I'm convinced kids are not built to be inside an enclosed structure for more than about 20% of their waking hours. If I can manage to get them fed and clothed and physically out the door they are perfectly content watching bugs, climbing trees, raking leave (yes really!) or "helping" in the garden.
For some strange reason once there's a roof and walls involved, it does not matter how many toys or activities are at their disposal, they have an amazing skill for finding "nothing to do." In my town there's at least 300 days of sunshine, and very few of the other days where there's not "some" sun shining; getting them outside for part of the day is not usually a problem. But with a three-year-old I do have to be present, and I can't always be outside, so there are points where they (gasp!) have to come in. Understand, with three children, our house is rarely very clean for very long, and I think that's part of the reason things seem so uncreative - there's just too much going on. (It is not lost on me the striking similarity to own mind and hesitation to sit down among the clutter.) Outside there's room, freedom. Everything has space to be its amazing self without being shouted down. But sit inside for long, and everything is somehow not just uninviting, but downright unwelcoming!
I tried a little something the other day, with all three of them. [Keep in mind: 9, 5 and 3 years.] We sat in a circle and took a few breaths... ("oh boy, here comes another one of Daddy's weird exercises; admitted, sometimes they're fun) and tried to see how long it took one of us to have a clear thought. "Swirling mushy thoughts don't count." When a thought arose, we were to shout "THOUGHT!" at the top of our lungs.
At first they all just wanted to shout, but then they started to sense the challenge of holding out the longest, and the ever-present sibling competitiveness kicked in. Somehow the tension between wanting to hold out and wanting to shout kept them somewhat honest. We spent most of the time giggling, but once that got old I changed the rules a bit: instead of shouting, we were to gently say what the thought was. I was amazed at how similar their random monkey-thoughts were to my own: "How long are going to do this?" "I'm hungry." "Poopy Butt Penis Head!"
[Well, okay, maybe they aren't exactly same, but qualitatively there's not much to pick between.]
We did this for about twenty minutes before they'd had enough and I cut them loose. After that they seemed a little more content to run off and play — maybe because they were more tuned in, maybe because their creative juices were flowing, maybe just to keep from being wrangled into another weird experiment. Regardless, the results have motivated me to come up with more interesting "games" to try out on them, to help them be more aware of the space in and around them, but also to give us a chance to study our inner world together.
I'll keep you posted on the progress.
Do you have any ideas for kid-friendly meditation exercises?Experiences/results?