Introducing Mindfulness Practices to Children
When we teach mindfulness to little learners, we are teaching them the skills to build self-esteem, regulate themselves and develop resilience.
The earlier we introduce this skill, the greater the opportunity to cultivate resilience and refine their mindfulness as they grow. Teaching this helps little ones develop three critical abilities for life – paying attention and remembering information, moving to and from different tasks, and behaving appropriately with their peers.
These skills are known as executive functions and are essential for developing more advanced skills like planning, reasoning, problem-solving, and positive social relationships.
Explore our guide on how to introduce your child to mindfulness below!
Benefits of Introducing Mindfulness to Children
- Increased focus, attention, self-control, participation in a learning environment and empathy
- Improvements in learning, being able to resolve conflict and wellbeing
- Decrease in stress levels, depression, anxiety and negative behaviour
To introduce mindfulness to your little learner, you can use activities encouraging them to tune into their senses. You could make a game out of eating a meal very slowly, savouring the food’s taste, smell and texture.
Or you could spend an afternoon crafting, using materials of different sizes, shapes and textures. You could use different size beads, ribbons, glitter, sequins or lego. Ask your little learner to describe how each object feels, slowing their mind down and being present in the moment.
Three Good Things – Gratitude
When children feel strong emotions like sadness, anger or disappointment, it’s essential to teach them to recognise that there are always positive things in every situation. The aim of naming three good things in these situations is not to pretend they are not upset but to show them when they feel these feelings; they can also feel positive emotions.
If they cannot think of three good things, you can assist them by brainstorming with them. The three positive things could be that the sun is shining, it’s nearly the weekend, and they can play their favourite sport with their friends. The three good things game could be a regular activity your family does during dinner or before bed. Three good things reminds little ones that there are always positive things to be mindful of in the face of diversity.
Another way to introduce this concept is to ask children ‘What went well for you today?’ instead of ‘how was your day?’ This reframes their perception to think of the positives first and practise gratitude.
Mindful meditation is about being present in the current moment and slowing your mind and body down. A simple kindness meditation is an excellent place to start with little learners.
- To begin your kindness meditation find a comfortable sitting or lying position. You can allow your eyes to close or lower your gaze to the floor.
- Picture someone who is kind to you or is an essential person in your life.
- Notice how you feel when you bring this person to mind.
- Make a kind wish and send it their way. How would you want to make them feel?
- Next, bring someone else to mind who you care about. This might be a classmate, a friend, a teacher, a parent or a special friend. Bring this person to mind and send them a special wish also.
- Next, think of someone who you do not know very well. This might be the mailman, the lady at the supermarket or someone you see occasionally. Think of them and send them a kind wish. The wish could be that they have a good day or feel happy.
- Lastly, think of someone who has frustrated you lately. Send this last person a kind wish, something nice for them in their lives.
- Check in with your mind and body when you have finished. Notice if you feel different than before the mindfulness meditation.
There are many meditations online for children of all ages. These online meditations are age appropriate and guide them through a relaxing meditation to relax their bodies and minds and explore their own awareness.
Mindful Breathing for Children
Mindful practices for little ones can assist them in the management of stress and anxiety. This process if often called regulation. Here are a few child-friendly breathing techniques you can demonstrate and do with your little genius.
When breathing in, the belly expands, and when you breathe out, the stomach collapses. Do several rounds of deep belly breathing with your child; you can put your hands on your stomach and feel it expand. Repeat for a few rounds, then return to normal breathing.
Mindful breathing is simply noticing the breath slowly going in and out of your body. You could add positive phrases to make the activity more engaging. When you breathe in, you could repeat, ‘I am happy’. When they breathe out, they could repeat, ‘I am calm.’
Teddy Bear Breathing
This is the same as belly breathing but with a teddy. Have your child grab a teddy or favourite soft toy. Have them lie down and put the teddy on their tummy; let them watch as their teddy moves up and down as they breathe as if rocking their teddy to sleep.
Four Square Breathing
Four square breathing is the practice of breathing in for the count of four, holding the breath for the count of four and then breathing out slowly for the count of four. Do several rounds and then return to normal breathing. This breathing technique is perfect when little ones are feeling nervous or stressed.
A mindfulness jar is a clear glass jar or a plastic bottle filled with water, craft glue, and glitter or glitter glue. It is a great tool and visual metaphor for little ones (or adults) to articulate their feelings. The glitter in the jar can represent thoughts, emotions, and behaviours and can be shaken up or allowed to settle to assist with this. At the very least, they are an easy, colourful craft activity and fun to play with! Use plastic, not glass, if making these with younger children.
Mindfulness jars can be used:
- To help a child to calm down. “Stay still until the glitter settles!” Focussing on something can unconsciously help slow their heart rate and breathing.
- As a visual timer, “let’s pack up until the jar glitter has stopped moving!”
- To promote body awareness, “let’s dance while the glitter is shaken and slow down as it floats to the bottom!”
- To introduce the concept of mindfulness or meditation, “Take deep breaths and focus on the jar.”
Mindfulness is a skill we all must learn and nurture to move through life’s challenges with a positive attitude. It’s never too early or late to enjoy some of these mindful practices with your little learner today.