Many of us are experiencing some added stress in the last two years from the pandemic and sudden shifts in school and work situations. Mental health is a common topic and with that comes mindfulness. How can we encourage our children to practice mindfulness and healthy emotional and mental exercises? We’ve pulled together this list of some of the best (and simplest) mindfulness activities for kids that you can start doing right away.
All the ideas are easy to incorporate into your current daily routines. It might be a bit of a struggle at first to get used to some of them, but try a few out and decide what works best for your family.
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What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is when the mind is fully aware of what’s happening. It’s the idea that you are fully present in the moment instead of distracted by things going on around us. It’s a quality that all humans have, but you have to practice turning it on in important moments.
Learning how to do this as a child is extremely helpful because you can build routines and strong skills when it comes to being able to reset and get back to the moment. It’s practiced most commonly with meditation, movement, and just taking a minute of quiet during your day to take in your surroundings.
Why It is Important to Teach Mindfulness to Kids
There are many reasons that it is important to teach kids mindfulness and continue to practice as adults. Let’s start with some of the main benefits of mindfulness that your children will gain from these exercises.
1. It improves self-regulation of emotions.
Awareness of emotions is something that children learn. By doing mindfulness exercises, you’re helping them become more aware of these emotions, give them names, and learn how to navigate them in a healthy and productive way. You want children to be able to feel everything, but also learn how to self-soothe and handle themselves in a moment of anger or frustration.
2. It helps children decrease stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness activities help to settle the mind down in the moment. By stopping to take some deep breaths and focus on the beautiful things around you, you can help slow down your heart rate, calm your nerves, and move forward with a little less stress.
3. It heightens the ability to focus.
We live in a world of distractions and there are thousands of rules and articles about screen time and how to get your kids to focus. By practicing mindfulness techniques, you’ll be giving your kids the tools and skills needed to improve their focus and attention span. It’s been proven to help kids who have ADHD and other learning disabilities, as well.
4. It creates healthy lifelong habits.
There are so many things we learn as adults that we wish we would have learned and made a habit of as children. Meditation and spending some time resetting are things that we can all benefit from. By making these positive experiences part of your child’s routine, they will be much more likely to continue it as they grow up.
5. It helps with physical health.
Practicing mindfulness doesn’t just help with mental health and emotional health, it can also help with physical health and a more positive body image. By using positive affirmations and connecting your brain with your body and breath, you’re able to positively impact your heart, immune system, and muscles.
It Reduces the Effects of Bullying
Children who are better in touch with their thoughts and feelings will be less reactionary at the moment. This can help when faced with tough social situations with other children. Instead of giving a bully the reaction they’re looking for, children will be more prepared to handle it calmly and communicate any issues which can reduce the behaviors going forward.
Meaningful and Fun Mindfulness Activities for Kids
Here are a few mindfulness exercises and activities that work great for kids of all ages. Sometimes it takes some practice and seeing you, as the adult, do the behavior as well for them to catch on. Forming these habits while the kids are young can set them up for great success as they grow up and face more stress.
Complete a Body Scan
If you’ve never done a body scan meditation or practice, you are missing out. You can find guided options online and on many of the different mindfulness meditation apps. The idea is that you stay still and a voice talks you through different parts of your body. You’ll start with your toes, tighten the muscles and then completely release them. Continue this through your legs, arms, stomach, neck, and face muscles.
With kids, it’s a good way to learn how much control you have over your body. It’s a good way to help relax and calm down. Another option for younger children who might not be able to lay down for longer than a few minutes is to have them focus on their heartbeat. Can they feel it in their chest? What about their wrists and neck? It brings their attention back to their bodies and gives them something to focus on.
Practice Positive Affirmations
Work with your kids on practicing positive affirmations. By repeating feel-good statements, you can help develop kids’ self-esteem and encourage them to practice self-love. There is lots of research that proves humans believe what they are told, so the more you tell your kids happy and positive things, the more likely they are to embrace those positive things.
