The holiday season is full of excitement for children. Think late nights, lots of treats and a lack of routine. Sounds great, right! Only problem (as we all know) is that it can also be very overwhelming. Without techniques to help them cope with change, emotions can run wild. Reminding kids to slow down and use their senses can really help them to truly experience what they are doing and enjoy it. Mindfulness is a method of shifting attention inward to observe our thoughts, feelings, and actions without interpretation or judgement. It encourages the practice of using your senses to truly experience the here and now with joy. This holiday season what better way to use your senses (and practice mindfulness) than baking cookies! For parents new to the many benefits of mindfulness in kids, here is a quick list:
- less stress, anxiety and sadness
- better able to cope with change and other stressors
- better sleep habits
- more compassionate
- more confident in self and decision making
- better performance academically
- understand, feel and express gratitude more freely
- better able to focus and concentrate
- more resilient
All in all practitioners of mindfulness have better social and emotional skills. And who doesn’t want that?
Here are some fun, easy ways to practice mindfulness while sharing the tradition of cookie baking this holiday season:
Baking Cookies with All 5 Senses
- Touch: Once the dough is formed, really take a minute to feel the dough in your hands (clean hands, please). Squish it through your fingers and sense its texture. Talk about how it feels. Do you like the feeling? Does your child? Play with this sensory experience for a bit. It is like Play Dough holiday-style. And once the cookies are baked and cooled, take a spare one (its for a good cause) and feel the texture once again. Is it harder or softer compared to the dough? How does the texture change once the dough has been cooked? Go into the science behind chemical reactions within the baking process (if you want to really go deep).
- Smell: There is nothing better than the smell of cookies baking in an oven, and there are plenty of opportunities to slow down and use your nose along the way. Smell each ingredient before you add it to the bowl. How does vanilla and chocolate differ in strength from ingredients like flour and baking soda? Do they like the smell of raw eggs? Can they guess based on the smell, how the ingredient would taste?
- Taste: Obviously tasting warm cookies is the best part of making cookies (let’s be honest). However, using sense of taste along the way can also enhance the process and be lots of fun. After your child has smelled each ingredient, let them take a little taste (flour, sugar, vanilla, baking soda, chocolate, etc). Have them place a tiny bit on their tongue and really taste it. How does it feel in their mouth? How does it taste? Was it what they expected it would taste like after smelling it?
- Sight: Decorating cookies is such a visual delight. For many kids, the love of adding as many decorations as possible can get a bit (let’s say) overdone. Instead of dumping all the sprinkles onto the cookie, have them slow down and decorate with intention. Have them really look at the cookie and see how the shape of the dough changed from its prebaked self. Is it more smooth or bumpy? Are there any cracks? Try giving them 1 cookie at a time to decorate for each person in the family. Remind them to really think about that person. What are their favorite colors? What would they like on their cookie?
- Sound: There are lots of opportunities to stop and listen while you are baking cookies. Let them open ingredients and unwrap decorations from their packaging. Listen to the crinkling of the wrappers. The mixer is another opportunity to listen to an obvious (and loud) sound. Is it an intense sound? Discuss each sound and how it makes them feel. What is the sound of a baked cookie split in two? Or crumbled once cooled? There are many sounds to experience (often for the first time), however the sound of the oven timer signaling that the cookies are ready may be everyone’s favorite sound of all!
Remember, using your 5 senses can be used for all your holiday traditions, and is an opportunity to practice mindfulness with your child. Be sure to follow us on Facebook for our 12 Days of Mindfulness. Also check out our Wonder Crate site to order the “I Can Quiet My Mind” subscription box for your child. It arrives in January and is the perfect way to kick off the New Year with a quiet, post-holiday mind!