Mandala Blog: September 2019
Greetings Dear Parents! Here are some highlights from our first few weeks with the Mandala Program at Precious Seeds. I thank the staff for their enthusiastic support and the children for their willingness and engagement.
Music: “Rain on the Green Grass”
I taught the classic children’s poem “Rain on the Green Grass” to introduce some elementary music theory, specifically the ideas of Beat, Rhythm and Tempo. These are very basic building blocks in music that will also enhance your child’s capacities in mathematics, communication and music appreciation. This multimodal way of learning (Link:Mandala) has many benefits as it also helps your child with creativity, critical thinking and problem solving.
You may wish to mirror my work at home with your child. They all know this poem well now, so ask them to teach it to you. I’ve included a graphic with the words and hand gestures just in case. We played with this poem a lot, including quickening and slowing the pace of the poem to talk about tempo. We used ‘body percussion’ tapping the poem out on our legs, we stamped our feet to it, and we also clapped it. The children really seemed to love translating the poem into different animal sounds too. Each of these iterations of the poem helps your child in learning the concepts of ‘beat’ and rhythm’.
Beat & Rhythm
You could also ask your child to share this simple hand gesture with you. Hold out your left hand, and with two fingers on your right hand tap out “The beat stays the same, the beat stays the same” (using a steady beat that is in 4/4 time… 4 beats to a bar or phrase) and then change your tapping to a tap for each syllable and say “But the rhythm changes with the words”. This is the basic difference between ‘beat’ and rhythm’. And your children all have it down like little Mozarts. They are great at it. By doing this with your child at home, you will help them to integrate this learning and it will form the basis for the ongoing music education.
Movement: Yoga & Creative Movement
We started with some very basic movements, including the well-known “Head and Shoulders” song. Your children also now know a second verse. You may ask them to sing “Chin and Elbows” to you. A third verse is coming next month.
One of the ways we warm up our bodies is by adhering to a yoga principle to move the spine in all its different directions for maximum spinal health. To accomplish this, we play a game called “How is your Weather Today?”. We swing our arms side to side to test the wind surrounding us. We make big circles over our heads to show how big our sun is that day. We raise our hands over our heads and fold forward towards the ground to symbolize any rain we might feel, and then we arched one arm over heads in order to make our own rainbows, switching to get both sides, because yoga is always fair. This is a wonderful game to play with your children as it opens up the space to talk about their emotions. When we take our ‘weather report’ we are really talking about how we feel on that day. I encourage the children to move as they feel. You can prompt with questions like “Do you feel stormy today?” or “Do you feel sunny?” or “How big is your rainbow today?”.
I introduced a very special kind of story telling that I learned this summer at a trauma-sensitive children’s movement workshop. The story has a loose outline, and the children fill in most of the story with prompts. The story we have been working with is called “Thistle Island”. You may ask your child about their adventures on Thistle Island, including “How will we get there?”, “What should we bring?”, and “What creatures do you see?”. Encourage them to act out the story as they tell it. I would be really happy if they started asking you questions about your home adventure!
This month’s virtue is “Patience”. I taught the children a hand gesture that I learned this summer. You can ask your child to show you. You hold your arms up, stacking your forearms on top of each other horizontally and slide them slowly apart as you say “Paaaa-tiennnnnnce”, drawing the word out slowly. Don’t be afraid to be dramatic. We do this gesture three times, and at the end we say “Because good things take time”. I was very delighted to see some of the children doing this without prompting! And we could all use a little more patience in our lives.
It would be ideal to practice this at home with your child, especially when patience is needed. This home-use would make this mindfulness practice a practical resource for your family. I wish I’d known about it when my sons where young.
Visual & Auditory Prompts
We practiced mindfulness through the use of a Tibetan bell and a Hoberman’s sphere. Both are helpful visual and auditory prompts for breathing deeply and slowly. We also listened into the hollow of a sea shell for the sounds of the ocean.
I made the easiest rain sticks ever. This is a craft you may want to do with your children. I took an empty plastic water bottle that had a wide opening at the top. I filled the bottle with as many sticks and twigs as I could stuff into it. The more the better. I used both long and short sticks to tightly pack the water bottle. Then I added in ¼ cup of rice. If you fill the bottle enough, it takes the rice a bit of time to filter through the sticks, and thus makes a sound similar to falling rain. It is an easy activity that could be a lot of fun to do at a nearby park. It would be lovely to have a mindfulness prompt to do at home.
Summary Highlights for the Busiest of Parents!
(Too Long; Didn’t Read)
For parents who are too busy to read the entire post, ask your child about the following bullets!
See “Green Grass” Poem to perform with your children
How is your Weather Today?
(6 movements of the spine)
Thistle Island Story
(with Questions: How will we get there? What do we need to bring? What do we see?)
Deep Listening to Sea Shells, Rainsticks & Tibetan Bells
May your adventures with your child be marked by music, movement and mindfulness!