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Yoga with Children

tiny book gif Focusing and Calming Games for Children
by Deborah M. Plummer
( Jessica Kingsley Publishers)
Grounded in the Buddhist practice of mindfulness, the author presents a model of interaction that she calls Mindfulness Play: a model that not only seeks to nurture children’s capacity to be fully present in the here and now, but also involves a heightened self awareness on behalf of the adult involved.
    The book is divided into two parts. The first gives the background theory to Mindfulness Play in a very accessible form; this is based on a model of well-being and perceptual intelligence encompassing seven elements. It also sets the context within which the activities and games are set, stressing the importance of a nurturing environment. Here too are reflective questions for practitioners to ask themselves as their practice develops.
    The second part provides a wide variety of over forty games and activities, aimed at children aged five to twelve, as examples of how to put Mindfulness Play into practice. These activities range from lively action games such as Duck duck goose to a guided meditation and peer massage. Each has detailed instructions, the time needed, adaptions and questions to ask participants to develop further thought.
     This ability to focus inwards (as well as paying attention to the outer world) that the author talks about is, something that I have on numerous occasions, observed very young children doing naturally. Sadly though, with the present preoccupation on easily measurable outcomes in education, opportunities to foster this state of being are all too frequently lost as children move further up the education system. For this reason alone, Deborah Plummer’s book is a timely advocate for building in this vital part of education at all ages. Neglect it and that ability is all too easily lost: So too, for many children, is the opportunity to reach their full potential.
     Presented in a spirit of openness, that same spirit underlies what the author seeks to foster both in those who read the book and the children with whom they work and play. Every teacher should have a copy: it is also a very valuable resource for youth-workers, therapists, nursery staff, parents and carers, anyone in fact, who seeks to foster and develop children’s emotional and social well-being.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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tiny book gif Frog’s Breathtaking Speech
by Michael Chissick, illustrated by Sarah Peacock
( Singing Dragon)
Frog,sits by the river feeling troubled. He has to give a speech at Frog School assembly next day, and the topic is breathing, about which he knows very little. However along come four of his friends in turn, wanting to know the reason for his sad face. Each then offers his own special way of breathing to help cope with calming oneself, relaxing the jaw, headaches and dissipating anger, respectively. Armed with notes on all four techniques, Frog goes home and prepares his speech.
    Next morning in assembly, the sight of a hall full of faces causes anxious feelings in Frog but then he remembers what Crocodile, Lion, Bee and the woodcutter had told him about breathing and goes on to deliver an amazing ‘Breathtaking’ speech for which he receives a special certificate. But more important, he now has the knowledge that will help him deal with some of the problem situations he might find himself facing.
   As somebody who works with young children and who has also been teaching yoga to some of them for over ten years using a story approach, I have come across many yoga books that offer story ideas. However, amusingly illustrated in watercolours, this is the first picture book proper that I have seen dealing with breathing techniques in particular. In addition to the main narrative, there is an introductory “Guidance for Teachers’ section pointing out how the book can be integrated into a school PSED curriculum (though it can also be used in a family setting) and a final section on the actual animal postures. Well worth seeking out.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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tiny book gif Integrated Yoga
by Nicole Cuomo
(Jessica Kingsley)
Subtitled Yoga with a Sensory Integrative Approach, this highly readable, practical and helpful book is written by a school-based paediatric occupational therapist who is also yoga practitioner and teacher. Thus it is based on a wealth of experience, which as the author says, is intended to enhance, rather than take the place of, work with a qualified professional therapist. It is aimed primarily at educators and parents who care for or have, children with sensory processing difficulties. Having said that the book could also be very useful for any teacher or parent who wants to share yoga with a group of children or an individual child.
   There are six parts, the longest being that concerned with detailing breathing exercises (pranayama)and the basic postures (asanas). Each physical posture is further broken down into adaptations for different age groups: 3-5 year olds, 5-8year olds and 8-11 year olds and where appropriate, age-specific instructions are given for breathing exercises. There are also numerous black and white photographs.
   Other sections discuss what yoga actually is, provide a brief overview of sensory integration including how it may manifest in individuals, explain the synergistic effects of yoga and sensory integration, and provide information on timing, surfaces, age guidelines and different ways to use the postures.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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