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Published December 28th, 2016
Mindful Littles: Compassion Strategies For Kids and Their Families
Families participated in a Mindful Littles event on Dec. 4 by giving back to Haiti school children. Photo provided

Earlier this month about 50 parents and children gathered at the Orinda Community Church to complete a donation project for a school in Haiti.
The project, led by the Glorietta neighborhood-based "Mindful Littles" team, goes beyond charity. It is part of a curriculum of sorts that is being created by Tanuka Gordon to raise mindful children. This event, the one before it and the ones that will follow are part of a continuum of thoughtful activities the Orinda resident creates for her two daughters and that are documented on the blog, www.mindfullittles.org.
Gordon is an American of Indian ancestry who was raised with a global perspective, traveling with her parents. She graduated in mathematics and business and had a career in technology project management before she dedicated her time to her two daughters, now in preschool and kindergarten. She has developed her yoga knowledge and practice since 2000 and she says that after her first child was born, she started asking herself what that meant for her parenting. She started taking classes at the offices of www.mindfulschools.org in Oakland and decided this would be the way to raise her children. Very quickly, with like-minded friends Mary Patel and Molly Hanahan, she decided to spread the joy to other children.
Gordon defines mindfulness as a toolkit for the mind, a practice to tune one's mind to the moment with no judgment, and with intentional focus. "Over time, training the prefrontal cortex helps getting out of autopilot and being able to take a pause before reacting," she says. She adds that her objective is to empower children with fundamental levels of choice. "The benefits for children include improving their regulation of emotions, their attention level, increasing their self-awareness, and developing compassion," she says. For her, training the heart goes with training the mind.
When thinking about mindfulness, meditation comes to mind. Gordon does not push that practice with her kids, but rather focuses on daily activities that bring them in the moment, with awareness. The family plays with sensory activities, paying attention to the senses.
"We can do a 'rainbow walk,' finding colors as we explore the neighborhood, or having fun with smelling exercise using scented markers. We are playing and paying attention," she explains. Gordon documents on her blog all her activities. The family also added weekly kindness projects, like a letter to a great-grandmother or baking cookies for the fire department. "Our commitment is that every week we will have a project," she says.
The group activities came
together among the three friends, Gordon, Patel and Hanahan. The first activity this fall was a toiletry drive for children in Youth Homes, then earlier this month the gathering for Center of Hope-Haiti (COHH).
"The Lamorinda mindful community service projects want to teach children as young as 3 years old about service to others with intention," says Gordon. The event includes learning about the cause, the people affected, and then brainstorming intentions and thoughts that the children want to send to the future recipients.
Gordon says that the "littles" at the event wished the Haiti children things like "clean water," "food" and "friendship." "To see young kids come up with such profound wishes for other kids never ceases to amaze me, and consistently is one of the best parts of our events," she added on her blog.
Mindful Littles will be hosting a second "Helping Haiti Kids" event on Jan. 8 to fulfill the goal of reaching all 84 kids at the COHH school with gifts of personalized hygiene kit. Interested families can register at www.eventbrite.com/e/helping-haiti-kids-january-event-tickets-29762258717.

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