How do you get into this habit? Pick a time each day, probably in the morning, and choose 1-3 positive affirmations for the day. Do this with your children to demonstrate the behavior. Then, write down your choices and repeat them a few times in front of a mirror. This is a great way to start the day!
Some examples of positive affirmations for kids include:
- I am a good friend.
- I’m proud of myself.
- I am smart and can learn anything.
- My body belongs to me.
- I am loved and cared for.
- I can cheer myself up if I’m feeling sad.
Use these throughout the day with your kids and talk about them. It’s such a simple practice and can really help to boost their confidence and self-worth.
Go on a Nature Walk
Getting outside and getting some fresh air is always a great way to clear your mind. Involve your kids in this activity as well. Leave phones, headphones, and other distractions at home. Instead, spend your walk watching for birds or identifying flowers and trees. Pay attention to the sounds and smells outside.
Moving your body and getting some sunshine can help your kids reset a little and get some energy out. You can use the walk to talk about anything on their mind or just remain quiet and take in your surroundings. It’s one of the easiest mindfulness exercises to do.
Use a Glitter Jar as a Visual
One of the best ways to help children understand mindfulness is to have them make a glitter jar. Using a glass or clear plastic jar, fill it with water, a little glitter glue, 3 drops of gel food coloring, and glitter. Make sure the cover is on tight.
These glitter jars serve two purposes. The swirling glitter and colors can help reduce anxiety, anger, and stress in the present moment. It’s a great distraction and gives them something to focus on. It’s a popular sensory awareness activity that makes it great for children with autism.
It’s also a great visual to help kids understand how mindfulness exercises can help them. Sometimes our brains have a lot going on and it can give us negative feelings which is similar to the glitter jar when it gets swirled around. When you take a little time and take deep breaths and close your eyes, you can help settle down the craziness inside your body. It’s similar to the glitter in the jar that will settle down to the bottom if it’s left alone without movement for a few minutes.
This is a fun DIY project that serves dual purposes. It will just take a few minutes and you can enjoy the stress relief for weeks to come.
Work on Mindful Posing
Confidence and self-esteem are important. One way to help work on this with young children is to practice posing like a superhero. Positive body feelings are important for kids to learn and work on. These superhero poses are taught to many people as they learn public speaking skills because sometimes, you might not feel confident, but you can fake it until you make it.
A great way to introduce kids to mindful posing and self-awareness, play a round of Simon Says. Have the kids pose in various ways and act out specific emotions and feelings.
Learn Breathing Techniques
Deep breathing is crucial to help calm anxiety and stress in life. Teaching children to connect with their breath in their younger years will form some great habits. There are many ways to focus on the importance of breath.
For little ones, find a mindful breathing activity that has some props to help keep their attention. Pinwheels are fun to use because there is a beautiful payoff for long deep breaths. Bubbles are another great tool to use to teach kids how to take big deep breaths in and release them in long slow exhales.
Dragon breathing is another popular breathing technique that kids love. You have them take a big deep inhale and then growl it out like they are a fire-breathing dragon. You can also call these breathing exercises lion or tiger breathing.
Be Mindful of All Five Senses
Do you have any Spiderman fans in your household? Encourage kids to use their spidey senses to take in the environment around them. Have them sit down and carefully acknowledge what they are sensing. This is a good practice in being calm and observing.
Ask them five simple questions. What do you see when you open your eyes? What sounds can you hear when you sit quietly? Are there any smells or tastes you’re experiencing? What can you feel with your hands and body? Is there anything you are surprised by?
By bringing their attention to the simple things around them, you’re helping to teach them how to be mindful while being aware and alert.
There are some great worksheets and free printables available online to help you practice mindfulness with your children. Try the Present Moment worksheet to help with the five senses activity above. There is also an Inside and Outside worksheet that is popular. It helps kids work through their feelings and help to make them more positive.
Snack While Blindfolded
Mindful eating with children is a mindfulness practice that helps develop connections with food and work on healthy habits. So often, we are eating dinner while scrolling through our phones or watching television, so why not focus on doing something a little different. Blindfolded eating is one way to focus on the other senses.
