Mindful Moments Countdown w/ Kira Willey: Gain focus with a Rainstorm

521417fc-ce92-4abe-9848-24c251d8e61e

With the world all abuzz, stillness and focus can be hard for young children. There’s so much to do! So much to play with! As kids grow and enter school, the direction of their attention changes and the need for focus becomes more necessary.

Mornings can be especially tough for kids to zero in on the tasks at hand with the pressure of getting to school on time. For younger children, sitting for five minutes to eat a bite of breakfast can be tricky. I even find this to be true with my 7-year-old daughter. And then there’s later in the day when kids may have a “screen time hangover,” or maybe they’re overtired or just wound up – usually when parents are winding down.

Often I find myself wishing I could stop time for just a few minutes, slow things down. Breathe. So how does one find a brief reprieve?

There is an answer! Kira Willey’s forthcoming album, Mindful Moments for Kids, offers kids (and the parents who love them) 30 quick and easy ways to help sharpen focus, inspire a more centered energy, find some calm, and settle into a peaceful state of being. The actions are presented in a fun way, encouraging kids to participate as though they are playing along with Kira right in the room.

Mindful Moments for Kids releases this Friday, January 15, 2016 and I am so happy to participate with Kira in her #MindfulMomentsCountdown. As a special treat, for Day 3 of the countdown, listeners can download a track from the album (available as a free download for 24 hours from the time this post was published).

Today’s mindful moment is called “Rainstorm,” which leads kids through a simple exercise to create the sounds of a rainstorm (lightning, thunder, wind and rain), using their bodies as instruments. The track calls upon the familiarity and simplicity of nature’s elements and offers kids a whole body and mind experience.

Rub your hands together to make the sound of the wind, it’s really picking up! I feel a few raindrops…tap your finger and thumb together to make the sound of the raindrops coming down. Now it’s really starting to pour!  Hands on your lap, make the sound of the rain pouring down, faster and faster…

“Rainstorm” provides wonderfully tactile and sensory input to get kids in a centered and attentive frame of mind, any time of day. What I love about this track is that kids are tuning into their bodies and the actions are simple enough that kids can bring them along on car rides or onto the playground.

For more mindful moments, follow Kira at her official page or through Facebook.

Click here to grab your free download (good for only 24 hours).

Playlist: A fine blend of kids’ music that rocks!

5771025070_bddb7e2ec6_b

Photo Steve

 

It’s always fun to gather up some great songs, and tuck them neatly into a playlist. Today I’m sharing a bunch of songs (new and previously released) that we’ve been jammin’ to. It’s been fun to revisit some “classics.”

As always, I recommend listening to the playlist in the following order and then mixing things up with a little “shuffle.” If you like what you hear, click on the links below the playlist and consider supporting these wonderful, independent artists.

Daylight – Dream Jam Band from the world of Nickhoo
Easy as 1,2,3 (Feat. Ellen Brackin Sevits) – Jamison Sevits from Get On Down!
Vroom – Todd McHatton from Super Audio Sunshine
Nose in a Book – The Not-Its! from Raise Your Hand
Monkeys Driving Cars – Billy Jonas and the Billy Jonas Band from Build It Back Again
Someday Some Morning Sometime – Little Miss Ann from Follow Me
Outside Sounds – Papa Crow from Full Moon, Full Moon
Jazzy – Kira Willey from How to be a Cloud
We Got The Bite – Gustafer Yellowgold from Gustafer Yellowgold’s Wisdom Tooth of Wisdom
Block House – The Pop Ups from Appetite for Construction
Food Songs – Alphabet Rockers from Go!
Everybody Dance – Josh and the Jamtones from Bear Hunt!
Food Calculator – Alphabet Rockers from Go!
Lines and Dots – Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band from A Potluck
Rad – Play Date from Imagination
Nicky Nicky Knock Knock – The Dream Jam Band from Kidzapalooza Volume One
Don’t Ask Me Why – The Whirlygigs from Greetings from Cloud 9
A Fresh Start – Lucy Kalantari from Pockets Full of Joy
The Snow is  Falling Down – Josh and the Jamtones from Bear Hunt
Rattlesnakes – Walter Martin from We’re All Young Together
Not Too Young For A  Song – Randy Kaplan from Jam on Rye

Check this out: “How to be a Cloud; Yoga Songs for Kids Vol. 3” – Kira Willey

howcover

The practice of being mindful is often associated with being still, so as to be fully in the moment. It’s not thinking about the past or future, but a distinguishable present. The idea of purposefully being in the moment, and not thinking about the flurry of things waiting to be checked off throughout the day, or the things I didn’t get to yesterday, seems like an impossible feat on most days.

The times I feel most in the moment are when I’m listening to my favorite song, or when I’m dancing. Yoga is also a reliable resource that helps me find a way to just be.

My daughter is very active and though I have tried to connect with her through yoga, encouraging her to try out various poses, she regularly finds a way to augment our practice by challenging me to try an even harder Twister-like pose or some sort of gymnastic move like flipping over the arm of our couch and then flying down to the floor. Though our zen moments tend to be more active than still, I appreciate that we can both just “be” together, in the moment, mindfully trying things out.

