Mindfulness for kids is very important because it has many advantages for children. Teaching mindfulness to kids can help:
- Build self-esteem in them
- Manage stress effectively
- Teach them how to approach challenges skillfully
- Teach them openness and self-compassion
- Increase their well-being, etc.
There are many advantages of teaching kids mindfulness and that is what this post is about. We will also show you ways to teach kids mindfulness activities, games, and exercises to help them learn mindfulness and much more.
All you have to do is read to the end of the post so you don’t miss anything.
What is Mindfulness?
Before you teach children what mindfulness is, you have to define it in a way they can relate to so that they will understand it better and give you their maximum cooperation.
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Mindfulness is the art of paying attention to what is happening in the present, (that is, right now). This can be what you’re seeing, feeling, or noticing.
You have to explain to them that mindfulness is a kind and honest look at what they are experiencing in the present moment and not about clearing their mind.
Importance of Teaching Mindfulness To Children
Parents and teachers who teach mindfulness to kids are equipping them with tools they need to cope with stress, build confidence, and even relate to challenging or uncomfortable moments.
The earlier you teach them this, the better their opportunity of cultivating resilience for life. It will also help them to refine and develop their mindfulness practice as they grow up.
Mindfulness for kids helps in imbibing and shaping three critical skills in their early childhood and these are:
1. Paying attention
2. Remembering information
4. And even having appropriate behaviors with others
These abilities developed by mindfulness are called executive functions. They are highly important and needed for more advanced tasks like having positive social relationships, problem-solving abilities, reasoning, and planning.
Here are three main benefits of teaching your children mindfulness.
1. Increased focus: It helps children to be focused, to have self-control, and compassion. Mindfulness also increases their participation in the classroom.
2. Boosts academic performance: From the benefits listed above, they will be able to perform well academically. They will be able to resolve conflicts skillfully, and their overall well-being will be improved.
3. Decreases stress levels: Mindfulness helps kids manage stress effectively, it also reduces or stops destructive behaviors, anxiety, and depression.
Children of all ages can benefit from mindfulness. From their little age, they will learn how to have an accepting and kind attitude to the present moment.
This, in turn, will relieve stress on parents, teachers, and caregivers and even promote their own happiness.
Mindfulness for Infants
For infants, you have to start right from the beginning. And the most effective way to do this is to embody it. Little children can sense when you are distracted or not.
So when you are with your infant, try and stay in the present moment no matter what is happening. You can practice this by holding your baby quietly and maintain eye contact with a loving and gentle demeanor.
When your baby gazes at you, you gaze back. This reflective mirroring behavior will teach your infant mindfulness.
If you really want to teach your infant mindfulness, you have to put down your smartphones whenever you are with them and engage with your baby.
Make eye contact with him/her and smile instead of scrolling down your Facebook feed or checking your emails. Put down your device and be fully attentive and present with your infant.
Mothers, fathers, and caregivers have the opportunity to practice mindfulness with their infants when feeding them several times daily.
Teaching an infant mindfulness starts from breastfeeding. Tips to help you teach your infant mindfulness are:
Stay calm always: Even when your infant becomes upset or starts crying, try not to be agitated. If you allow yourself to become agitated, it will trigger an unhelpful cycle where both parent and child feed off each other’s unhappiness.
Experts believe that children and parents co-regulate each other, when a child starts screaming, and the parent escalates too, they can ratchet up each other.
So when you are tempted to be agitated or frustrated, remember you have to be in touch with the present moment, this mindfulness exercise called S.T.O.P can be helpful.
Stop and take a momentary pause irrespective of what you are doing.
Take a deep breath and feel the sensation of your own breathing. This will help bring you back to the present moment.
Observe and acknowledge what is happening, either good or bad, either inside you or outside you. Observe and acknowledge it with love and gentleness.
Proceed and continue with whatever you were doing after checking in with the present moment.
Movement: Another way to prevent your mind from wandering, and re-engage with mindfulness is to move. Being mindful is simple but not always easy, especially as a parent.
Spending time with infants can be draining or even boring. You will nurse them, feed them, change their diapers, and play with them.
When you’ve put your baby to sleep or when you are not holding your baby, you can do a walking meditation or gentle yoga. Moving will help if you are new to mindfulness practice or your nervous system is riled up.
Practice gratitude: Another step that can help parents with infants practice mindfulness is cultivating a sense of gratitude every time. This will help you be in the present moment and also teach you how to be thankful with every step.
Here is a simple gratitude/mindful game you can play with your child. Look for space where you can walk indoors safely and comfortably while holding your child.
The point of this exercise is not to make you feel better magically if you are not. It is to help you experience the sensation of moving and to enable you to focus your attention on the baby you are holding and your walk.
It is also to help you focus on the feeling of gratitude.
