5 mindfulness activities for kids
One of a parents’ greatest wishes is for their children to be healthy and happy. It’s also fair to say that as part of that wish, parents would like to see their children turn away from being constantly entranced by video games, social media, and messaging. Imagine children having the ability to balance screen time with life itself. Imagine them having the ability to stay present, focused, and engaged, without the constant distraction of their cellphones/devices.
Teaching mindfulness can be one of the most valuable gifts a parent can give to their children, because it can help equip them to take life in stride, no matter what it throws their way. Mindfulness helps them to stay in the present moment, be less reactive, and not get carried away with every thought and emotion. If the next generation can learn to be more mindful — less reactive, less judgmental, and less caught up in their heads — then we would be sowing the seeds for a healthier and happier society. Here, we will cover some easy mindfulness activities for kids to help them look after their mind, and to teach them how to cultivate peace, happiness, and compassion for the rest of their lives.
Not only is there strong evidence that mindfulness can positively affect an adult’s mental and physical health, but there is also growing research that mindfulness exercises for kids can have significant benefits as well — particularly in terms of resilience to stress and improving children’s cognitive performance, according to a 2014 review of mindfulness-based interventions in schools.
For example, researchers have found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children (MBCT-C) has been shown to improve attention and behavioral problems and reduce anxiety. A 2004 study found that children with ADHD who practiced meditation with their families for six weeks showed less anxiety and improved self-esteem, relationship quality, and concentration at school. Another one showed that kids who learned mindfulness-awareness practices had a better executive function after eight weeks of training. Finally, a separate study found that kids who participated in an afterschool program consisting of yoga and meditation felt happier and more relaxed.
The benefits of meditation for kids extend far beyond improving focus and performance. In fact, researchers found that kids who participated in a mindfulness-based school program showed greater empathy, perspective-taking, and emotional control, compared to kids who did not participate. When we teach children mindfulness, we are teaching them invaluable lessons about empathy, compassion, and, quite simply, how to be kind to other people.
Of course, you can always ask your kids to join you in your meditation practice. But there are plenty of other mindfulness activities for kids that can also have a big impact. Just remember: It doesn’t really matter which activity you choose. The most effective way to teach children about mindfulness is to practice it yourself. After all, kids are constantly watching how their parents act and what they say, soaking up information like sponges. That’s why modeling a regular meditation practice can go a long way in helping them to establish their own mindfulness habits. Here are 5 different ways to teach your child mindfulness:
Breathing. Focusing on the sounds of their own breath and motion of their bellies rising and falling helps children learn to be in the present moment. Here’s an idea that’s particularly fun — and effective! — for young children. On the inhale, tell them to pretend they’re smelling something yummy, like their favorite flower or chocolate brownies in the oven; on the exhale, they can pretend to blow out candles. And, if your child can’t sit still for more than a couple of minutes, don’t sweat it: start with 10 breaths and over time, build up to several minutes.
Create a mindful bedtime ritual. A regular mindfulness ritual at the end of the day can help your child to calm their body and reflect on their day. One way to do this is with a short body scan: Have your child close their eyes and focus on their head, arms, belly, etc., working their way through all the body parts. Or, you can do a simple gratitude meditation by having them share one thing they are thankful for.
Take a walk. This activity is not only a great way for kids to practice mindfulness and notice the present moment, but they also get exercise and fresh air. On the walk, take a few minutes to be completely silent and pay attention to all the sounds that you hear: passing cars, wind rustling dry leaves, a dog barking. Afterwards, talk about what you and your child heard, and how that made you both feel.
Eat a snack … mindfully. Mindful eating is a practice that engages all five senses, and it’s fun and easy to do. Before eating the snack, ask your kids to think about its appearance, shape, size, color, smell, and texture. Then, when they place it in their mouths, think about the sensation and the process of eating it. By learning to slow down and notice food, kids are more likely to savor it, digest better, and enjoy the meal more.
Meditate together with Headspace. It’s critical to introduce meditation and mindfulness at an early age, which is why Headspace offers fun, engaging activities that teach kids the basics of mindfulness. These activities involve everything from breathing exercises and visualizations to focus-based meditation. And because different exercises work best for different ages, Headspace offers customized sessions for three age groups: 5 and under, 6 through 8, and 9 through 12.
Goodnight (under 5)
Rest and Relax (ages 6-8)
Calm (ages 9-12)
Barbie x Headspace: Kindness
Barbie x Headspace: Settling Down
If you’re looking for similar meditations for parents, the Headspace app offers subscribers several courses on topics related to parenting. Sign up for free today, and start experiencing the powerful benefits of meditation.
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