Last weekend, as the weather turned into spring, I turned my back patio into a labyrinth activity center. My children and I created a heart-shaped spiral and a simple circular spiral labyrinth with sidewalk chalk and began to walk. Paying attention to our in-breath and out-breath, we walked and walked until our bodies and minds felt in synch and connected. We walked slowly, thinking a peaceful thought. We walked briskly, thinking of a problem we wanted to solve. Then we shared our experiences. It was an excellent way to be outside and simultaneously practice our relaxation activities.
The labyrinth is a powerful tool. Unlike a maze, it has one course that travels in and out to the center. From wherever you are, en-route to the center, you can always see the center. As you walk the path to center, with mindfulness activated, you will undoubtedly walk to the center of yourself simultaneously. Walking the labyrinth can be a fun, interesting way to practice patience, planning, and mindful attention, while enhancing the body/mind connection and awareness at the same time.
We can introduce the labyrinth to children in a fun, playful manner. There are many different activities that can be associated with walking the path to center. I find walking the labyrinth to be a very peaceful and calming activity. Here are some of the ways that I have used it in my work with children:
Mindfulness Activity: Labyrinth Construction
You can choose to build the labyrinth out of stone or simply draw an outline in the sand or dirt. Either way, it can be an opportunity to practice mindfulness. There are many materials that can be used in your construction. I’ve seen some by painting squares on an old tarp. It is also possible to build using stones, colorful foam blocks, styrofoam floral blocks, yarn, colored squares of paper, or other multiple items. First map out and outline your template on the ground or floor. Masking tape and sidewalk chalk work very well since they are temporary. Experiment with different designs. Start with a simple circular or heart-shaped spiral pattern and build more difficult designs with experience. Engage your children in the construction. With every stone, place it and think of peace, or joy or love. Breathe in, place the stone say the word “calm”, breathe out pick up the next one. Repeat as you are building to center.
Relaxation Activity: Walking the Labyrinth
Labyrinths are fabulous support for setting intentions. Play some soft music. Light a candle if you are at home. Walking the labyrinth before bedtime is an excellent Before entering the labyrinth, talk to your child about what he/she would like to feel. Tell them that as they walk, they can breathe and focus on that feeling. If it is calmness, breathe and focus on calmness.
Some Ideas on Introducing the Labyrinth to Children
Place a toy or favorite stuffed animal in the center of the labyrinth. Tell the child that the idea is to walk the path to get to the toy and bring it back out of the labyrinth. Explain that the path connects to the center and there is no possibility of getting lost if you stay on the path, just keep walking until you get to center. Walk together the first time to assure understanding. Explain that the pace can vary. Sometimes our bodies need a quick, steady pace, other times our bodies want to walk slowly and take our time. The key is to listen to your body and to find out how it is feeling and to sense what it wants to feel.