Do you have kids who struggle to pay attention? Worry no more, one of the best ways to correct this condition is through mindfulness activities for kids.
The act of mindfulness is so powerful that it is incorporated into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and other forms of psychotherapy.
Mindfulness teaches kids awareness, it imbibes in them the inclination to be mindful or aware of their present environment.
It teaches them how to pay attention on purpose.
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Teaching your kids mindfulness will give them the right tools for self-esteem, they will learn how to manage stress effectively from a young age, and have the right skills to handle challenges.
Meditation goes along with mindfulness and it is fun to teach your kids this. We will show you how to introduce these to your child or children of any age.
What Is Mindfulness For Kids?
Mindfulness or mindfulness meditation as some people call it is an act of paying attention to what is happening in the present moment.
It can be what your kids are feeling, hearing, or what they notice. Some people think this is all about clearing the mind, it is not.
Mindfulness is not about clearing the mind or trying to reach a special place of calmness. It is simply an honest and kind look at what you are experiencing at the moment and looking at healthy ways to handle it.
Why You Should Teach Your Children Mindfulness
Exposing your child or children early to mindfulness will help them a great deal and this will last all through their lifetime.
When your child learns mindfulness, they will learn confidence and how to handle stress and stressful situations. They can relate to uncomfortable or challenging moments and handle them well.
If children are exposed to mindfulness early in life, they will have a greater opportunity to develop resilience and refine the practice of their mindfulness as they grow up.
This will also help your children develop three very important skills in their early childhood. They will learn how to:
- Pay attention and remember information
- Handle many tasks at the same time
- Behave appropriately with others
These three skills mentioned above are called “Executive functions” and they help people cope with more advanced tasks like problem-solving, reasoning, positive social relationships, and planning.
Benefits of Mindfulness For Children
- Increased focus that will lead to increased attention, improved participation in classroom activities, self-control, and compassion.
- It leads to increased academic performance. You will also notice your child can resolve conflict and his/her overall confidence has increased.
- Decreased levels of stress, disruptive behaviors, anxiety, and even depression.
- It diminishes the effects of bullying
- It improves the social skills of your child and also improves his/her mental and overall well-being
Mindfulness Activities For Kids
There are exercises you can use to introduce mindfulness to your kids. This will help them to tune into their senses. For instance, you can play a game where they eat a snack very slowly.
They should savor the smell, taste, and texture. You can also tell them to make glitter jars using a variety of materials.
This will improve their creativity and help them practice mindfulness.
1. Appreciation practice for kids
- Ask your child if they ever feel disappointed by something or someone?
- Ask “How did that make you feel?”
(Acknowledge their feelings and talk to them about it if it is appropriate)
- You can chip in something like: “I bet when you’re feeling bad or disappointed, good things are happening in your life too. Can we name three good things together?”
How To Name Three Good Things
1. Let your child know that the point of this game is not to pretend that they are happy when they are not.
It is simply to let them know that they can feel two things at a time. They can feel sad for the hurt or disappointment and they can also feel grateful for the good things at the same time.
2. If your child can’t think of three good things on their own, brainstorm and help them discover some.
3. If you’ve made your child understand that this game is not about denying their feelings or sweeping them under the rug, this phrase “three good things” can become fun.
They respond with play and humor when asked to name three good things.
4. When your child is stuck on a trivial disappointment or minor annoyance, ask them to name three good things.
5. To help your kids develop a habit of gratefulness, always play the three good things game. You can play it at dinner, before bedtime, and at another time when the whole family is together.
2. Mindfulness practice for kids
Another easy way to introduce mindfulness to your children is to introduce informal practices and you should do this along with them.
A way you can start this is a simple kindness meditation which is about offering compassion and good wishes to others.
1. Tell your child to find a comfortable sitting situation. He/she can place a hand on their heart and close their eyes or lower their gaze to the floor.
2. Tell them to bring to mind someone they respect or look up to, someone who they know loves them.
3. They should notice how they feel as they bring this person to mind.
4. They should make a kind wish and send it their way.
5. You ask them to bring another person they love and care about to mind and also send them a kind wish.
Then you make them move from people they know to a more neutral person or someone they don’t know very well. It can be a cousin living in a distant place or a family member they see occasionally.
It could be the person who delivers your mail, or anyone your kids see randomly. They should bring this person to mind and send them some kind wishes.
6. Lastly, tell your kids to bring to mind someone that has frustrated them lately. Or someone who is a little or very difficult.
They are to send this person a kind wish and wish something nice for them in their life.