Hold your baby safely and put your gaze downward. Start walking slowly and deliberately and notice the feeling in each foot as you step.
Do you feel the heel of your foot, and the ball of your toes and foot? Parents feel a range of emotions when holding their babies, these emotions range from deep love to intense anxiety and sometimes, it can get to the point of being overwhelmed.
If you feel uncomfortable paying attention to your body, you can listen to sounds as you walk instead. This will serve as a calming break from the constant care your infant needs.
With each step you make, think of how much you appreciate your child, feel their warmth as you hold them and repeat phrases or words that show your gratitude for the experience.
For instance, say “I am thankful that I can hold you, love you, and take good care of you”. Or “I am thankful that you are smiling right now”.
The next step is to send yourself and your baby well wishes for each step you make. Caring for an infant is deeply exhausting as all your time and energy is devoted to another human being.
This exercise will teach you to be kind to yourself. Any time you take a step, send yourself and your baby a wish. You can use our examples below:
- May we have love and compassion for each other always
- May this exhausting time together make our bond stronger
- I pray we sleep well soon
- May we enjoy good health and stay strong
- May we be happy always
Think of the many ways your life is better because of your child as you turn around and retrace your steps. Continue this exercise for as long as you can.
Mindfulness for Toddlers
Raising children that are between the ages of 2 and 4 can be immensely challenging and incredibly rewarding.
Toddlers have the ability to discover language, exert independence, and gain control over their bodies at such a young age. They can begin to learn, experience, understand, and practice mindfulness.
In teaching toddlers mindfulness, you teach them not to pretend that the bad isn’t there but to think about 3 good things that are happening right now.
We have covered all these in this post here. The most effective way to teach toddlers mindfulness is to embody it. The emphasis is on the parents, not the kids.
The best way to think of mindfulness for children is to think of family culture. The best ways to teach toddlers mindfulness are:
- Don’t look at your phone often when your toddler is with you
- Spend time together doing activities that promote creativity, inquiry, and focus. Examples are art, reading, and having conversations instead of watching lots of TV.
- Even when you are frustrated or angry, treat your children and people kindly.
- Express gratitude for the things you feel thankful for in your life and let them see you doing this.
When you are always with your phone or on your computer, you are being distracted from the present moment and you are demonstrating those habits to your children.
Breathing exercises and the S.T.O.P meditation exercise mentioned above can help parents practice and teach meditation when raising toddlers, because, even with the best of intentions, it is not easy to raise toddlers.
Deep breathing will also help you know your body and this is an essential part of practicing mindfulness. In getting to know your body, you have to start with your breath.
Deep breathing will help you become familiar with the rhythms of your body.
Mindfulness for Young Children
As children grow up into their early childhood, they are not only capable of practicing mindfulness with the guidance of a caregiver or parent, but they can now retain some of the skills they learned and use them in time of need.
By the age of 4, they can learn skills and use them on their own. At this age, practice is the key to instill mindfulness in young children.
And to be successful in doing this, don’t make it something that they do only in stressful times, you should make mindfulness exercises a regular part of their daily routine.
It should be an activity in and of itself like reading, making art, playing outside, etc. Don’t make it look like an antidote to irritating or annoying situations.
You have to present mindfulness to your young children as a tool that can help them discover new sensations including pleasant, unfamiliar, and neutral ones.
Use mindfulness as a tool to explore curiosity and kindness in your children. Even at this stage, parents still need to embody mindfulness and you should feel comfortable meditating in front of your children.
And also show them how to meditate in the midst of whatever is going on. They might not grasp the concept at this young age, but they will mimic behaviors.
Mindfulness for Older Children
Mindfulness will help children adjust and move through school with ease and also help them cope as they start experiencing a wider world.
They will skillfully deal with adversity because they learned mindfulness early. Their understanding of themselves and the world will be enhanced, they will meet and receive everything with curiosity.
This will even help young children figure out who they are and what they want to do with their lives. Mindfulness reduces Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) in young children, and also aggression, stress, and anxiety.
In handling young children and teaching them mindfulness, parents will encounter lots of pressure and challenges. A simple mindfulness exercise to help parents relieve the pressure and have a strong grip on the sense of self is R.A.I.N.
This exercise will help parents of young children stay in the present moment and not get caught up clinging to their own emotions or the experiences of others.
Recognize and acknowledge what is happening. Note it and accept it calmly.
Accept and allow life to be what it is. Don’t try to change it and don’t wish it were different.
Investigate the feeling, see how it makes you feel, whether happy, upset, or whether it gives you pain or pleasure. Just note it.
Non-identification: Don’t identify with the feeling or emotion, that feeling isn’t you. That feeling or emotion is just a fleeting experience and it will soon pass.
