Autumn is my favorite season. I live in Ohio and the cooler weather that arrives in September brings with it a myriad of new sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and sensory feelings. Trees turn into works of art, painted varying shades of red, gold, green and orange The air feels cooler and crisper, more alive. Farmer’s markets are abundant with recently harvested produce. And best of all— it’s time for apple picking!
Celebrating the season of autumn, with a bountiful crop of juicy apples, has also become one of my favorite Kidding Around Yoga class themes. By exploring the scents, shapes, colors, tastes, and sounds of apples through the five senses children learn some simple mindfulness techniques. Mindful awareness teaches us to slow down and observe what is happening in the present moment. What a blessing it is for our families to learn to simply stop, breathe, and ‘be in the moment’ and to appreciate the goodness that surrounds us.
Teaching children mindfulness through the five senses is an easy approach. It’s experiential and opens the creativity of their minds to new thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Bringing apples to yoga class to help ‘feed’ that creativity is one way I’ve found to introduce awareness to children. After all, who can resist a yummy, ripe apple? Even so, if a child has an aversion to eating apples, they can touch, see, and smell an apple while in class. And who knows… maybe even be tempted to try tasting a small bite (this experiment might even work on kids who ‘hate’ vegetables).
Prepare for class by bringing both sliced (for eating) and whole apples. First, explain that you will be sharing sliced apples to taste at the end, so that no one grabs an apple from the basket and starts munching it down!
Begin by passing around a basket with a variety of whole apples: Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Fuji, or Golden Delicious to name a few. Allow each child to choose an apple and ask them to place the apple on the front of their mats. Direct them to explore their chosen apple through the five senses:
“Look closely at the apple you chose. What colors do you see? Is there more than one color? Are there any areas that are darker or lighter? Does your apple have any spots? What is its shape? What else can you observe about your apple?” Then ask if anyone would like to share an observation about their apple.
“Does your apple have a scent? Gently pick your apple up, and put it up to your nose. What does it smell like? Does it smell sweet or earthy? Does it smell different by the stem or near the bottom of the apple?” Time to ask if anyone would like to share what their apple smells like, you might be surprised by some of the adjectives kids come up with: “sunshine”, “rain”, “like candy”…
“What does your apple feel like? Is it cold or warm? Smooth or bumpy? Does it feel heavy or light in your hands?” Again, give time for children to voice their observations if they want to share.
“Now, pick up your apple and hold it in both hands. Do apples make any sounds? Well, they certainly can’t talk but I’ll bet if you listen closely you can hear the sound of your apple. Hold your apple up a few inches and drop it into your other hand. What sound does it make? Try tapping your apple with your fingers. Does it make a different sound? Now, I’ve brought in some apple slices to eat, but what sound do you think your apple would make if you took a big bite out of it right now? Wwould it be a loud sound or a soft sound?”
To save time and cut down on sharing any germs, pre-slice 4-5 different types of apples and place in individual containers or plastic baggies (some kids do not like the rind of the apple, so be prepared to direct them to just bite into the pulp if they do not like the rind). Tell children to wait to taste the apples together, and also let them know that we are going to try to slow down when we taste each apple, not gobble them up in one bite.
“Now, let’s try tasting a few different types of apples. Let’s try the green apple first. Take a small bite and listen again to the sound the apple makes when you take a bite. Then, slowly chew the apple and notice the taste or sensations inside your mouth. Maybe you also notice a smell when you are chewing. Does the taste change when you notice the smell of the apple?” Continue this taste test with all apple slices and then ask if anyone had a favorite type of apple.
This ‘Five Senses’ experiential observation technique can be applied throughout class, while practicing postures or in Secret Garden. At the end of class, ask the children what other ways they can use the Five Senses to be more mindful. Allow them to use their ever-creative, open minds to think of all the ways being mindful will help them in their day-to-day lives.