It is not easy to explain to children what is relaxation… maybe because we don’t do it often enough or because our grownup roll models are such stress balls.
Experiencing works better than talking… Here are a couple of easy ways to really feel the difference between just lying down, and really relaxing your body. Enjoy!
1. Spaghetti Test
Have you ever seen uncooked spaghetti? It is very stiff and inflexible. But what happens if you cook it? That’s right, it becomes soft and flexible. If you lift it, it will move in any direction you want it to. And that’s what you want your legs and arms to be able to do when you relax.
Divide the children into groups of two and have one partner be like a cooked spaghetti while the others will be the Italian chefs who will check if the spaghetti is done. The chef will lift one spaghetti arm or leg at a time, and will very gently check if the pasta is 'soft' by wiggling it a bit and even letting it drop—all to see if the spaghetti is really relaxed and does not resist.
The spaghetti partner should just pretend to be asleep and not help the chef lift up his arms or legs nor resist. When they are sure that the spaghetti is ready, they can switch roles. (Tip: A fun Italian accent will help grab and keep the kids' attention!)
When we tense our muscles just before relaxing, it teaches the body the difference between tension and relaxation, and it helps us to relax more deeply.
Just before you lie down and relax, you can make and drink some imaginary lemonade. Sit hugging your knees to your chest and balancing on your bottom. Now squeeze the lemon really hard, making a super sour face.
Squeeze your body into the smallest lemon ever and then let the lemon burst as your hands and legs fly out to the side and you roll to lie on your back. Repeat a few times.
3. Squeeze and Relax
Take a deep breath in and squeeze all the muscles in your body; your legs, your hands, your bottom, your shoulders, your face… Now, breathe out and relax all the muscles in your body and let them drop back to the yoga mat. Repeat this exercise two or three times.
You can also practice this by tensing and relaxing only one part of the body at a time. For example, tense one arm, make a fist with your fingers, stretch out your fingers and release. Repeat with all the parts of the body.
Have your own tips for fellow parents? Share them below!
Image Credit: Stephanie Birch