Tracy Asamoah M.D.

Let's Reconnect

It's Slime Time

Maybe there is more to our kids' fascination with slime than a gooey mess.

Posted Jun 04, 2018

A Growing Concern

Have you noticed that when you ask your friends how their week has been, you get the same one-word response? “Busy”. A response that is often sent by text or in passing as we rush from one activity to another.

Our kids are watching us and imagining what their lives might look like as adults. In an 8-year old’s eyes, adult lives must seem chaotic and overwhelming.

Work, family, friends. These are all extremely important in our lives. However, prioritizing how much time we spend with each one is challenging. Unfortunately, one important player is frequently left off our list. Ourselves. We often place ourselves last on the list of what we pay attention to. Who has time for daily work-outs, planning healthy meals and spending time on our hobbies?

Not only do our habits affect our own lives, but our kids may model some of our behaviors. They are observing how we prioritize our time and how we care for ourselves as well as those around us.

Kids' lives have become as hectic as the lives of the adults who care for them. After packed, intense days at school, they often participate in after-school activities multiple days per week and on weekends. Once kids enter high school, their activities may start before the school day begins. Not only is it important for us to model self care for our kids, it is important that we allow them the time and space to disengage from the frantic pace of their daily lives.

An Unexpected Solution

Slime. If you are the parent of an 8 to 12 year old, you know what I am talking about. It’s everywhere. On YouTube, at Michael’s, in my carpet. Elmer’s must be celebrating record-breaking glue sales. I have to admit, I was stumped trying to understand the fascination. It’s sticky and messy. My ten year old told me that this is because I don’t have “slime hands” which means I can’t handle slime without it sticking to my fingers. Did we have anything like this when I was growing up? We had Cabbage Patch Kids.

One afternoon, a 10-year old girl and her mother sat in my office. In her lap, she cradled a plastic bowl filled with a blue globular mass. As we talked, she pulled and tugged and squished the amorphous blob. I asked her to explain what she loved about slime and she shrugged. Her mom looked at me and responded, “It calms her.”

A light bulb went off in my head. Watching this 10-year old methodically manipulate her precious blob in my office, I was reminded of how my 10-year old transforms handling her own brightly colored ooze. Mindfulness. That’s what this reminded me of. These girls were engaging in a practice that allowed them to generate an internal sense of calm. They were connecting with their inner peace.

I was already sold on the idea of kids spending less time online and more time creating with their hands. Any pursuit that engages creativity, planning, and focus on a maker activity is important in a child’s development. However, this activity also allows for a meditative practice. Mindfulness practices have become more popular. Mindfulness is a psychological practice which brings one’s focus and awareness into the present experience. Mindfulness practices that are multi sensory can enhance this experience.

A 2015 study looked at the effects of a mindfulness-based program in 4th and 5th-grade students. Students in the mindfulness-based learning program compared with students in a standard social learning program showed greater outcomes in several areas such as cognitive control, emotional control and decreased reports of depression and peer-rated aggression.

It is an important signal that kids today are seeking self soothing activities when they are constantly being bombarded by external stimuli, whether it be from electronics, extracurricular activities or school demands. It is encouraging that some kids are seeking activities that help restore a sense of calm. So many distractions make it difficult for kids to develop a habit of identifying and regulating their emotional states. Having days filled with constant input from the outside leaves little time for kids to sit with their thoughts and feelings.

Bringing Mindfulness Practices into Our Kids Everyday Lives

Parents can encourage kids to slow down and pay attention to the present moment. This involves both actively removing any item or activity that distracts a child (think tablets and cell phones) and helping the child to bring an awareness to the present moment.

Parents can model this for their kids too. Unplug. Our kids watch how we use technology. If we can’t put our devices down and ignore them for even short periods of time, then they will have a hard time going off-line. As parents, we can show our kids that self-care is a priority by saying “no” when our plates get too full. Maybe it will show our kids that it is ok to say “no” to that birthday party for a classmate that he or she doesn’t know well (especially if that party is wedged in between piano class and a soccer game).

Families can also practice mindfulness together. This may be especially effective for younger kids who might not quite understand the idea of mindfulness, but can still benefit from the practice. Have tech free times in your home. Dinnertime, homework time (aside from homework that is technology dependent), and bed time are all ideal for this. You can also have tech-free zones like bedrooms or the dining table.

Something to Consider

Perhaps one of the most important things that we can teach our kids in this fast-paced world is the importance of stillness and quiet in our daily lives.

References

Schonert-Reichl, K., Oberle, E., Lawlor, M., (2015) Enhancing cognitive and social-emotional development through a simple to administer mindfulness-based school program for elementary school children. A randomized controlled trial. APA PsychNET.