The practice of mindfulness has become a big trend but it can be confusing when it comes to defining it, especially as a parent.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a practice where you use the five senses to engage physically and non-judgmentally with the world around you. When you do a task with mindful awareness, you do it with 100% of your energy and attention.
Any activity can be done with a sense of mindfulness, even eating dinner with your family. For example, you can teach your child to pay attention to the food’s texture and flavors. You can guide them to think about how the food nurtures their body and keeps their body healthy.
Practicing mindfulness is incredibly empowering for children. It can help them better manage stress and anxiety when it does occur. It helps with self-regulation, promotes positive emotions and self-compassion.
How Mindfulness Benefits a Growth Mindset
Practicing mindfulness techniques can help children change their mindset from a FIXED mindset to a GROWTH mindset.
First, mindfulness can help children feel empowered, so they can learn to try new things and take more risks.
Second, using mindfulness techniques like deep breathing and tensing and relaxing the muscles can help children overcome anxiety when they make mistakes.
Third, by promoting self-love and self-compassion, mindfulness activities can help children overcome negative self-talk.
5 Mindfulness Activities for Kids
Here are five simple mindfulness activities for kids to help them live in the present and focus on the positive using mindfulness.
When it comes to calming kids down, nothing is simpler than a breathing activity.
It’s okay to simplify. Life can be simple if we let it. Mindfulness can help children clear the cobwebs out of their minds. It’s like taking a breath of fresh air and opening the windows on a beautiful spring day.
One common technique is the mindfulness of breathing or just one breath activity. This is a great activity to try if your child is anxious or upset.
Mindfulness Activity 1: ‘Just One Breath’ Breathing Exercise
Find a relaxing place where you and your child will not be disturbed. Sit in a comfortable posture, either with your legs folded or any comfortable posture. This breathing exercise for kids can be done in as little as one minute, but you can also do it for longer periods.
Begin by setting a timer for one minute.
Start breathing deeply in and out. Notice how the breath feels as it moves in and out of your body. Notice how the air feels on your skin. Pay attention to any sensations that you notice or any sounds that you hear.
Take another slow deep breath and see if you can imagine how the breath moves down into the lungs and then back up again. Thank your body and breath for giving you life and keeping you healthy.
Take one more deep breath and hold the breath for a moment – then release it.
If thoughts become intrusive, try and imagine your thoughts immersed in a white, puffy cloud and push the thought cloud out of your awareness.
Afterward, notice how you feel after taking this one-minute break.
Mindfulness Activity 2: Creating a Glitter Jar
Children of any age can create a glitter jar. You can also use a snow globe. The glitter jar is a great activity to use when your child is worried, upset, nervous, or angry. The glitter in the jar represents your child’s thoughts, rushing around in a mad dash.
The next time your child is upset or anxious simply have them shake the glitter jar and remain quiet and still while the glitter is settling. As they breathe deeply they can watch the glitter float around in the jar and finally settle on the bottom.
Steps to Make Your Own Glitter Jar
- Start by finding a glass mason jar and allow your child to decorate it however they like. You can also use a plastic water bottle if you can’t find a mason jar.
- You will also need one bottle of clear glue and glitter. Food coloring is optional.
- Fill the bottle up 3/4 of the way with water. Next, add the clear glue and glitter and shake. You may want to use a funnel to get the glitter in the jar. You may add food coloring if desired. Seal the lid and you are ready to go.
Your child can SHAKE the jar or bottle when they feel anxious or upset and remain still while the glitter settles.
The jar is like the child’s mind, and you can even encourage your child to think about how their thoughts are like glitter. As the glitter settles down into the bottom of the jar, the mind becomes calmer as well.
Mindfulness Activity 3: Heartbeat Exercise
The heartbeat exercise is a wonderful grounding activity because it allows your child to focus on the body’s sensations. This exercise is a wonderful activity to do if your child is feeling stressed or anxious.
For example, if your child is working on a project for school and getting frustrated or feeling stuck, you can gently redirect them by asking them to STOP what they are doing and take a break.
Ask your child to stand up and either jump up and down or do jumping jacks for one minute. At the end of that minute, have them place their hand on their hearts and pay attention to how their heartbeat and breathing feels.
Tuning into the physical body is a wonderful way to redirect the focus. With this new burst of energy, your child will feel a new motivation to complete the previous task.
Mindfulness Activity 4: Going On a Safari
Going On a Safari is another creative mindfulness activity that helps redirect the focus away from stress and anxiety.
Physical activity is a wonderful way to infuse positive energy back into the body. This is a great activity to do right after your child gets home from school because it gives them a mental break from a long day.
You can go outside on an exciting adventure on your next walk. As you walk put all of your senses to work by paying close attention to your environment. Notice the feel of the air on your skin, notice the sound of the ground as you walk, and pay attention to all of the little movements and sensations.
You can also try picking up a small rock or touching a plant or flower as you walk. Notice the bugs or the birds. Take a moment to kneel down and touch the earth. Walk mindfully paying close attention to everything. Make sure you walk in silence because you want to notice all those little details.
Walking is a wonderful stress-relieving activity because it helps clear the mind and spark creative ideas. Try going on a safari the next time your child gets frustrated and you might be surprised at how well this works.
Mindfulness Activity 5: Tense and Release Muscle Relaxation
The tense and release muscle relaxation is an exercise that relaxes the mind and body by progressively tensing and releasing those large muscle groups.
In this activity, you will gently tense and then release each large muscle group without straining too hard. Try to tense each muscle for five seconds for the best results.
This activity is perfect before going to sleep because it helps the body release tension. Have your child try this activity lying down after they get into bed for the night.
Starting at the feet, gently squeeze the muscles in the feet by tightening them, then slowly releasing them. You can also point the toes up and then back down for a gentle release.
Next, squeeze the large muscles in the calves for five seconds, then gently release. Working your way up the body, squeeze the thigh muscles for five seconds then gently release.
Notice how much calmer you feel already.
Next tense and release the hips and buttocks. You can also do this by straightening the legs and then releasing the tension.
Squeeze the abdomen and chest next and gently release. Notice the wave of relaxation moving through you.
Now slowly draw both hands into fists and squeeze tightly for about five seconds then release. Point your arms and hands out straight while squeezing tightly then releasing next.
Finally, shift your attention to your neck and shoulders. Raise your shoulders up towards your ears and squeeze for five seconds then release. Do this a couple more times and feel the gentle release.
Gently move your head from side to side two to three times and then relax.
If you would like to, you can continue this activity back down the body for more relaxation.
This activity grounds you into the physical body and it’s a great way to practice mindfulness. The tensing and relaxing of the body’s muscles help release the strain and stress of the day helping your child get a wonderful night’s rest.
Everyday acts can be turned into mindfulness exercises for kids. You and your child can be engaged in mindfulness in the midst of any ordinary activity, which, in essence, really makes it an extraordinary activity.
From walking outside and going on a safari, to shaking a glitter jar or tensing and relaxing muscles, there is no limit when it comes to practicing mindfulness.
You can even encourage your child to eat mindfully or read a book mindfully because any activity can be done with mindful awareness.
The most important thing about mindfulness is being in the here and now — living your life and taking the time to enjoy the world around you.