Jon Kabat-Zinn, the father of mindfulness defines the practice as “the act of paying attention in the present moment, on purpose, in a non-judgmental way.” The benefits of mindfulness practice in daily life are numerous and may include; lower blood pressure, lower stress levels, improved sleep, enhanced ability to concentrate, decrease in chronic pain, increased immune system function, and a reduction in the symptoms of depression and anxiety. This practice could prove to be especially beneficial to children as they attempt to navigate the challenges and difficulties of the formative years, and the journey into young adulthood. The primary goal of children’s mindfulness activities is to teach them to connect with their bodies, senses and breath in fun and relaxed ways. The busy, stressful pace of many children’s lives these days often leads to a lack of connection to the body and its many senses, resulting in a loss of self-awareness. Mindfulness presents an opportunity to help reconnect our kids with themselves and enhance their levels of well-being. Read on for a few fun and easy mindfulness activities you can use in everyday life!
Spend Time in Nature-
Spending time in a natural setting has a way of making us more present and lowering stress levels almost instantly. There is something about roaming around in areas that are untouched by mankind that helps bring us back to our center, calms the nervous system and tunes us into our authentic selves. Kids are no different. They crave time in nature, seeing it as time for adventurous, unstructured free play, it’s also a welcome break from the stifling glare of indoor lighting and stuffy classrooms and homes. Nature outings are ripe with opportunities for mindfulness, here are a few ideas to get you started: Take a few moments to have everyone stand still and quietly listen with their eyes closed, afterward talk about the different sounds everyone heard and make guesses at what they were; if it’s a sunny day, stand still with eyes closed again, and this time have them notice the feelings of warmth from the sun on their face and body, afterward have them describe how it felt; another exercise is taking time to look at interesting plants, trees, or bushes, study and describe what they look like, how they smell, how they feel to touch.
Bedtime Body Scan-
When my daughter was going through a phase of having trouble falling asleep, I taught her a simple bedtime breathing activity to help calm her mind and relax her body. My version went as follows: While your child is laying down turn out the lights and have them place their hands on their stomach, tell them to feel the motion their stomach makes as each breath is taken. I used the analogy of ocean waves, but you can get creative and use any symbolism you think your child will connect with, then make the symbol representative of the breath. For my daughter, I had her imagine her breath was the ocean, and each in-breath represented the waves coming in, each out-breath was the waves going back out. I’ve also done another version where, as she takes a breath, she thinks about moving it into each different body part; for example, as she would exhale I’d have her imagine she was pushing her breath into her leg or her foot, and then move onto the next body part and repeat. The idea is to help your child develop awareness of their breath and body, and then combining the two.
A singing bowl is a type of bell that when hit lightly with a padded mallet creates a vibrational ringing sound from the rim, it is used in formal meditation instruction to begin and end the sitting, the sound can last up to a minute. In my experience, most kids are very interested in the bowl and the sound it makes making it a great tool with which to introduce the following activity as a mindfulness practice: Have your child sit quietly in a comfortable position; instruct him to listen carefully to the sound of the bell once you’ve hit it, and then to raise his hand when he no longer hears it. Next, tap the bowl to make the ringing sound and wait for him to raise his hand. To keep it interesting for your child, after a few times of practicing you can switch and have your child ring the bell while you listen and raise your hand.
Eating can be a great time to practice mindfulness with kids. The next time your child is eating, it can be a snack or a meal, ask them to close their eyes and chew very slowly, taking the time to notice how the food tastes, what it feels like to chew, and any other sensations that may occur as they eat. Give your child brief instructions beforehand and then ask a few questions afterward. And remember, the more you make it into a fun game the more they will get out of it, thus learning to slow down and connect with their senses if only for a moment. As soon as it becomes a test or another set of rules they must follow, kids completely lose interest, at least at my house!
There are many activities you can use to introduce mindfulness into your child’s life, deciding which ones to use depends on your child’s personality and interests. Whatever you do, don’t try to force it or your child will lose interest and not want to participate. The more fun and relaxed in tone the activity is, the better it seems to work. As your child learns to connect with themselves by slowing down and intentionally bringing attention to their body, breath and senses they will be more equipped to handle the demands and challenges of their lives.
About the author
Sarah Oxley is a writer, devoted student of life and lover of psychology and poetry. She is mother to two beautiful children who remind her each and every day of how to live more mindfully. She is motivated by a desire to inspire others to live their best lives and believes that life’s most important lesson is learning to be kinder to ourselves and others. Sarah is a contributor to KachyTV blog.