Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your body and feelings in the present moment. If you’re silent for a moment, you will notice the subtle smell of your freshly washed clothing, the sound of your breathing, and watch a small leaf blow past your window. Mindfulness is an incredibly calming, relaxing practice that can help adults in numerous ways, and it may surprise you that it can help children, too.
Studies have shown that children who learn mindfulness practices showed better grades, increased patience and improved coping skills. When teaching mindfulness in schools, it can increase optimism in classrooms, overall self awareness and build better relationships.
Learning how to teach a child mindfulness can be simple. Here are four exercises to get started.
Muscle Awareness for Kids
Teach your child to become aware of their body with a muscle awareness exercise. Sit down on the floor and do some exercises where they focus on one muscle at a time. They can point their toe and hold, and as you do the same ask them what they feel and where exactly they feel the tightening of their muscle. Hold for a few seconds and release, then repeat with other muscles.
Have your child lie on his/her back with a favorite stuffed animal on her belly. Have them watch the stuffed animal, which will naturally rise and fall as they breathes in and out. Teach your child to breathe in through their nose slowly, to hold their breath for a few seconds, then slowly release the breath as they watch their stuffed animal rise and fall to match their breaths. The Breathing Buddy is also a great way to help your child calm down when they’re upset.
A Mindful Walk
Take a mindful walk around the block or at a local park with your child. Ask your child to name their five senses and practice using each one throughout your walk. Take in the sights, sounds and smells. Explore different things you fine like rocks or leaves and ask them to focus on their sense of touch by describing textures or sizes. What does your body feel like as you’re walking? What muscles do you feel working the most? Notice sounds you may hear, especially subtle sounds like a leaf skittering across the grass, or the crunch of a leaf as you step in. This will help them relax, get in a little bit of exercise and learn to appreciate all their body does to keep them moving. You may also ask them to notice something that haven’t noticed before and explore the benefits of noticing new things.
A Mindful Snack
Engage your child in mindful eating by having a mindful meal or snack. As you eat, do so mindfully. Focus on the food and again exercise all of your senses. What colors do your eyes see? How does it taste and smell? Have your child describe what happens when they chew and swallow. Have them notice what muscles are moving as they eat or bring the food to their mouth.
Children learn what they see at home, so by modeling mindfulness for your child both of you will get the positive experience of practicing being present and in the moment.