Mindfulness for Teenagers
For teenagers, teach them how to focus on relationships using mindfulness. Teach them to bring a mindful attitude into conversations, romance, and even friendships.
Tell them that they should put the effort in being and staying present in every relationship, interaction; and they should listen carefully and speak with kindness and honesty.
You can ritualize this for your teenager by having dinners together, sit-down dinners where all family members share their joyful moments that happened during the day.
Phones and other devices should be kept away during meals to avoid distractions. Also, take a moment to be silent before meals and also take time to be grateful for the company of your family.
To be successful in this, parents also have to be present in the moment. You can’t be surfing the web and be expecting mindfulness of your teenager who is lost in his/her smartphone.
You have to be a good model of mindfulness for your teenagers. Be kind, compassionate, and accept the present moment. See the act of parenting as a practice itself and you will remember to be mindful despite your professional and personal life.
Mindfulness Activities For Kids
We’ve covered a lot on mindfulness activities, games, and exercises for kids in this post of ours. Kindly go through it to learn how to use activities, games, and exercises to teach your children mindfulness.
There are also meditations you can do along with your children to teach them mindfulness.
Mindfulness Books For Kids
A step further in teaching your children mindfulness is to get books on mindfulness for them. Kids love storytime, so you have to make good use of such moments.
Below are some of the best books on mindfulness for kids.
1. I am peace: A book of mindfulness by Susan Verde
This picture storybook is for young children in preschool to third grade. It has lessons on being fully present, managing emotions, practicing empathy, making good choices, and even appreciating nature.
It has colorful illustrations and simple messages that make a gentle and powerful impact on them and teach them how to live a thoughtful and balanced life.
A kid-friendly guided meditation also comes with this book.
2. A handful of quiet: Happiness in four pebbles by Thich Nhat Hanh
This highly revered Buddhist monk wrote this book and created pebble meditation to help introduce mindfulness to children in a simple way that resonates with their imaginative and playful perspective.
This book is good for readers of all ages but it is marketed for kids in kindergarten through grade 4.
3. Sitting still like a frog: Mindfulness exercises for kids (and their parents) by Eline Snel
This book has cute illustrations, simple exercises, and a 60 minutes audio CD of guided meditations. It is suitable for kids aged 5 to 12 and it has 11 mindfulness meditation exercises and this helps in calming kids down.
The CD that accompanies it helps in easing battles over bedtime.
4. Meditation is an open sky: Mindfulness for kids by Whitney Stewart
Though a simple picture book, it helps children from preschool to 4th grade learn meditation. It is written in clear language and has playful illustrations of a monkey and an elephant to teach 9 easy meditation exercises that will serve as tools to sort through complicated emotions.
The technique in this book will help improve your children’s focus, clarity, relaxation, decision-making skills, wisdom, and feeling of security, self-control, and openness.
5. The lemonade hurricane: A story of mindfulness and meditation by Licia Morelli
This amazing book presents the concept of meditation, mindfulness, and inner peace to young children in an excellent way.
The author uses a whimsical story of a young boy and his sister, named Henry and Emma respectively. In order to calm the noisy chaos that her brother embodies, Emma taught him how to sit, bow, and take deep breaths to find stillness and contentment.
Simple meditation techniques for kids are shared at the back of the book to teach and encourage children to practice the lessons learned in the book in their own lives.
Mindfulness Apps For Kids
There are apps that can teach your kids meditation. They can also help them relax and rebalance. Some of the best we found are:
This is one of the most popular mindfulness apps for kids as it has an entire collection of meditations just for kids. It has 5 key themes that will help your kids master the art of mental wellbeing and mindfulness.
Headspace has simple breathing exercises, focused-based activities, and even visualizations that teach kids kindness and openness. They are even quick wake-up exercises they can do before school.
2. Moshi: Sleep and Mindfulness
Is your child struggling to sleep? Then get this dream-inducing app to settle their busy minds and help them get a peaceful slumber. This app is audio-only and doesn’t need lots of screen time, this is one thing we love about it.
It has more than 45 lullabies, amazing stories, enchanting music, and meditations designed to help children wind down, drift off, and get used to the feeling of utter relaxation.
The best thing about this meditation app is that it has a dedicated section for kids. It has plenty of kids’ meditation, yoga sessions, and even calming sounds to serve as background noise.
Calm also has an incredible selection of kids’ sleep stories narrated by famous voices.
This app covers almost every single pillar of mental wellbeing for kids. It has a daily selection of meditations for when they wake up or want to go to bed.
There are also positive affirmations, guided visualization, and other mindfulness activities that help children travel to different emotions.
It even has meditations for special issues like ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), healthy eating, and much more including anger management.
This app teaches children how to take care of their well-being.
We hope you’ve learned enough from this post to teach mindfulness to your kids – the benefits are countless.