3 Activities to Help Little Ones Integrate their Brain and Body with Relationship in Mind

A few years ago, I had the privilege of working with a beautiful little 3mo old girl and her mom. They came to see me because the mom was feeling overwhelmed and felt that she was not doing enough to connect with her daughter. She told me that she expected motherhood to be life changing but that she didn't expect it to be so hard to connect with her little one, and this made her feel horrible and like a failure.

My heart broke listening to her because - me a stranger at that time - was looking at a mom who absolutely adored her little one and her little one absolutely, without doubt, was connected to her mama and sought her out every chance she got.

Observing their body language and seeing something completely different than what she was describing to me - I started to think...what was causing this mom to feel this way and what tangible ways can I give her to use TODAY to help her see that she is doing an amazing job.

As I listened to the mom telling me about her worries, I noticed that a lot of her worries stemmed from her own childhood. All of her worries were actually misrepresentations in her relationship with her daughter - all based on how she was parented when she was a child. During our time together the mom and I explored these and she was able to see how her own ghosts in the nursery affected her view of herself as a mom.

I will write about ghosts in the nursery in a different post, today I want to focus on the tangible exercises you can do to help your little one regulate with relationship in mind. This wonderful mom and I were able to come up with three activities she was able to start practicing to help her feel connected to her little one and help her regulate her daughter when she became upset and cried. We made these activities part of her daily routine as she was already feeling overwhelmed - so this eased her ability to focus on them and practice them.

The beauty about these is that you can apply these to ANY child and their parent/caregiver. And they will help your child regulate their brain and body - and will help you stay connected, re-connect if necessary, and build on that beautiful relationship!

It is important to remember however that in order for these to work you, the parent/caregiver, have to be emotionally regulated yourself. If you are upset or rushing through this, this won't work. Your little one will pick up on it, I promise! Can't fake it until you make it. We have to be real and present.

Also, if this can't happen daily - try one of these per day for the next week and see how it works. What I suggest parents/caregivers notice is the following:

  • How are you feeling after spending this time with your little one?

  • What do you think your little one is feeling and thinking?

  • How did this help you enjoy your little one today?

#1 - No Distraction Play-Time

When I suggest this to parents, they look at me kinda funny. They are like - "umm how is play going to help? I paid you to tell me to PLAY with my kid?"

I always chuckle at this...because yes it sounds too easy to be true...but it is really that simple! Here is why:

  • Play is the mother of all learning for little ones

  • Play is the language of little ones

  • Play is the way little ones connect

  • Play is the way little ones regulate and tell us what's going on in their minds

So when I ask parents to play with their little ones I state the following:

  • No phones, no tv, no electronics, no other people present

  • Just you and the little one

  • Let them lead the play and you just be present and enjoy with them - delight in them (if the baby is super young like the 3mo old I described above - use age appropriate toys and holding or floor time play/belly time play).

  • Commit to 15 minutes - and see where it goes!

#2 No Distraction Meal Time

We all have to eat and meal time is a super awesome way to help little ones regulate and connect!

Food is a great way to regulate body and brain. Food sends signals to our brain that help us relax, focus, and enjoy. It's also a good time to model a good relationship with food and try new things that your little one may enjoy!

What I suggest is:

  • Pick one meal time with your little one where you can be alone with them (it can be snack time too)

  • Make something that you know your little one will enjoy or try a new food together

  • No phones, no tv, no electronics, no others present

  • Just you and the little one

  • Find a space that is comfortable, safe and secure for you both - that may be the kitchen table, or the playroom floor, or the back yard - wherever!

  • Let them explore the food, feed you - you feed them

  • If they are still bottle fed, hold them, smile at them and make as much eye contact and baby babble as possible - use different pitch sounds

  • Delight in them, enjoy with them, and be present with them, make as much eye contact as possible. Describe to them what you are doing and how you enjoy being with them.

  • Commit to 15 minutes - and see where it goes!

#3 No Distraction Togetherness/Mindfulness Time

I get lots of "huh?" looks when I mention this to parents and caregivers. I haven't quite come up with a name for this exercise so I am calling it like it is - it may change in the future - who knows!

It's never too early to start practicing mindfulness with your little ones. And never too late for you to get on board with it either. It helps them regulate, you regulate, and both of you connect! Here are a few suggestions on how to do this:

  • Set aside a special place in your home where you can create a comfortable space. At my house it is a corner by the window with a couple of pillows on the floor.

  • Designate and commit to a 15min time frame per day and see where it goes from there

  • If your little one is too little to follow - that's ok. Have them lay next to you and be present

  • You and your partner can do this one together with your little one or the whole family.

  • Some mindfulness exercises you can do together with your little one: (click here to receive a FREE PDF of the below activities you can do today. I will ask you to become a member of the site so we can communicate via email a couple of times a month and I can update you on all the fun stuff that's happening.)

Five Finger Breathing

Five Senses Exercise

Feather/Cotton Ball Exercise

These activities are so much fun, and again if all of them sound too much - start with one and then add one at a time as you become more comfortable. Connection is the key in helping our little ones regulate and these exercises will help without a doubt!

I hope you find this helpful and if you do - please share it with your friends and family. The more people can be reached with this information the better for their children and their parenting experience.

Before I end today's blog, I want to let you know that the podcast will be here very soon! I am so excited about it because I get to talk to you all in more depth about these topics and have some awesome guests on there too.

Thanks you for all you do!

Talk soon,