seeing which fruit or vegetable makes the most interesting shape!

Have fun!

 

 

Slumberland

Posted in About Me by Sarah Lipoff on 05/20/2011

As I curled there I fully understood what I was doing. I didn’t care. He could figure things out. I mean, it’s not like he’s unable to take care of himself – he can tie his shoes and use a can opener. I pulled the blanket closer around my body as I shivered with its coolness even though my forehead was beaded with sweat. There was no denying I knew what I was doing. I had made this choice and I was sticking to it.

While turning my body slowly and wincing slightly, I heard some rumbling and things falling and hitting the floor. I pulled the comforter tighter around my head muffling any sounds, any reminders. As I closed my eyes I heard faint swearing and running footsteps. While clenching my teeth I hummed a tune in my head to distract myself – to comfort myself.

Maybe I dozed, or my brain took a moment or two to readjust, but the next time my eyes focused on the clock, it was two hours later. I carefully peeled back the layers of bedding while listening for any sort of movement. My eyelids flickered with desire for more sleep, but my mind jumped with attention to the silence. There didn’t seem to be any noise, any sort of anything.

My heart pounded and my head flooded with concern. What had I done? What had happened?

I pulled myself up and out of the bed. My body responded with aches and pains as I adjusted clothing and found my glasses. While focusing, I once again strained to hear anything, any small sounds.

There was nothing.

I became angry with myself as I struggled up the stairs with sleep in my eyes. How could I be so selfish? The nights without sleep had taken their toll and I only wanted a few extra hours to nap and nestle into the warmth and emptiness of the bed. I couldn’t imagine what I had done allowing him to be alone with such responsibility. My anxiety level gained momentum with every step.

When I arrived at the top step my head reverberated with noise as my daughter came running at me full force screaming, “MOOOOOOMMMMY!” at the top of her lungs.

My husband sat comfortably on the couch with Caillou silently complaining on the television. After my daughter had finished her attack on my senses she quietly shuffled back to her dada, looked at me and said, “sshhhh, mommy sleep” and I turned and went back down the stairs, giving my husband one of those you-know-what-you-get-later looks.

As I pulled the comforters back around me and closed my eyes to the rain sprinkling against the window, I couldn’t help smiling while drifting back into much needed sleep.

 

*prompt was sloth…

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Meditation and Memory Development of the Young Child

Posted in About Life, Life with Child by Sarah Lipoff on 05/19/2011

 

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

The mind is an amazing thing and doesn’t seem to ever get a rest – even during sleep.  The body gets recharged during those dark and quiet hours of the night, but young minds could use a bit of focus and concentration to help improve memory and understanding. That is where meditation comes in. And, meditation is not just for Buddhist monks and health gurus – it is starting to be recognized by educators and parents as a way to improve brain function and the young developing mind.

Meditation has been around for quite some time, with the first references as far back as 5000 years ago. Buddhists and Hindus are considered the original groups that tapped into the power of meditation and helped spread its popularity across cultures and continents. Many think of chanting, swaying, and odd behaviors when imagining meditating, but do not understand that even sitting quietly for a short amount of time helps focus the mind and encourage memory. Even The Beatles spent some time with the holistic healing concepts of meditation, helping to bring the idea of meditation into the mainstream of modern America.

Benefits of Meditation

Research has proven that meditation aids the brain in multiple ways. Not only does meditation promote self-discipline and inner awareness, it also affects the brain. The University of Wisconsin discovered mental experiences achieved during meditation creates brain activity in the left-prefrontal cortex, creating inner coordination and concentration in the brain. The prefrontal cortex takes information from all the five senses to help make decisions and create strong memories. Through mediation, the brain builds better memory, understanding and comprehension. And, just like playing golf or practicing the piano, you get better the more you do it.

A recent study found meditation encouraged blood flow to the brain, improving memory in adults with specific memory problems. Participants spent 12 minutes daily for eight weeks practicing Kirtan Kriya mediation, a form of meditation that involves sitting and chanting. Results found participants had improved memory abilities and that mild memory problems were deterred from progressing to a more severe state.  And it is not just older folks benefiting from meditation.

The active child benefits from meditating to calm the mind so it can focus and build memory. Schools are getting involved in using meditation for better success in the classroom and resolving conflict. Private schools, such as Yoga Works in Laguna Beach, California, offer classes to youngsters on how to meditate positively and use meditation to assist with stress relief and thrive in academics. According to ParentingOC, studies published in the Journal of Applied School Psychology find meditating beneficial to students as young as first grade. Meditation before school or at the end of the day helps the child focus and concentrate on concepts and situations he may be working through or wanting to remember. Being taught meditation concepts early in life offer the child the ability to have a life-long skill to build brain function and retention.

Not only does meditation encourage memory and healthy brain function, but also traditional meditation concepts encourage mindfulness. Children in inner-city schools in Oakland started their days with the striking of a Tibetan singing bowl to encourage mindful awareness. During an eight-week classroom experiment, children were lead through meditation practices to induce inner-awareness, kindness, and thoughtfulness. Kids were less stressed and more open minded when dealing with frustrating situations. The children found they had knowledge of how to solve problems within themselves, leading to better self-esteem and understanding of others.

Practicing Meditation with Kids

Whether in the classroom or at home, a meditation routine can easily be started that will encourage learning, relaxation, focus and clarity. Children as young as three can practice meditation, but expect sessions to last only a couple of minutes. Finding a quiet spot is the first step and set a schedule so that the child knows when meditation time takes place. Once everyone is ready, try:

-Ringing bell meditation: Have the child sit in a crossed-leg position with his eyes closed. Ask the child to focus on using his sense of hearing to listen for a bell and the whole sound it creates. Then, gently ring a bell and, once the sound of the bell has finished, invite the child to open his eyes and discuss the sound the bell made, encouraging active listening. After practicing listening to the bell for several meditation sessions, lead the child through active listening for sounds he hears around him while sitting in silence.

-Breathing to the beat: Deep breathing helps relax the body and circulate blood and energy. Select music that is calm and has a slow regular beat and invite the child to sit in a crossed-leg position with eyes closed. Now, invite him to slowly breathe deeply to the beat while concentrating on the movements his body makes while inhaling and exhaling. Once the song is over, discuss with the child how his body feels. He can use the technique to calm or focus his body without the music by closing his eyes and counting five deep breaths in a quiet corner.

-Directed imagination: Use directed discussion to help lead the child through imagining working through issues or situations – or for general relaxation. Invite the child to find a comfortable spot sitting with his eyes closed. After he has taken a minute to breathe deeply and relax, guide him through directed imagination by asking him to imagine walking on the beach or sitting in the sun. Then, once the child is calm, he can be lead through imagining dealing with challenging situations, like memorizing skills for an upcoming test or dealing with a bully at school.

Meditation not only builds the brain and aides in relaxation, but also encourages the young child’s imagination and development. Spending time focusing on meditation is an opportunity to help a child learn to focus and build memory skills as well as to enjoy some quality time together.

*My wee tot is a bit young yet for meditating, but we do have lots of fun running, laughing, and attempting yoga together. This is an article I originally wrote for Funderstanding.com, a great site with a wealth of information for educators, students, and parents – go check them out!