To practice mindful eating, it’s important to start by talking about the importance of mindfulness. With each food, it’s good to talk through all the senses. What colors are the foods you’re eating? What do they smell like? Encourage taking small bites and really taste the food.
Another good way to practice this at home is to talk about where the food on the table comes from. Invite the kids to help prepare the meal. Talk about the changes in seasons and what foods are grown at various times of the year.
Slowing down meals a little by getting rid of the distractions can help kids learn a little more about the connection between food and their bodies. It’s the perfect time for a conversation about how food is good for us and helping to form good relationships with food.
A feelings chart is an image that labels feelings. There are some that are made for preschoolers with just the basic emotions listed, like happy, sad, and mad. As children grow up, they understand more and more emotions and can start to define feelings of fear, frustration, and excitement. Amazon has a huge collection of charts for both the home and classroom
Kids don’t understand complex emotions and it’s an important life skill to be able to identify emotions. Feelings chart can be used daily to get kids talking and sharing about what they are experiencing. It can start conversations and promote the idea that showing emotions and talking about them is positive. Another way to help kids learn more about feelings is to show them the Pixar movie Inside Out, which uses emotions to define the characters in the story or one of the many books available to help identify feelings and emotions.
Color Their Emotions
Coloring is a mindfulness activity that many adults have caught onto in the last few years. Now you can find entire sections of adult coloring books. It’s been a popular kids activity for even longer. Focusing on slowly coloring shapes and patterns helps take your mind off your surroundings and other things going on.
In addition to the many coloring books available, you can also have the kids try coloring the emotions they are feeling. Sometimes defining feelings and trying to describe them using visuals can help kids learn about them on a deeper level. Identifying emotions improves self-awareness and can eventually help them remember strategies and methods to work through those emotions.
Try Some Guided Meditations
Meditations can be intimidating even for adults, but it just takes a little practice and a little guidance. Guided meditations can help give instructions that are simple and easy to follow. Meditation apps like Headspace and Calm have specific meditations geared towards younger children. Turn these on and just lead by example.
The meditations are enjoyable for adults too even when they are made for children. Imagine riding on a magic carpet or walking amongst giraffes. These guided meditations will help children focus their attention and thoughts on one specific thing and start to learn to block off the rest.
Send Kind Thoughts
Spreading kindness is always a good practice with kids (and, really, humans of any age.) One fun way to practice mindfulness is to have the children think of three people, like grandparents, friends, or even people they’ve seen in movies. Then have them think of a kind thought for each person and repeat it five times over in their head to send it to that person. It helps the kids think about others and practice kindness and focus.
Do Some Yoga Poses
It is never too early to start practicing yoga with kids. Teaching them the importance of moving their bodies and stretching their muscles is important. Yoga is a non-competitive activity where they need to concentrate completely on their bodies and breath which can help calm them down and bring awareness to their breath and body.
If you are looking for some good videos, YouTube has all kinds of popular kids’ yoga channels. It’s also totally fine to just show them a few poses at a time and practice them. When they are focused on balancing on one foot, it will help them improve their focus and span of attention.
Make a List of Favorites
Creating a list is a form of journaling. Give the kids a topic and tell them to take 15 minutes to think about their answers and write down a list. You could ask them to list out their favorite smells and their minds can float to ice cream shops, grandma’s house, or Christmas trees. Maybe they just list all their favorite stuffed animals. Any exercise where they are visualizing positive things in their brain is good practice.
Enjoy These Mindfulness Practices With Your Kids.
This emotional learning journey can be good for everyone, so enjoy the process and take away some new ideas and tricks for your own routine and life as well. Practicing mindfulness for children takes time and some self-control. Tell us what works best for your family!
Frequently Asked Questions.
To calm your little ones, try some mindfulness activities for kids, like a yoga flow, a guided meditation, or possibly just a little quiet time coloring and drawing.
To help children process emotions, start with some simple mindfulness activities for kids. Discuss feelings, and name them using a chart. Then, practice deep breathing and focusing on all five senses.