In my role as a writer, I have found opportunities to make unique connections with people from all over the world. This is a gift that connectivity through the internet has given us in the 21st century, which I have leaned into, both in my personal and professional life.
Over the years, I have shared many of my conversations with other writers in my author interview posts. I enjoy this avenue of learning about and from others. I also enjoy the creative process of asking questions and turning my conversations into a post to share with hope to inspire others as well.
I recently had an opportunity to share a conversation with Kira Willey. Kira is an award-winning children’s music artist, kids’ yoga expert, and creator of Rockin’ Yoga school programs. Her most recent release is Mindful Moments for Kids, winner of the Parents’ Choice Gold Award.
1) Kira, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where do you live? Tell us about your family & your interests.
I live in eastern Pennsylvania, with my husband and three kids. We have one in elementary school, one in middle school, and one in high school, so there’s never a dull moment around here! The whole family is really active, with interests ranging from soccer, biking, and karate to music and cooking. We also have a big extended family that’s spread out all over the US, so we love traveling to visit cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
2) I have been both inspired and entertained by your work. I use your Mindful Moments for Kids CD frequently in my kindergarten classroom. Share with my readers how you share your talents to engage children with movement, music, and mindfulness with children.
I learned a long time ago in my first teaching job that the magical combination of music and movement is a way to completely captivate kids—it just naturally engages all of their senses. So I thought writing upbeat songs with positive, kid-friendly messages which are designed to get kids moving would be a hit with parents and virtually anyone who works with children.
As for mindfulness, I love sharing how simple and fun it can be with children. Parents and teachers are generally amazed when they see how easy it is, and how beneficial. It doesn’t have to be a “thing,” if you know what I mean—no need for a special cushion, candles, or incense—you truly don’t need any special training. The key elements are to keep it short, kid-friendly, and consistent, and the products I’ve created are resources for anyone to do just that.
The critical social-emotional skills of self-awareness and self-regulation aren’t typically taught in our public schools, and in my opinion, they are essential learning for kids. But mindfulness is an excellent way to teach these skills, and I hope to get the message across that we can all practice it, in however small a way, with the children in our lives.
3) Please highlight some of the projects you are involved with and some of the products you have created.
I’ve created three albums of yoga songs (Dance for the Sun, Kings & Queens of the Forest, and How to be a Cloud) which are used all over the world to help teach yoga-based movement to children. I’ve also released Mindful Moments for Kids, which is a collection of simple, totally kid-friendly mindfulness exercises that I narrate, to a musical backdrop of my original songs. This one became the basis for my children’s mindfulness book, “Breathe Like a Bear,” (December 2017, Penguin Random House). I’ve gotten wonderful feedback from parents and teachers on it, and I’ve just learned it’s also going to be published in Spain, Italy, China, Israel, and Korea! I’m really happy to have another vehicle for getting my message out there.
“The Magic of Music” is a training I created for teachers and anyone who works with young kids, showing them how to bring music, rhythm and song into whatever they do, because it’s such an effective way to capture and keep kids’ attention, and can help them create structure in their classes, calm and focus their kids, and ease transitions. I love this training and hope to do lots more of it going forward.
It’s been super fun collaborating with my friend, kids’ music superstar Laurie Berkner. We created some interstitial programming for Sirius XM Radio, “Music You Can Move To,” which they air regularly, and we’ve also performed together a handful of times. I sang on her last record, guest starred in her “Open Your Heart” video, and she sings on one of the songs (“Dream It Up”) on my upcoming album.
One of the recent projects I’m most proud of is my TEDx talk, “Bite-Sized Mindfulness,” where I show how simple, powerful mindfulness with children can be a powerful tool to help them learn how to focus, calm themselves down, and regulate their behavior and emotions. It was a long and challenging process to distill my message down to its most important points, write the talk (and rewrite it, and rewrite it, and rewrite it) and then actually deliver it—but it was so worth it!
4) What inspires you most about your work?
When I hear from a mother that a song of mine connected with her non-verbal son who’s on the autism spectrum, or from a teacher that using Mindful Moments for Kids has helped her settle her kids for math class, or from an occupational therapist who writes to say that using my songs keeps her patients engaged in the important exercises she needs them to do—those are the inspiring moments. Also, the hugs and high fives I get from lots and lots of kids, all over!
5) What’s next for you?
I have a new album, “Every Voice,” due for release on June 15. This CD represents a bit of a new direction for me—these are not songs written specifically for kids’ yoga-based movement, but the positive, mindful messages are still there, this time in songs that are a bit more pop-sounding and radio-friendly than what my fans have heard before—I hope families will rock out together to these songs!
6) Anything else?
That’s plenty for me! I have to go cook dinner now.
Thank you, Kira, for this fun and inspirational conversation!
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