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By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter
It can be challenging for preschool-aged children to sit without wiggling, to listen without blurting out comments, or to follow directions without being asked a dozen times.
But Sheryl White works magic on children to teach preschoolers mindfulness exercises and self-control.
The Westwood Public Library has welcomed Sheryl’s mindfulness workshops in the past and was excited for her return to the library on October 5.
For nineteen years, Sheryl has worked with families to practice infant massage and sign language for babies. Her exploration in mindfulness had been fueled by motherhood, when she sought to raise her three children to be as mindful and self-aware as they could be. Reflecting on her experiences as an anxious child, Sheryl has realized that she could have benefited from many of the exercises she has taught to her own children and decided to extend her toolbox of skills to all children.
“What’s really different about this program is that it’s for preschool-aged children,” said Sheryl. “They really learn how to be aware of their feelings, the ones inside of them and the feelings they get from their surroundings.” Four-year-old brothers Matthew and Nathan, along with four-year-old Chloe and her three-year-old brother, Jason, took an interest in mindfulness and were eager to see what kinds of activities Sheryl brought to her classes.
“I’ve never seen such a topic in the other neighboring libraries. I think it’s a really unique program and I wanted to see what it was all about and how it could benefit my kids,” said one parent.
To begin the workshop, Sheryl greeted the children and their parents before taking out two bells. She asked the children to listen very carefully to the sound of the bells and instructed them to raise their hands once the calming ring of the bells ceased to be heard. She clinked the bells together and the children, sitting up straight and covering their eyes to focus on listening, raised their hands as the sound of the bells faded.
From Sheryl’s bag of activities, another sound was heard - a ribbit noise - and Sheryl procured a frog puppet. The preschoolers listened as the puppet ribbited to the tune of “Old MacDonald,” “Frère Jacques,” and “London Bridge,” then guessed the songs at the end.
One of the children’s favorite mindfulness activities was drawing in a Zen garden. Sheryl transported the Zen garden in a Tupperware container and brought a small rake for the children to relieve stress as they made designs in the sand, showing parents that it could easily be recreated at home.
Sheryl comes prepared to each session with over two hundred activities planned for the preschoolers, which are meant for children to explore and become aware of all five senses.
During one activity, Sheryl gave the children raisins, which they listened to as they rolled them between their fingers, before smelling and tasting them, as well. Other activities, like lying on their backs with stuffed animals on their bellies, helped the children focus on their breathing.
By showing the children and their parents the benefits of mindfulness, Sheryl helped the preschoolers discover a new world of tools to regulate emotions, improve concentration, and work on self-control.