I’ve possibly never enjoyed mindfulness more than I have with my children. One reason is that young children are naturally very present focussed, which I find life affirming. Another is their natural curiosity about their experience, which makes me notice loads I otherwise wouldn’t due to habitually taking it for granted as an adult. Another reason is that there’s so much of the baby stage with my children that has seemed so beautiful I’ve wanted to bottle it and save it forever – the softness of their skin, the contagious giggles when they splash in the bath like baby whales, the tiny fingers and toes, the defiant glare in their eyes at anyone who might DARE talk to me and distract me during their feed. I’ve co-slept with my children as young babies, and one of my favourite moments has been watching them sleep peacefully, noticing their tiny translucent eyelids, long eyelashes and hands splayed out dramatically above their heads. I particularly love the unique mannerisms they have in their sleep, like my son’s insistence on rolling to just the right highly awkward looking angle on his side before getting comfy for a deep sleep. I also love waking up to find him patiently watching and waiting, beaming and reaching out to touch my face when I open my eyes. There’s so much love to share, and it’s made extra precious by how short the time really is in a lifetime. Mindfulness is the best I’ve got as a way to soak up all the joy of those moments, so I’ve immersed myself.
So – some mother and baby mindfulness ideas:
In our garden, we have an apple tree. When my daughter was a baby, we spent a few minutes watching it from our living room window every day. I’d talk to her about what we could see, like whether there were leaves, what colours they were, the length of the branches, whether there were any birds – and whether they were singing. It tuned me into the seasons, to her language development and to her motor skill development. Now she’s 3, she has a keen interest in gardening, the seasons and that particular tree – which she pointed out today is the tallest tree in our garden.
How about a mindful buggy or baby carrier walk? What can you see – buildings, people, animals, plants, colours, shapes? What can you hear – birds singing, cars, talking, footsteps, the wind in the trees? What can you touch – the ground beneath your feet? leaves? what can your baby touch – do they reach out to touch any particular things in shops, fences on the way past, other people? What can you smell – the rain? chips? hot chocolate? wild garlic? pollen? what can you taste – take away coffee and cake? polo mints? diet coke? How does your body feel as you walk – warm or cold? comfortable or not? energetic or tired? What thoughts are passing through? Any memories or images, or things on your to do list? What feelings do you notice in yourself? how do you think your baby might be feeling?
How about some mindful music? Put on whatever you like that matches your mood, whether its classical, jazz, chidlren’s nursery rhymes, pop, electronic or heavy metal. My babies have been pretty open minded, even in the face of my husbands techno on full blast – my daughter less so these days though admittedly. Once you’ve chosen, choose something to really attend to – maybe the chord changes, the melody or the beat. If there are words and you enjoy singing, sing along really focussing on the words and the meaning behind them. If you like to dance, dance round the room with your baby. Notice any thoughts or feelings that led to your choice, and perhaps try this on a few different days in a few different moods to get a range of experiences.
And mindful water play – either in the bath or in a paddling pool in the garden. Depending on the baby’s age, grab some bath toys – maybe a watering can, a pouring cup, a sieve. If your baby is new to water play, join in and help your baby learn the joy of exploring what happens. Watch their face expressions and their hand movements. Watch the water move and flow with them. Listen to the splashes and sounds they make. Feel the temperature of the water and notice how much of your baby is in water.
Or try mindful bubble blowing – notice how deep or shallow your breaths are as you blow the bubbles for your baby. Is your breath warm or cold as you blow out? How big are the bubbles? How long do they last until they pop? What colours can you see in the bubbles – and what colour do they go right before they pop? Can you watch the bubbles float high in the sky until they pop? How does your baby respond if a bubble pops on their nose or hand? How do they respond as they watch the bubbles float away?