Research has shown that mindfulness can help children with increased focus while decreasing anxiety. It's also a great way to connect with your children in find a peaceful moment during what we can all call a stressful time right now.
Mindfulness, at it's core is becoming more aware of our self through the act of being in the moment, without judgement. Those of us adults with a mindfulness practice know that it is a journey, without a final destination. Sitting still for 5 minutes can be hard, even 1 minute, and finding the time can be even harder. That being said, meditation isn't the only way for kids to practice mindfulness.
Telling kids "today we're going to learn about mindfulness" probably isn't going to work. There are some more natural statements you can use with children that will get them to think about concepts related to mindfulness. A couple of real examples:
- "Sometime I like to hit the pause button on everything and check in with my body to see how I'm feeling"
- "I really like to stop and pay attention to 3 things that are going on around me. I find something new every time"
Here are some ideas (we're hesitant to call them games) that we've curated from around the world on how to bring mindfulness into your kids lives. We'll have more to come but wanted to share some quick ones to get you started.
Notice Five Things
- Being conscious of the world around us helps ground us in the present. This can be especially helpful in a stressful or emotional moment. Try playing this out with your child by sitting down and explain the Notice Five Things game. Look around and name 5 things you see or hear. Then let your child have a turn. After you play, explain that this can be a game to play when they are feeling upset, anxious or nervous.
Take 10 Breaths
- Breathing is a cornerstone of mindfulness. It's a very simple and pure form of calming ourselves, whether we are children or adults. Take 10 breaths with your child, asking them to close their eyes or look straight ahead, with them having one hand on their belly. Breath in to fill up the belly with air, breath our slowly emptying the belly.
- This is an exercise physically as much as it is mentally. Stand across from your child, mirroring each other in an athletic stance. Feet firmly on the floor, shoulder width apart. Ask her to push down through her feet, push the ground away and feeling the ground beneath them. Ask her to take notice how her leg muscles feel when she pushes down through her feet. Similar observation for the head and other parts of the body? Can they feel the muscles in their body. This is a good exercise on being present physically and mentally.
- There are opportunities to practice mindfulness in everyday activities. Eating is a good one to work on with children. Try practicing on a snack, as mealtime can be too busy to do this. Ask your child to choose one small piece of food or their snack, and explore how it looks, feels and smells in their hand. Take in the colors, shapes, is it squishy, etc. Then ask them to take a bite and chew really slowly, noticing the different tastes it gives off at different times.
The Silence Game
- This game can be a winner for parents as well as kids. Montessori and other classrooms around the world utilize this game successfully. It's pretty simple: ask children to be as quiet as possible, not only with their voices but also keeping their bodies very still. 1 minute is enough time to start. It can seem like an eternity for the kids, and is also a quick break for adults too. After the silence ends, ask your child what they heard or saw while they were quiet.