Kira Willey, a popular kindie artist and musical yogini, recently released her third album, How to be a Cloud; Yoga Songs for Kids Vol. 3. Similar to her previous albums, this one includes a full-length “side” of 13 songs followed by 9 bonus tracks featuring yoga instruction. So depending on how you’re feeling, you can choose to sing, dance or get your yoga on, all of which are viable vehicles for cultivating mindfulness, and can be done at the same time. It also helps that the album includes a booklet illustrating yoga poses which removes any awkwardness that comes with trying to figure out how you should position your body.

What struck me most about this album is the clever way the songs are arranged. While most albums usually build to a peak and then wind down, ending with a soft song or lullaby, How to be a Cloud was organized such that the slow songs are interspersed throughout the album. The changing from upbeat boogie tunes to soft, restful songs is similar to the way a yoga class might run where there is guided movement and then there are holding poses. By giving kids the opportunity to be active for a few songs, they are more likely to engage with the slower songs that pique their imagination. “Kids need to move their bodies, it’s how they learn best,” notes Willey. I noticed this with my daughter whose method of cultivating mindfulness is through action, as mentioned above. Feeling her feet hit the ground and then push upward again provides her brain with enough feedback so that she is able to focus and reap the restorative benefits of songs like the title track (“How to be a Cloud”), which encourages sitting and imagining what it feels like to be a cloud, feeling the weightless floating. The restful lullaby, “When You Sleep,” also offers the opportunity for a reflective pause as Willey’s peaceful wishes gracefully glide like dandelion seeds through the air.

There is a lot of joy sprinkled throughout this album and while you can feel it in the aforementioned songs, there are plenty opportunities to break out your happy dance. “Gotta Lotta Happy” reminds us that we can keep our hearts smiling by offering positive energy to others: “Happy is contagious like a cold in a good way/ so let’s not hesitate to share/ we gotta talk about it celebrate it shine a light on it/ because everybody needs it everywhere.” “Wings On A String,” a gorgeous song with soaring vocals that give me chills every time, was written as a kite song because, as Willey explains, “kids love to fly.”

“Great Big Starry Sky,” one of my favorites, expresses the innocence of a child’s thoughts as they marvel at the bright lights that twinkle like fireflies in the night sky. The childlike wonder expressed in the lyrics resonates with me as I am deeply fascinated by all things astral: “…are they always there, even when the sun is shining does anyone ever turn them off/ or are they always there even when we can’t see them does anyone ever turn them off.”

“Colors – 2014,” a remix of the original song that appeared on Willey’s first album, Dance for the Sun, and was later featured in a Dell commercialfeatures a choir of 75 Kindergartners who bring a powerful element as they sing “I am a rainbow today/ all the colors of the world are in me.” Many listeners will relate to “Dancing with My Daddy,” which is basically a literal translation of the utter joy and magic that happens when Daddy comes home, while “Jazzy” and “Cookie Jar” nab you with some catchy lyrics and hip shaking rhythm. Just try and get those two out of your head!

Willey’s approach to songwriting and passion to encourage kids (and grown-ups) to find beauty in themselves is ever-present throughout this album. Each song, whether upbeat or slow provides a meaningful message that delivers a sense of calm and comfort. Delivered through beautiful melodies, How to be a Cloud offers the comfort of a hug, the warmth of a cup of hot cocoa on a cold day, and a heart full of gratitude. Families will enjoy spending time with this album in a variety of ways, which is especially nice on wintry days when Jack Frost is nipping at our noses. Definitely recommended.

Liner notes
– Favorite songs: Jazzy, Cookie Jar, Great Big Starry Sky, Wings on a String
– SiriusXM Satellite Radio’s Kids Place Live (Channel 78) airs Willey’s “Backseat Yoga Breaks” in the morning on the Absolutely Mindy show. The “Backseat Yoga Breaks” guide children in breathing exercises, mini stretches and guided imagery that can be done in the car.
– Willey has a musical yoga-for-kids interstitial series that airs on selected PBS TV affiliates!

Connect with Willey via Facebook, Twitter and her official site where you can purchase How to be a Cloud, as well as merchandise (including a ribbon ring to use while you dance to “Colors” as shown in the video below).

FREE MUSIC: Somethin’s cookin’! Thanksgiving Playlist before the feast!

Thanksgiving is the holiday before the holiday rush starts. It’s the pause, the calm before the holiday storm. Although, this year it felt like Christmas started the day after Halloween as Christmas villages, gold garland and colorful striped candy canes made a fresh appearance on fully stocked shelves.

As I was thinking more about today’s post, the general food theme, and the feast that comes along with the upcoming holiday, three words came to mind: comfort, memories and gratitude. Each of the following songs filled me with an unexpected eagerness for the holidays. Feelings of comfort flooded through my body as I thought about spending time with family I don’t get to see very often. Memories of being glued to the television, wide-eyed, watching big balloons float along in the parade filled me with joy. Gratitude for accomplishments, friends and the love that I am surrounded by every day swelled my heart. Sure, there’s a bit of wacky in there, too, but what would the holidays be without a bit of madness?!

