How to Practice Mindfulness with Kids
Children start off life extremely attuned to details. They hyper-focus on the world around them, working intently to process what they’re seeing, hearing, tasting, touching. As they grow up and start to “go through the motions” of daily life, it can be helpful to teach them mindfulness.
What does that mean? Mindfulness is all about paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment. It’s noticing small details—what something sounds like or how you feel—with no judgment about whether the experience is good or bad.
A Rewarding Practice
Mindfulness has many benefits. It can bring calmness and refocus energy. It can also help with issues such as:
Additionally, research has shown that mindfulness can boost immunity, lessen the stress from conflicts in relationships, and speed up how fast it takes the brain to process information. Cultivating these benefits from a young age can give your child extra coping tools that he or she may find handy through all stages of life.
Mindful Activities for Kids
Mindfulness is a state of being, and there are many ways to get there. Here are a few ideas for children:
Count your breath. This is a great exercise for when kids are nervous about a test or anxious before a big sports game. Have them sit down and focus on each breath. What does it feel like as the air comes in through the nose and out again? Encourage them to count their breaths, but not to change them from their natural state by forcing air in or out. Let them know if their minds wander, it’s okay—but once they notice this, they should return to thinking about their breath.
Walking on eggshells. With soft music in the background, gather a group of children and tell them to pretend they’re walking on a bed of eggshells so they must tread softly and slowly. Ask them to pay attention to how every movement feels. How does the foot come off the floor? What are the arms doing? Is there anything different between the right leg and the left?
Take a bite. Give your child something to eat, such as an apple. Have him or her focus on and describe all the sensations involved—what the apple looks like, how it tastes, and how the stomach changes and feels different once it’s been eaten.
Remember to start small. Children don’t always have the longest attention spans, so begin with a short activity, around five minutes. In the same way that modeling healthy eating and exercise have a big effect on kids, parents who model mindfulness themselves are likely to have the greatest impact. If you’re not authentic, that will shine through and make it difficult for your kids to get their zen on.