7. Teach your children to check in with their minds and body as they end this practice. So, they can now open their eyes and notice if there is any difference or shift in how they feel.
3. Guided Mindfulness Meditation For Children
Once your child is familiar with mindfulness and very comfortable with the idea of meditation, you can teach them tools to refine their practice.
Here are some guided practices you can teach your kids. You can join them in these meditations as it will help them focus well.
1. Tell them to lie down in a comfortable place. Their arms and legs should fall to the ground while they close their eyes gently.
2. They should notice how their body changes with each breath they take. When they breathe, their bodies move up and down. They can put a hand on their belly or put a stuffed animal there.
3. Their bellies move each time they breathe. Their hand or toy also rises and falls. They should focus on this movement and see if they can count 10 breathe –in that way.
4. Tell your kids not to worry when they lose count, it is normal. They should start from the last number they remember.
5. While doing this, they should shift their attention to their day. As they breathe in they should focus on their breath as their belly goes up. Then they should focus on what went well today as they breathe out.
6. This means they should do something with each breath. They should notice how their bellies move when they breathe in and while they breathe out, they should notice something that went well today.
7. Now they should picture something about themselves that makes them happy while breathing out. If they can’t think of anything at the moment, then they can picture what they wish for themselves at the moment.
8. Finally, tell them to bring to mind someone that makes them happy. They should picture this person while breathing out.
9. They are coming to the end of this practice. Tell your kids to take a few deep breathes and start wiggling their arms and legs. So, they should now pause and decide what they want to do next.
10. Let your kids know that it is normal to have thoughts that are scary or make them feel bad. They should never ignore that thought or suppress it or deny that it doesn’t exist.
They shouldn’t ignore anything that is important and it is important and wise to focus on the rest of their lives too.
Teach them to take a few minutes each day to notice what has gone well and to see what will happen next.
4. Mindful posing
Body poses is one of the easiest ways to make children understand and practice mindfulness regularly. This also gets them super excited.
Before you start, tell them that doing these fun poses can help them feel brave, happy, and strong. So, take the kids to a place that is quiet and familiar or a place where they feel safe.
Then you tell them to try one of the following poses:
1. The superman pose: They should practice this by standing with their feet wider than their hips. Their fists should be clenched while they stretch their arms to the sky and stretch their bodies as tall as possible.
2. The wonder woman pose: They make this pose by standing tall with legs wider than their hips. Make them place their hands or fists on their hips.
After a few rounds of trying any or both of these poses, ask the kids how they feel. You will be surprised lol.
This is still related to superheroes, and this helps your kids learn how to stay in the present moment.
Instruct your children to turn on their “Spidey senses” or their super-focused senses of sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste that spiderman uses to keep tabs on what’s happening in the world around him.
This mindfulness practice will encourage them to always pause and focus their attention on what’s happening presently. It will open their awareness to the information their 5 five senses are telling them.
This practice encourages and imbibes observation and curiosity in your children. So, it is also a great skill for any human to practice, not just kids.
6. The mindful jar
This is one of my best mindfulness activities for children. It teaches them how strong emotions can affect them and how calmness affects them also.
The mindful jar also teaches children how to find peace when they feel overwhelming strong emotions.
- Get a mason jar or any clear jar and fill almost all of it with water. Add a big spoonful of glitter glue, dry glitter, and glue to the jar. Put the lid back on and shake the jar very well until the glitter swirls.
- Finally, use this to pass on this life-lesson to them. Say something like this:
- “This glitter is like your thoughts when you are upset, mad, or stressed. You see how they whirl around and make it hard to see clearly right? This is why it’s so easy to make faulty and silly decisions when you’re upset because you can’t think clearly in this state. Don’t worry this happens to everyone and it’s normal”.
- Now put the jar down before them and say this:
- “Now see what happens when you stay still for a couple of minutes. Keep watching. Do you see how the glitters start settling down and the water becomes clear? When you take deep breaths during this calming process, it can help you settle faster when you feel a lot of emotions”.
- This exercise will help your children know how their emotions can becloud their thoughts and it also helps them practice mindfulness while they focus on the swirling glitter in the jar.
- You can go a step further and help your child focus on your emotion one at a time. One day, you can pick anger and discuss how the swirling glitter is like that. Then the second day, you move to something else like envy.
This is another great exercise in helping children learn mindfulness. You can use this simple activity to turn your child’s everyday walk into an exciting adventure.
To do this, tell your children that you will be taking them on a safari. Their assignment is to notice as many creepy-crawlies, bugs, birds, and any other animals as they can.
