I used to get nail-bitingly jealous over one of my best friends. She grew up in a somewhat rural area that was equipped with a gigantic, bountiful vegetable patch and fruit tree’s galore. She, naturally and without struggle, ate an extremely healthy diet. I am talking food that would outshine most clean eating recipe books that I see nowadays. It wasn’t forced, it was just part of life and it flowed. Until I came to stay that is and was somewhat bamboozled by these alien salad-y things.
Fast forward 20 years and my dear friend has a natural predisposition for wholefoods, a figure that has not fluctuated and – just like her childhood – an attitude about food that is refreshingly undamaged. Many a time she has mocked my own food habits (cleanses, detoxes, gluten-freeness) and the fact that my profession helps people find the right foods for their bodies; “isn’t that just a natural thing that every does?”. She has genuinely found clean eating that easy her entire life and is bizarrely immune to food shame (she does not beat herself up about her chocolate addiction. She just moderates it from time to time).
So while creating that ease and flow around healthy eating is obviously high on my priority list when raising Lucy, it also inspired me to add mindful activities that have helped me so much into her daily routine. If it’s a lot harder to teach an old dog new tricks then I am going to damn well strike while I have this curious, impressionable little puppy in my hands. So, for these formative years, I have made it my mission to cram as many wholesome rituals into her definition of normal as possible. And it is working a treat so far (for both of us).
I have often wondered what life may have been life for me had I got into affirmations earlier. Would it have made a difference in those awkward formative years where I would literally curse my reflection? I guess I’ll never know. What I do know however is that I now have my own beautiful little lab rat (minus the cruelty) to experiment on. And the best part about it? Getting toddlers to repeat sentences is part and parcel of the whole learning to speak gig anyway – two jobs for the effort of one.
Since Lucy first started putting words together I have been shaping her little mind into a self-lovin’ gladiator. Starting with simple emotions and gestures I would say “I am HAPPY”. Big inflections. Big smiles. Big fun!
Nowadays (at almost 2) she is starting to understand more concepts and we’re expanding her emotional repertoire. Lucy is particularly in love with the Jungle Book and Finding Nemo so I have picked certain characters and their traits to teach her about emotions/colours/animals/whatever all while planting sneaky affirmations into her mind.
For example, when I am helping her across the play equipment I get her to repeat things like;
- I am brave, like Bageera the big cat
- I am strong, like Baloo the bear
- I am clever, like Sheer Khan the tiger
Or if we are having a Nemo kinda day;
- I am kind, like Marlin the fish
- I am funny, like Dory the blue fish
- I am relaxed, like Crash the turtle
Side note: The inner feminist within me is also having a moment of rebellion at the impossibly beautiful Disney princesses that invariably show up in every movie, so I have decided that I will not be praising her on her beauty. As little humans do, she is told a million times a day that she is cute or beautiful. I have decided to strengthen those other bones. The ones that she might overlook. Of course there is nothing wrong with your daughter or son being proud of their outside, and telling them yourself, but I do think in today’s day and age they can be saturated with that message. But again, that’s just my spin on it! If you want to, then you go Glen Coco.
First things first: you do not need to be a yogi or yogini or anywhere close to it to practice at home OR to teach your bub. I am certainly not.
Now, to serious business. Don’t try and tell me that your heart has never been melted by a photo of a parent and their child enjoying a session of yoga together. It is scientifically impossible for your ovaries not to explode on sighting. Oh you’re not interested? Wait right there a second…
As I was saying.
The best thing about yoga with your child – it’s a not-so-difficult reality. It’s free, easy, funny and can be done on a rainy day. Now, I could be wrong here (please feel free to brag in the comments if you have found otherwise. Seriously – no sarcasm. I want to congratulate you on your child-rearing if so) but getting your yoga on at home with a toddler will probably not be the time to go deeper into your practice. It is not the time to conquer that headstand. But it does serve an equally fantastic purpose. It helps you lighten up and laugh. Incense and ping pong music can be magical… but so can belly laughs, forward rolls and – lets be frank – toddler farts are equally as beneficial for your well-being.
If you are reading this and you are pregnant or have a 6 month old or under then great; start practicing in front of your child as often as possible. They are sponges and will eventually become curious in your weird upside down poses and twists. Otherwise, just start where you are. I didn’t start practicing regularly until Lucy was about 14 months and she is obsessed nowadays.
Here are some tips
- Babies are awesome at savasana. Fact.
- Teach them about animals while you do the poses. Great starts are downward dog, cobra (just call it snake), cat, cow and lion. Make the noises, have fun, add a little drama. I will generally come out of downward dog and flow straight into a little known pose “Rabid Dog pose” where I proceed to chase Lucy around the house before pouncing on her and licking her until she chokes from laughing.
- Don’t get crazy about the perfection – if they just mimic the arms or the legs, that’s fine. It’s all practice.
While there is something intoxicatingly tempting about just sticking your child in the pram, whacking in the headphones and rocking out to your fave tunes there is an opportunity to be had here too. Mindful walks (wankiest term ever, I apologise) is a walk where you point out all sorts of things to your child. Chat with them, point out flowers and trees. Take a different route and talk about the houses. I started doing it and Lucy didn’t really talk back so I stopped until low and behold we walked past a house and she said “blue gate”. Sponged I tell you.
This being said, I have to state loud and clear that this is not an everyday activity. On certain days those earphones are my saviour.
The theory goes that if a child helps and therefore watches something grow they are far more likely to eat it. I can attest this, with my comprehensive study of one child, to be true. Since starting our ‘patch’ with leafy greens Lucy will explicitly request to go and see the lettuces and will gladly pick them off the plant and eat them straight up. It is then an easy leap to make to get them to eat the greens on the plate.
Added bonus? A child that will help you weed, for free. Cha-ching!
** Make sure you always use organic materials and take proper precautions. Don’t let them too close if you are using fertilisers which are generally poisonous. Always check the instructions. Stick to watering the plants or harvesting the fruit if that is the case.
Celebrating their childishness. And yours.
Why is it nowadays that we are all in such a rush to outgrow play? Play is not just some frivolous element of youth, it is a mighty important part of adulthood. As Roald Dahl wisely said, “A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men”. I have made it my conscious decision to allow Lucy to be as funny and creative as she pleases. Even though it can be a little tiring at 3 in the morning when I get woken by a child saying ‘TICKLE TICKLE’ and attacking my ribs I am trying my hardest to not iron out these funny little creases.
I am talking wild dance-offs in the kitchen. Chasing each other round the house. Using silly voices and imagination while talking to each other. Rough and tumble. Dress ups. Playing with animals. Kindness to them. Taking their time (this viral article says it perfectly). Stopping to marvel at little things like flowers or aeroplanes. Looking at the world with wonder.
It’s good for both of you.