We all have those days. The ones when our nerves seem to be on edge. When we feel overwhelmed by what is going on around us. When we know we need to take a moment to re-center but there are so many things to do that we have trouble making the time. At least I do.
Over the past weekend I was very busy preparing for a fundraiser at our home (click here if you are interested in finding out what it was about). So when Monday rolled around I was absolutely exhausted, plus anxious about several other projects, and to add to the stress level I had pulled a back muscle, still had to clean up after the event… you get the idea. I wanted to spend a few moments with my boys working on a character trait like we do every day, but I was not in the frame of mind to be very creative or active. Then an idea arose: go outside and talk about the natural beauty around us. We could talk about appreciation and being present – it seemed easy enough – so we headed outdoors. It turned out the boys ended up more interested playing but this activity widened my perspective and I will definitely be using it again when I need to click out of a low mood.
This activity was super simple. Basically we just went outside and I asked the kids to find something they thought was beautiful. My oldest immediately said, “The trees.” When I asked why he said because they had pretty colors. Then my youngest (he turned two a couple months ago) pointed to a blue bucket and said, “Blue.” “You like blue?” “Yeah.” He heard “colors” from his brother and probably thought that colors were what I was asking about. I was just satisfied both of them had answered so moved on.
I told them that I thought the sky was beautiful, pointed out some clouds, and explained how looking at it was reminding me to appreciate everything in our natural world (by this point, it really was). The boys were pretty much beyond listening by this point. They were already getting into their own outdoors play but I continued to look around all the little things outside and take a few moments to soak in the details, take some deep breaths, and be in amazement about the intricacies and perfection of creation.
I thought about talking to the boys about how blessed we are to be here in the world and to see and learn from all these lovely things around us. But I chose, this day, to just be with my own thoughts. And let them play. We both appreciated the moment.
What I realized is that if I can learn to be present and content, whatever my current reality is, and snap myself out of a bad mood by appreciating the wonderful world around me… my boys will most likely imitate. So this day’s activity turned out to be a lesson to me to remember that my example is the first teacher of my children and no matter how stressed I am, I can use tools (such as going outside and appreciating natural beauty) to remind me about how blessed I am and how thankful I should be.
If I want my children to be present and appreciative, I have to model these qualities first.
Do you have any tricks for practicing presence and appreciation with young children?
Feel free to share your experiences with this activity and/or any variations you came up with. Links to related activities or to your post that links here, are most welcome also.
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