Meet Sebastian Alappat, Artist and Founder of SPARK, a New York City-based art, yoga and meditation program for kids. SPARK’s mission is to enhance children’s overall development with arts and wellness practices. Combining movement, creativity, and mindfulness, classes at SPARK encourage kids to think outside of the box, which helps them to be better problem solvers with increased security and confidence. “I have seen wonderful transformations occur,” Sebastian says of his students. “Children who were formerly incapable of sitting still, challenged with focus issues, had nervous ticks, or were racked with academic stress are now able to express themselves clearly, concentrate on given tasks, and excel at school.” He adds, “In this fast-paced technological world, we can all use ways to find peace and quiet—for me it’s mental medicine!” Ahead, Sebastian generously shares some of the meditative art practices he teaches in a SPARK class. Use these to introduce the powerful combination of arts and wellness into your child’s life, and watch him or her grow!
Learn more at TheSpark.NYC or email Sebastian directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Starter Meditation for Kids
The first half of a SPARK class focuses on meditation. Slowing down the breath helps slow down the mind.
Whether you’re a kid or an adult, meditation is a valuable tool for freeing the mind, alleviating anxiety, and reducing stress or worry.
Learning how to sit quietly can help children recalibrate their bodies and reconnect with their breath, which calms the nervous system. When I teach meditation to young children, I introduce the basics and encourage my students to think of learning the practice as a game. Here’s how I lead them through a session.
1) Begin by sitting together “criss-cross, apple sauce” on yoga mats or blocks.
2) Ask the children to notice their breath. Have them gently close their eyes and breathe through their nose. Start with the “take 5” breath, inhaling for five seconds and exhaling for five seconds. Invite kids to use their fingers to count as they breathe.
3) As their guide, use the following questions to help lead them deeper inward.
Can you feel your belly rise and fall as you breathe?
Can you feel the breath enter and leave your nose?
What do you hear around you with your eyes closed?
I always reassure children that it’s normal to have lots of thoughts during a meditation practice. Suggest that if their mind strays to simply bring their focus back to the rhythm of their breath.
4) After every meditation, we do a group share and explore our sensory and cognitive experience. This helps support their emotional development. When children are able to notice, make sense of and then express their emotional state, they are practicing skills essential for positively regulating their feelings.
Start with a 2-minute meditation session, then build over time to 4 minutes, then 6 minutes, and longer.
Picasso Self Portraits
After having the kids sit still during meditation, the second half of a SPARK class is all about action! We jump right into making art to release their imagination.
From spontaneous free drawing to themed projects, art lessons teach young children to value the creative process and their own self-expression.
Here’s one of our art activities inspired by the great Pablo Picasso, who re-imagined self-portraits by reshaping the face’s distinctive features.
- Drawing paper
- Small mirrors
- Markers, Crayons or Colored pencils
1) Start by having your child draw an oval (for the head) in the middle of their paper, leaving room at the margins.
2) Draw a line down the center of the oval, dividing it in half. One half will become the portrait view; the other half will be the profile view.
3) Have kids observe their face in their mirror, then create various shapes—circles, squares, diamonds, triangles—that represent their features.
4) Encourage children to add colors or patterns to their shapes. Invite them to add their favorite things in the background, such as sports or hobbies, to further this intimate portrait of who they are in the moment.
5) Throughout the lesson, pose reflective questions to help them explore the process of creation. Remember, if a student lacks inspiration or feels blocked during the process, we can use meditation to help them gain inspiration, bring a piece to completion, or clear negative self-talk that may be holding them back.
Happy creating and meditating!
Sebastian Alappat - Artist & Founder
As early as age 4, Sebastian was drawing. He channeled a lifelong love of art into design for a career. Graduating with degree in Fine Arts, He has spent over 14 years as an Art Director & Designer. In 2004, he created State of the Art Design, a private design business that delivered high quality, consistent work to clients for over a decade. After a career of executing multitudes of branding digital projects ranging from logos to websites, the call to make art was too strong to ignore.
In 2013, he left his full-time job and devoted himself fully to art. Flowing from that same core, he is using his talents as an entrepreneur to create SPARK. It his intention to teach and inspire kids of all ages and all abilities. His patience and connection with children allows him to speak their language. With SPARK, he looks forward to engaging and teaching a new generation of artists.
In January of 2016, Alappat became Wee Yogi's certified for Kids yoga and has since added meditation as another offerings to SPARK's unique curriculum. In November of 2016, he became a certified Mindful Educator under Mission Be, an organization dedicated to bringing mindfulness to children.