5 Simple Ways To Help Kids Practice Daily Mindfulness
Looking for a way to help your child manage this topsy-turvy year? Try mindfulness. Scientifically proven to help relieve stress, it’s simple, free, a wonderful practice to do together, and easy to incorporate into our everyday lives.
Image: Charisma Woolbright
Image: Charisma Woolbright
More than ever, we need to teach our kids tools to help them cope with both the world around them and the world inside of them. Mindfulness, the practice of bringing a gentle, accepting attitude to the present moment, is one way to help children build self-esteem, manage stress, and thoughtfully contend with challenges.
Incorporating mindfulness throughout the day not only helps reduce anxiety and stress, it also promotes a sense of well-being and happiness. Building a habit of mindfulness enables kids to learn self-regulation, patience and acceptance — all invaluable skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.
At its core, mindfulness is all about paying attention to what is happening as it’s happening, and children do this naturally — attending to sensations, body movements, interactions, and emotions.
Here are five simple ways to help your child establish a daily practice of mindfulness:
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” —Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindful breathing is different than the breathing our body does naturally. The former focuses on slow, deep breaths going in and out. When we consciously connect with our breath, we’re actually calming our nervous system, helping to promote a sense of well-being.
Sit with your child and close your eyes, then instruct them to slowly inhale through their nose, pause, then exhale slowly, counting to three or four each time. Or rest on a yoga mat and practice deep breathing while lying down. Just a few minutes of mindful breathing does wonders for the body and spirit!
“If every 8-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world in one generation.” —Dalai Lama
Meditation is similar to deep breathing, but with the added focus on sensations. You can begin meditation in all kinds of ways, whether sitting, lying down, or even walking.
Providing your child with their very own cushion like Little Buddhi’s Cuddly Bear Meditation Cushion is a great way to establish a consistent, comfortable spot for meditating. If you prefer to lead a guided meditation on your own, one simple way is to focus on relaxing parts of the body from the head and each part of the face and make your way down to their toes. Or you can listen to a guided meditation designed for kids, like the ones recommended by Common Sense Media.
“Listen to the color of your dreams.” —The Beatles
There’s good reason coloring books have become so popular in recent years, not just for kids, but also for adults: they help us relax. Coloring has a remarkably calming effect as we shift our focus to the present moment and simply focus on the shapes, colors and patterns in front of us. Mindful & Co. Coloring Pack combines coloring with mindfulness, and includes cards, colored pencils, a coloring book, poems and messages that promote calm and self-awareness.
4. Practicing gratitude
“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness — it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.” —Brené Brown
Practicing gratitude raises our awareness of the positive aspects of our day and helps us feel uplifted. Modeling gratitude for our children is an ideal way to teach them how effective this practice can be. Express sincere gratitude to your child for being polite or kind, thoughtful or patient.
A wonderful exercise to practice with your kids is 3 Good Things. Co-created by Martin Seligman, one of the experts in positive psychology, it involves sharing three positive things that happened that day. Get in the habit of practicing 3 Good Things at dinner each night or when you’re putting your kids to bed. For something different, play Happy Hearts Board Game, which encourages gratitude practices, along with yoga poses and funny faces for plenty of giggles!
5. Nature walks
“Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
Going outside and into nature helps bring us in tune with the world around us, awakening us to the sound of birdsong, the sight of leaves changing color or flowers in bloom. Take some time to explore nature with your child and share what you observe, then stroll together and take in the sounds, textures, smells, and sights.
When it comes to mindfulness, there’s nothing to achieve per se, no goal to aspire to, and that’s the whole point — it’s all about clearing your mind, letting go, and being present. That’s all it is. And yet it’s everything.