Collier and Lee Counties Edition
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Mindfulness for Children

A Needle in a Southwest Florida Haystack

Although a search for a mindfulness class for children in local southwest Florida public schools could be compared to the exercise of looking for a needle in a haystack an appreciation for the positive results that children can realize from the practice is not going unnoticed by Kathy Khatib, founder and Director of the Garden School of Naples and Kimberly Rodgers, licensed clinical social worker and owner of Monarch Wellness in Naples.

The Silence Game

“Dr. Maria Montessori wrote about her idea for the initial development of the Silence Game in The Secret of Childhood. The Silence Game, which is part of every child’s day here at the Garden School, is much like what we now call mindfulness for children. Reading what Maria wrote in her books gives one a deeper appreciation for it than just describing the benefits,” advises Khatib.

“One day I had the idea of using silence to test the children’s keenness of hearing, so I thought of calling them by name, in a low whisper, from a certain distance, as is the custom in certain medical tests. The child called was to come up to me, walking so as not to make a sound. With forty children this exercise inpatient waiting demanded a patience that I thought impossible, so I brought with me some sweets as a reward for each child who came to me. But the children refused the sweets. They seemed to say, “Don’t spoil our lovely experience, we are still filled with delight of the spirit, don’t distract us.” And, so I realized that children were sensible not only to silence but to a voice calling imperceptibly in silence. They came up slowly, walking on tip-toe, taking care not to knock into things, and their footsteps could scarcely be heard.”

“Not much has changed in the Silence Game. We don’t have a special time for calling children from their work in the middle of their school day. It happens whenever the teacher rings a bell. The children stop what they are doing and tiptoe over to place in the classroom to sit down, close their eyes and listen carefully for five minutes. Sounds are whatever they hear, a truck passing by or even an old-fashioned ticking alarm clock that we occasionally use. When the teacher whispers a child’s name, they quietly get back up and go back to what they were doing,” says Khatib who notes that our world is noisier now than it was in Montessori’s time. “Today, it is filled with the sounds of the television, electronics, phone conversations, leaf blowers, sirens, and traffic. The Silence Game can give children the precious ability to cultivate and appreciate silence for the rest of their life,” says Khatib.

Far Reaching Benefits

Rodgers has noticed the difference in in her young patients after they participated in one of Salima Silverman’s yoga classes. Silverman, who is part of Rodger’s referral network, teaches classes at Monarch Wellness and is also available for private sessions. “Salima’s classes demonstrate to children and adults with special behavior challenges such as anxiety, introversion, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other issues how they can connect with their body and self-regulate. Parents also notice behavior improvement and say that their children felt less anxious, could focus better, sleep better at night and realize improvements in their schoolwork. The most progress is noticeable in children or adults who not only participate in classes consistently but also continue to practice outside of counseling,” advises Rodgers, who believes that what happens when children tune into their mind and body in Silverman’s yoga classes is similar to what happens during mindfulness classes for children. “The benefits of these kinds of practices are far reaching. They not only impact children but also their parents and teachers as well as our overall community.”

The Garden School of Naples, 6051 Bayshore Dr., Naples. For information on enrollment, call 239-424-9084, email Kathy@GardenSchoolNaples.com or visit GardenSchoolNaples.com.

Monarch Wellness, 843 Myrtle Terr. 239-325-9210. MonarchWellness.net.

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