Expressive writing has many benefits. Writing about life helps people, among other things: get healthy! Research shows that people who write about emotional upheavals require fewer doctor visits and are generally happier. combat depression! Writing a gratitude journal helps with mood. Expressing yourself lets you ditch your stress for a while. build their brain! People best express themselves in different ways--through words, music, movement. Some people prefer to be alone to be inspired. Others think best by talking to people. Trying a variety of writing activities can spur new ways of thinking, resulting in stronger, smarter writers! Magination Press's book, Neon Words: 10 Brilliant Ways to Light Up Your Writing, provides young writers with writing prompts and book-making activities to help them learn about creative writing by honoring, strengthening, and playing with their ideas and words. Writing activities can spark imagination and allow young writers to make their writing more powerful, but they can also help kids engage with words to be more present in life and to use language arts techniques for self-discovery and emotional well-being. Take a writing activity about antagonists, for example. In the Villainous Voices activity, writers are invited to think about a disagreement they've had with someone else, but from their adversary's point of view. In a story, the reader sides with the protagonist: the main character, the lead actor. It's the character we find ourselves rooting for. The antagonist, on the other hand, is often the one who causes problems: the villain, the one who creates the story's tension. They're the character we hope gets the short end of the stick. Have you ever read The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by "A. Wolf"? (The author is really Jon Scieszka.) As the title suggests, you don't usually hear the wolf's take on the classic folk tale. In Wicked, Gregory Maguire writes a back story for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, giving the villain--that is, the Wicked Witch of the West--the leading role; this is a complete departure from the original.Now it's your turn. List a few people with whom you've had a disagreement. People you've argued with. People who see a situation from a different vantage point than you. Anyone in your life is fair game: Your mother Your father A sibling Other relative A friend or ex-friend A teacher A pet Think about the argument: Where were you? (scene) What happened? (action) What was said? (dialog) If it helps to take notes first, or jot down key points, go for it! Now retell that story, only this time as the person you clashed with. Invite them to speak as the protagonist. Look for the positive thinking that you couldn't see in the heat of emotion. Be honest. What do you think motivated them--and now you? Why would you want to do this? Writing-wise, it helps you get into the head of each of your characters to make them more complex, authentic, and honest. You want them to ring true, evenRead More
Being able to ask for help is an essential skill for everyday life, but one that often has a stigma attached to it. It's natural for young kids to want to "do it themselves," especially when they see adults accomplishing the same tasks without help. Asking for help can sometimes be seen as a sign of weakness or incompetence, especially as we get older. But as we can see in the Magination Press book Giraffe Asks for Help by Nyasha Chikowore, main character Gary became happier and stronger after recognizing that he didn't have to struggle alone. Help-seeking in children promotes positive psychological functioning, competence, and inspires healthy collaboration with the children and adults around them. When children learn to ask for help, not only do they utilize their problem-solving skills, but they also become more adept at communicating and expressing their needs. The Importance of Help-Seeking It may seem obvious to us, but asking for help can be a crucial tool to help kids deal with tough problems such as bullying, trouble with school work, conflict with peers, and more. In addition, help-seeking is a skill that can combat many of the risk factors that have been known to cause stress and sadness in kids. Discussing what asking for help looks like in different settings (e.g. school, home, camp) can help ensure that children can identify adults and peers who are safe and can provide them with the appropriate forms of assistance. Of course, there's a line between encouraging help-seeking and allowing a child to become dependent on help. Kids should still be encouraged to try things on their own when it is safe and appropriate for them to do so, but being comfortable asking for help when it would be beneficial is a key developmental skill. Being mindful about that line can make a huge difference in your child's understanding of help-seeking. What You Can Do There are many things we can do to encourage help-seeking behaviors in kids. Letting them know that you are there to help them when needed is a good way to make sure they use the skill. Many kids have already been asking you for help since they were toddlers, and it can help to point out what that looked like as they have grown. You may have helped teach them how to walk, helped them with coloring or drawing, or helped them learn how to ride a bicycle. You can also give them examples of when you have had to ask for help in your own life to emphasize that people of all ages sometimes need help. The following questions can aid parents and teachers in helping children navigate how to ask for help appropriately: What are some things you can do without asking for help? What are some things you still need help with? How can you ask for help? Have some suggestions ready in case your child needs help coming up with ideas! Identify Potential HelpersRead More
Breathing as a Means to Mindfulness
One way to practice being mindful is to focus on breathing, and understand the role it plays in helping us feel calm, relaxed, and focused. In the Magination Press Family bookstore, you’ll find an assortment of kid-friendly, APA-approved books that explore breathing exercises you can try with your child, such as Breathe by Inês Castel-Branco, which uses illustrated exercises to help children become aware of their breath and their bodies.
This word mindfulness used so much these days that its meaning is often lost or confused. It is something we find ourselves saying in place of other phrases that are more specific like “be careful” or “be thoughtful.” When we hear the word by itself or attached to meditation it can seem esoteric and unattainable, but if you consider the definition of mindfulness, it is simple. I have a favorite from Dr. Amy Salztman, who says, “Mindfulness is paying attention to your life, here and now, with kindness and curiosity.” It’s not about being calm or careful or getting your mind to stop thinking or experiencing emotion. It’s not about being perfect and well-behaved in every situation. Mindfulness is presence; it’s cultivating an ability to notice our experience without judgment and by doing so we give ourselves the room to choose our responses. It is something EVERY one of us has experienced unintentionally and it’s something EVERY one of us can practice with intention at any given moment. Even kids. If you don’t believe me ask yourself this: Have you ever had an interaction with your child or loved one where it was all about your experience together? No phone, no distraction just the two of you? Have you ever watched the clouds roll by, looked at the moon, savored a mouthful of something delicious, played a sport and been “in the zone”, taken a deep belly breath when you are feeling a moment of stress to gather your thoughts? If you said “Yes” to any of these, you have already practiced mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation expert Sharon Salzberg says, “Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.” Each moment in our lives presents us with the opportunity to practice mindfulness. Here are a few ways we can “remember to do it.” All of these can be done with kids as well, to help them learn to practice non-judgmental awareness and build their self-care skills in everyday situations. Breathe Reminding yourself to take a deep inhalation and slow exhalation through your nose can not only calm your nervous system, but also give you a moment to stop and notice how you feel and choose how to proceed with kindness and compassion, whether that is toward yourself or others. Try this exercise with your kids, too: place your hands on your belly and inhale to feel it fill with air. Then as you exhale, follow your breath all the way to the end. This lengthening of your exhale not only creates a relaxation response in your body but also puts your mind in one place, allowing you to quiet the chatter or hit pause on your mental to-do list. Use your Senses We have so many opportunities to taste, smell, hear, touch, and see. Often, we drink and eat so quickly that we don’t even know what we’ve tasted. We rush through our meals and treat them as just another chore. Try really paying attention to your food.Read More