So I eluded on Instagram that maybe we can use sensory play to help some of our kids experience the sense of ‘just doing’, being in the moment and enjoying life. When your not concerned about the outcome of the product you are ‘in the moment’.
Your high level 'thinking' part of the brain is not overthinking or trying to solve your stressors. You are fully experiencing the sensations of the activity under your fingertips.
Why is this type of play important? All types of play are important (& I hope to educate and encourage you and your kids to play in future talks). This type of play for kids (if your kids aren't sensory/tactile aversive) can be relaxing and similar to mindfulness... In therapy clinics over Australia it is very common to see kids for avoidance behaviours ... particularly avoiding activities where they perceive they have to perform and produce an outcome.
When kids start to show signs of hesitation during new task, that avoidance is often related to them over thinking or holding on to the memory and emotion of a previous negative experience.
Kids will often say ‘nope, not doing it’ without even giving it a go. They say, ‘I can't do it’, or they show signs of stress/fear because they can't make it perfect or they worry about making a mistake.
Who knows why this happens – kids are all different and all are exposed to different lifestyles. They have different strengths and challenges across their development.
There are some things you can do to help kids overcome their fear.
- Prime them first - do something fun and exciting so they’re happy and ready to engage in the activity they dislike.
- Make the activity so fun that with support they are willing to give it a go. If kids see activities so exciting (even when it involves something they dislike doing), they often so badly want to do the cool activity that they are willing to try and overcome their avoidance to it. Hypothetically in brain terms your trying to pair positive emotions, excitement with the activity they try to avoid or fear hence downregulating or cutting back the amount of stress hormone produced. Positive 'in the moment' emotions are hypothesised to cut down the fear response.
- Supporting our kids by engaging in positive talk while they try this activity gives them constructive language in to use. Positive self talk is also hypothesised to downregulate the fear response. The more you do this with your child the more they develop a positive emotional bank of memories when trying challenging things.
This positive bank of memories supports their resilience and likelihood of trying new things again even if they are a little hesitant.
So the rice picture….
Being present in the 'doing' of a rice art work that is abstract and requires a non-specific product. Your looking at swirls of colour and feeling the rice under your fingertips. You are potentially activating the lower sensory 'old' part of the brain rather than the stress/ fear hormone region.
As adults when our lives get stressful and loaded the act of mindfulness, being present in the moment may cut back connection between the amygdala (the part of the brain that fires our stress hormones) to our thinking part of the brain (the top cauliflower) that solves problems.
By not using the 'thinking' part of the brain during fun non-descript sensory activities you tap into the lower sensory 'old' part of the brain which can help your child to be calm and present in the moment. Your child’s brain has cut back the connection between ‘thinking’ and ‘fearing’.
So engage in mindfulness, sensory play and give you child a bank of calming play based memories to draw upon in the future and help them learn to relax and be calm. 😊