Anything that moves, creeps, flies, swims, or walks should be of interest to them and they should focus all of their senses to find them, especially the little ones amongst the animals.
Adults also do this mindfulness walk. So, you can train your kids for this using the safari. This will imbibe in them a state of awareness and being grounded in the present.
How to Help Your Kids Cope With Stress
One important advantage of mindfulness practice is that it helps children cope with stress. It gives them the skills of stress management strategies for life.
This will calm their nervous system and improve their overall health and wellbeing.
Here are some kid-friendly breathing techniques that you can teach and do with your children. These are all mindful breath practices for children.
1. Belly breathing
Teach them to do several rounds of breathing in and out. This should be deep breathing and their bellies should expand slightly when breathing in and contract when breathing out.
They should return to normal after several rounds of doing this. But monitor them closely and make sure they don’t overdo it to prevent hyperventilation.
2. Teddy bear breath
This is a fun and wonderful variation of belly breathing practice for children. You make them lie down with a teddy bear or a stuffed animal on their bellies.
Then you tell them to watch as it moves up and down while they breathe. They should do as if they are rocking it to sleep.
3. Mindful breathing
Tell your kids to sit in a comfortable position and breathe. They should just notice their breath and feel how it moves in their bodies.
You can add victuals or words to make it more exciting for them. For instance, when breathing in, tell your child to say “I am a lake” and when breathing out say “I am calm”.
You can also use victuals and tap into your child’s power of imagination.
4. Four square breathing
This mindfulness practice is very good for older children. You tell them to breathe in and hold their breath until you count to 4.
They should breathe out also and hold it while you count to 4. Let them do this several times and then return to normal breathing.
5. Basic Breath Ball Practice
This breathing practice makes use of a Hoberman sphere. This is a geodesic dome that can be folded and unfolded. You can use this to teach your child breath awareness.
This toy is also called a “breath ball” because the movement of the dome mimics the movement of breathing.
When the dome folds inward, your kids imagine the breathing out contraction, and when the dome expands they imagine the lungs expanding when they breathe in.
1. Tell your kids to gently hold the breathing ball with 2 hands in front of their belly.
2. They should hold one sphere on the opposite sides of the surface
3. They should take a deep breath in and make sure the ball expands as their belly expands.
4. They should breathe in fairly slowly as they fully expand the ball.
5. When breathing out, they should allow the sphere to contract to its smallest size.
6. They should repeat this a few times. You can count along in a rhythm with them to make it more interesting.
How Parents Can Help Children Master Mindfulness
The best way to teach is to lead by example. So, you have to discover how to be always mindful as a parent before you can pass on this knowledge and act to your children.
As a parent, you have to take time to notice your own feelings, and then you have to pause before responding, and never forget to practice listening.
These tips will help you imbibe mindfulness in your children and also enable you to appreciate your children’s capacity to be present in each moment.
- Make sure you practice mindfulness yourself
- Ensure your kids are ready to practice mindfulness. They might not pay attention or do it well if they are eager to play and run around. This time might not be the best time to do observe or teach mindfulness for the first time.
- Explain to your kids what mindfulness is and what it is not. Give them examples of what mindfulness is not like denying or suppressing thoughts. Mindfulness is listening to your body.
- Make sure all your teachings are in an age-appropriate way. Use words your children will understand.
- Practice mindfulness with them. When you are a model it will make all the difference.
- Let them know that it is okay to get off track. Teach them how to gently guide themselves back to mindfulness when they lose focus.
- Always end the practice by doing something they enjoy. Check out great activities for kids here. This will make them attach a positive feeling to it and they will be eager to do it next time with you. In fact, they might remind you when you forget.
- Always keep the purpose of mindfulness practice in mind. Join your children in the mindfulness practice in positive and fun situations. Never use it as a disciplinary tool else your children associate it with negativity and punishment.
- Incorporate mindfulness into their daily routine.
- Ensure that the environment supports a successful practice. You can adjust the positions of the furniture or you have all of them switch positions.
- Involve your children in practice and preparation. Assign a day of the week to each child to remind you and his/her siblings that it is time to practice mindfulness. They can also set up the tools or arrange the place.
- Share your own experience with your children as this will help them understand how mindfulness is important, applied, and practiced in everyday life.
Let them know how you redirected yourself when you felt distracted or overwhelmed during a mindfulness session.
- Ask your children to share their own experiences.
- Practice mindfulness every day. The more you do this with your kids, the more it will be easier to engage them.
With the tips in this post, I hope you will be able to imbibe this into your kids and watch their character, health, and whole life transform.