I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Peter Pan, the “boy who materializes from the world of children’s dreams.” Neverland is a place that, when created within my brain, allows for my imagination to play, expand and run free.
In the opening scene of the book, Mrs. Darling, “who loved to have everything just so,” meets Peter Pan as she is “tidying up her children’s minds.” In fact, the book goes on to say, that “It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and to put things straight for the next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day.”
Wow! If it were only that simple to help our children by “tidying up their minds,” for them so that they could have enhanced attention, memory, and organized thought for school the next day. Would maybe be a bit freaky too to be that privy to the internal workings of my kids’ minds, if you ask me. But, given that we do desire to provide our kids the tools for optimized thinking strategies, we could help them to learn ways to “tidy” up their thinking for maximized learning. And giving them those tools is what Kids’ Relaxation is all about.
The section ends with this passage that gives such a visual to the process:
You would see her [Mrs. Darling] on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some of your contents, wondering where on earth you had picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek as if it were as nice as a kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight. When you wake in the morning, the naughtiness and evil passions with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind, and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out your prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on. ~Peter Pan by J.M Barrie
Thank goodness, I think, as parents we aren’t that intrusive! However, what’s described by this passage is what I believe that meditation does for each of us. It helps us to organize the contents of our minds, to sort out and process the contents, to find the “more prettier, feel good thoughts” and to allow those thoughts to raise to the surface of our awareness, “neatly spread out and ready to rehearse, repeating with our attention to them.
What we know from brain research is that a calm mind is a fertile mind for learning. So, utilizing various relaxation techniques to help your child calm his mind, and rehearsing those techniques over time, will help him to develop calm mind as his default thinking pattern.
Sequential thinking is a great way to train the brain for greater organization. Because the brain thrives on patterns, sequential thinking is a pattern that is linear, predictable, and repeatable–all the perfect ingredients for a calm brain. However, some of us, myself included, need to rehearse sequence in order to have more organized thought patterns. One way to help your child train his brain for greater sequential thoughts is to practice step-by-step thinking in all tasks, from setting the table, to getting dressed, to brushing his teeth, to doing homework. Here are some tools that have helped me and students I have worked with:
I have found that sticky notes have HUGE potential in the organization of thought. This helps my brain to relax. I have used them to help organize my thinking on all projects, even to help me write the latest book I’m creating. Have your child think about the various steps involved in all tasks. Ask him questions to stimulate his problem-solving such as: “What is the first step? What are you going to do first?” Color code the steps to his projects and number them. If you select a color for each step, then always use that color for that step. If pink is step number one, always use pink. This also helps his brain to store the information when there is a consistently colored first step. While training the brain, recite the mantra: Consistent and Predictable! Post the sticky notes in a place where he can follow along or throw away each note as he completes the step. If it is a task he completes all the time, place the notes on a piece of card stock and laminate it. Post it as a poster/visual cue on the wall next to where he is doing the task. Help him to rehearse what he is going to do before he does it. Verbalize the steps out loud, giving an added auditory stimulus for his brain to store the information. Meet your child where his skill level is. If he struggles to initiate work, or to get started, reduce the first step to the smallest possible step, such as picking up the pen.
Finally, have your child close his eyes, take a deep breath, and guide him through seeing himself carrying out each step before he does it. While in a relaxed state, allow him to rehearse the steps and to also see himself carrying them out in his imagination.
CHEST OF DRAWERS VISUALIZATION!
To help your child rehearse storing information in a way that is efficient and amplifies his memory, try this visualization scrip:
Close your eyes and allow your body to relax. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Good! Now check in with your body and see if there is any place that needs to let go, release tension, and to melt into the floor. Allow that part to let go and to relax. Beautiful! Now, breathing in and breathing out, maybe you can envision a chest of drawers in front of you. This chest of drawers is your creation, unique just to you. Maybe it is wooden, maybe it glows, maybe it has glitter paint all over it. Just notice what your chest of drawers looks like.
Variation Test Preparation: This is a very special chest of drawers in that it will hold the information for your test. Each drawer contains a different category or a different fact that you want to remember. Each fact is now appearing before you and each fact is getting stored in it’s own special drawer. There can be as many drawers as you need to hold all of the information from your test. Good! Imagine each fact finding a drawer that you choose. Put each fact in a drawer. Now imagine that you have a bunch of labels. You can stick one on the outside of each drawer so that you remember where you put each fact. As you allow this chest of drawers to organize the information for you, you might begin to feel more relaxed, more calm, more clearly focused. Remember all the information is here, waiting for you, whenever you need it. You are ready for your test! When you feel that your chest of drawers is holding all of your information, you can begin to bring your attention back to the room around you. You can open your eyes when you are ready.
Variation Thoughts From Your Day: This is a very special chest of drawers in that it is going to organize the events of your day. You could put the thoughts or events you liked in one drawer. Maybe you put the events or thoughts or feelings you didn’t like in another drawer. Just imagine that each drawer gets a thought, feeling or event from your day. Maybe you watch the events swirl into drawers until your day feels complete. Now imagine that your chest of drawers has a date you can stamp on them so that you can re-visit them any time you wish. You might begin to feel very peaceful as all the thoughts, events and feelings get placed into drawers. Your body might start to feel very relaxed, calm, and ready for sleep. That’s awesome! Allow your body to melt right where you are. Your mind is now light, like a cloud. The chest of drawers is holding all of your thoughts until you want them again. Good!
Tags: calm focus, calm mind, executive functioning, increasing focus and attention, learning tools, organized thoughts, relaxation activities, Relaxation for test taking, test preparation, tools for learning, tools for relaxing before tests, tools for test taking