Can a Toddler Engage in Mindfulness?

The other day I was out with a friend of mine and her 2 and half year old son. My friend was helping me with putting together a costume for Dragoncon (yes I’m one of those people). I had decided I was going to be Daenerys from Game of Thrones. She is a kick-ass queen whose life began in the aristocratic manner and who was brought down to the lowest of the low by those around her. However she was smart, persistent, and powerful in her own right and reinstated herself as queen. I liked her determination and no-nonsense attitude…but I digress.

Anyway, we visited Joanns to find the perfect material for me to make a cape as I already had a dress for my costume. Before our adventure into fabric hunting really began, my friend’s son started off with attempting to run from her and crawl in amongst the fabrics.

Now I don’t really blame him. There are so many cool places to climb into and hide in at a place like that. I remember when I was a kid, I loved to make forts with blankets and tv trays. So this was just the “store version” of what I used to do. I think if I was his age, I would probably do the same. However I might be quickly removed from a store if I decided to engage in that behavior.

Anyway, after catching him, she told him to walk with her. He didn’t want to hold her hand. So instead he had to be carried. So here she was holding him in one arm, and searching through fabrics with the other. What was I doing?  Aimlessly walking around looking and touching fabrics and trying to figure out how I was going to sew this thing together. Finally he required a cart in order to be seated into and an iPhone in order to entertain him. Once he was somewhat settled, we continued to look throughout the countless rows of fabrics searching for what would be majestic cape material. After we found a few possible options, we settled on one. A blue fabric with lots of silver designs on it. It was absolutely perfect. Unfortunately I had to wait (what seemed like forever) to get that special tag that states how much the material was before I could purchase it.

While I was waiting, my friend’s son started to have a small meltdown.

She looked at him and calmly told him to start breathing.

Initially he refused.

However after being instructed to breathe in and out again, he began to do so. His crying began to slowly diminish and after a few minutes he was calm again. Now I know that this works for adults (when they actually use it), but to see a toddler actually use it and to be calmer was quite amazing! I was thoroughly impressed! We left the store and then headed to the dollar store to pick up a few items.
At the dollar store, he wanted a spray bottle (apparently he has a slight obsession with spray bottles…not sure why, but he does). He was asked to choose the color he wanted and he chose a blue one. We then left that area to look at some other items. At this point, he began to take the cap off of it. This became a game of sorts as he would take it off and put it back on. My friend repeatedly told him to keep the cap on and if he didn’t he would lose the bottle. Well you know what happened next of course…the cap was removed….and he lost the bottle.

So a temper tantrum ensued.

She again used the magical practice of breathing in and out and shortly after, he became calm again.

We left the store and headed for lunch.
We decided to have lunch at Olive Garden. The wait wasn’t long (it was right at noon) and we were seated shortly after. We decided on what we wanted and then began to chat about her son, the costume, and anything else that came to mind.

During the meal, he began to exhibit those same temper tantrums that had been witnessed before.

She again used the “breathe in and out” method.

And again he returned to a more quieter state.

As we were winding down from lunch, he began to throw items and say hurtful things (ex I don’t like you). It’s a stage that probably most kids go through but it’s quite something to witness. Anyway, she told him to apologize or else he would be put into time out. He didn’t and was promptly put into time out. Now I never would have thought of this, but she did something pretty interesting. She turned his high chair around and told him to count to 10. He kept turning around looking at us and not counting. She persisted and eventually he sat in his high chair facing the rest of the restaurant and was counting to 10! I was slightly entertained by the “issues” of a toddler and how a toddler reacts to these “issues”. But I was also amazed at how he sat there counting to 10 in order to “return” to the table. Luckily he didn’t see my smile as I thought this was slightly funny. Anyway, he “returned” to the table and we all continued our meal. At the completion of the meal, we left our separate ways. By the end of our shopping adventure (which lasted about 3 hours) I needed to take a nap. I was exhausted from the constant explanations that she had to provide to each of the questions he posed to her (which never seemed to stop).
Her patience throughout the afternoon was quite remarkable. I realize that this is what she deals with on a daily basis (bless her heart). However I was extremely impressed with how effective this simple breathing exercise worked for him.

Did it work immediately?       No.

Did it work every single time?        No but it did most of the time.

Was he able to resume the activity he had previously been involved in?        Yes.

She was teaching him to be mindful. Mindful of his breathing. Mindful of how he was acting. What an amazing skill to teach a person, and to teach someone so young who could easily grasp the concept of it. Something that could be used almost anywhere or anytime. What a simple and valuable lesson to teach someone, especially so young. My friend is setting her son up for success.

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