It’s funny to think that songs, related to food, would bring forth these emotions, but that’s the power of music! And now I get to share them with you. As Cathy Fink says in her song below, “Bon Appétit!”

Spread the love by sharing these tracks with your family and friends. Download the Soundcloud playlist for FREE through Friday, November 20, 2014 . If you like what you hear (I promise you will!) consider supporting the artists by clicking on their corresponding links below.

Having trouble playing the Soundcloud songs? Follow this link.

Song List

1. Kira Willey music – “The Mixing Bowl
2. LisaLoeb – “The Disappointing Pancake”
3. Heidi Swedeberg and the Sukey Jump Band – “My Cup Of Tea”
4. Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke – “Eggplant Man
5. Brady Rymer – “Picky Eater
6. Danny Weinkauf – “Whipped Cream
7. Okee Dokee Brothers – “Big Rock Candy Mountain
8. Cathy Fink – “Bon Appetit

Mista Cookie Jar and the Chocolate Chips – “Gratitude

Naturally, Mista Cookie Jar, Miss Ava Flava and the rest of the Chocolate Chip crew bring heartfelt words with a big bang of soul. On the below track, MCJ gets brassy with the sax, adding some pizazz to the mix (this guy has endless talent!) while reminding us to “give thanks” by spreading our love everywhere because “Gratitude is contagious“! So true! Check out the rest of the song’s lyrics here.

a3133411491_10

 

 

What We Like: October Playlists

Our home is constantly filled with music.  It keeps us sane and often helps ease us into our days and nights.  We have been listening to alot of great music lately, both old and new, and I thought I would start to share some of it with you on as much as possible.

Additionally, since naptime has become non-existent, we’ve really been trying to take some “quiet time” in the middle of the day.  Music is a major part of making that happen.  Chilled out music = chilled out toddler which = chilled out mommy.

So, this week I am publishing 2 playlists.  The first is called October Fun Part 1 containing lots of fun jams that are useful for really anytime that is not “quiet time,” at least in our house.  The second one is called October Slow Jams which is a bunch of slower songs perfect for anytime of day that calls for a little unwinding (or easing into if you haven’t had your morning pick-me-up yet).

So, without further adieu, I present to you October Fun Part 1 (the first list turned out to be really big so this month might have more than one list) and  October Slow Jams.   You will find a mix of songs both old and new in this playlist.  Also please note that if an artist is not on Spotify, they won’t appear in the playlist.  Feel free to listen to the playlists as they are ordered or on shuffle or both.  Mix it up however you’d like.

I also urge you to visit each of these artists’ websites and either buy or download their music.  You can do that by simply clicking on the links next to each song below.

October Fun Part 1

Fanga Alafia – from Welcome to the Village, Aaron Nigel Smith’s first release with One World Chorus.  Proceeds from the sale of this album will benefit the Cura Orphanage in Kenya, Africa.
Bright Clear Day – Sarah Lee Guthrie and Family (Go Waggaloo)
Afraid of Heights – Harmonica Pocket (Apple Apple)
Sunshine – Vered (Good Morning My Love)
Eleanor The Elegant Elephant – Caspar Babypants (HOT DOG!)
In A Timeout Now – Randy Kaplan (Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie)
Germs – Ozomatli (OzoKidz)
I Am a Paleontologist – They Might Be Giants (Here Comes Science)
Make Me – Big Bang Boom (Because I Said So!)
Tickle Monster – Vanessa Trien and the Jumping Monkeys (Bubble Ride)
Green Beans Everywhere – Hullabaloo (Raise a Ruckus)
The Shark FighterSenorita Mariposa – Mister G (Chocolalala)
Sol Nal – Elena Moon Park (Rabbit Days and Dumplings)
15 tracks, 44 minutes

October Slow Jams

Bare Feet – Harmonica Pocket (Apple Apple)
Merry -Go-Round – Elizabeth Mitchell (Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie)
Mother Nature’s Son – Aaron Nigel Smith & One World Chorus (Welcome to the Village)
Underneath the Rainbow – Kira Willey (Kings & Queens of the Forest)
Even Bugs Are Sleeping – Caspar Babypants (HOT DOG!)
Time To Fly – Hot Peas ‘n Butter (Catchin’ Some Peazzz)
Goodnight Little Arlo (Goodnight Little Darlin’) – Charlie Hope (Keep Hope Machine Running: Songs of Woddy Guthrie)
Powder Blue Reprise – Renee and Jeremy (It’s A Big World)
Listen to the Horses – Raffi (Quiet Time)
Green Green Rocky Road – Randy Kaplan (Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie)
All the Pretty Little Horses – Laurie Berkner (Whaddya Think of That)
You and Me and a Bottle of Bubbles – Lunch Money (Original Friend)
Catch the Moon
 – Elizabeth Mitchell & Lisa Loeb (For the Kids Too)
Time – Johnny Bregar (My Neighborhood)
Sleep – Vered (Good Morning My Love)
15 tracks, 42 minutes