We’ve all heard about “mindfulness,” but what does it actually mean?
Mindfulness is being aware of the moment you’re experiencing. It’s choosing to be present. It’s about being fully engaged in what’s going on without being distracted by random thoughts or actions that are taking place elsewhere.
The point of mindfulness is to improve your ability to focus and make better decisions. It sounds simple, but it’s a lot harder to practice than you think. That’s why it’s a good idea to teach the concept to children, starting at a young age. Ideally by the time they’ve reached adulthood, they’ll be effortlessly incorporating mindfulness into their everyday.
11 Essential Strategies for Teaching Mindfulness to Kids
1. Tense & Release
Have kids lie down and close their eyes. Tell them to take a deep breath in, hold it, and at the same time tighten as many muscles as they can: squeeze hands into fists, curl toes, raise shoulders, suck in bellies, squint eyelids. After a few seconds, breathe out and release all of the tension.
Ask how their bodies felt. Repeat the exercise and encourage them to pay close attention to the differences between “tense” and “relaxed.”
2. Walk with Purpose
Instead of rushing from point A to point B, guide the kids on a leisurely stroll. Tell them to open their eyes and ears and pay attention to whatever is around them. Try to walk for a minute or two in complete silence and see how that changes the experience.
3. Name the Smell
Make a game out of guessing certain scents. Find a quiet place; ask the kids to close their eyes. Give them something sweet, sour, salty and spicy to smell. Can they identify the items?
Repeat the exercise in a spot where there’s some noise. Is it harder for the kids to differentiate the smells when they’re distracted? Discuss ways to improve their focus and ability to hone in on one thing at a time.
4. Feel the (Heart)Beat
Have the kids sit in a circle with their hands over their hearts. Ask them to count their heartbeats for 30 seconds. Then let them run in a circle for one minute before stopping to feel and count their heartbeats. What did they notice? How does sitting and running impact their breathing and their bodies?
5. Daily Review
In the morning sit with your child in a quiet spot and reflect on the day ahead. Take turns naming three things you’re looking forward to doing in the next 12 hours.
Follow up in the evening. Did you manage to do those three things? Were they as you expected? If not, how could you have changed things for the better?
6. Breath Work
Since the concept of “meditation” may be too intense for some children, here’s a way to gently introduce meditative techniques: have kids lie on their backs and place a small object (or stuffed animal) on their bellies. Have them breathe normally and tell them to watch how it affects the object. Next, ask them imagine different things (floating on a river, resting on a cloud, etc.). How do they feel and what happens to the object?
7. Candle Meditation
This exercise must be supervised since it involves an open flame. Have children sit in a darkened room with a lighted pillar candle. Sit for one minute focusing on the light, and ask them to clear their minds of any other thoughts.
Does having a focal point (the flame) help or hinder the meditation? What else could you use to focus your mind?
8. Body Check
Have kids lie on the floor with their eyes closed. Explain that you will be “checking in” with their bodies, starting with their feet and moving up. First, tell them to focus on their toes and feet. Ask if they are warm or cold, tense or relaxed, light or heavy. Continue with the ankles, calves, knees, thighs, hips, bellies and up to their heads.
Before you finish, have them take a deep breath and exhale all of the tightness and heaviness out of their system.
9. Bedtime Routine
There are lots of ways to “wind down” at the end of the day. Find what works best for your kids and you. Whatever you choose, the key is to practice the routine every night until it becomes comfortable and second nature.
For example, you could light a candle and focus on the flame for one minute before blowing it out and doing a quick body scan (your child may fall asleep before the end of the exercise!). Or you could do a few rounds “Tense & Release” before settling into sleep.
10. Count the Moment
This is a quick and easy way to focus on your immediate surroundings and also diffuse feelings of anxiety or panic.
Take stock of what is around you by naming 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 5 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
11. “Shark Fin”
When kids have trouble paying attention, help them to regain focus with the “Shark Fin” technique.
Tell kids to open their hands and place the sides of their hands on their foreheads (like a shark fin). Ask them to close their eyes and slowly slide their hands down their faces while saying “sshhh.” Repeat up to three times.
Practice Capturing the Moment
Whether you’re an adult, a teen or a child, being mindful requires practice. The key is to start with simple “do-able” exercises. Approach the kids with enthusiasm and little to no expectations. And as long as they try their best, be sure to offer them positive reinforcement, no matter the outcome.
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Samara Kamenecka is a VA specializing in SEO and writing, based in Madrid. When she’s not chained to her desk working, she likes to explore the city with her boyfriend, their two kids and their dog. She blogs about everything from baby-led weaning to gifts for new moms at www.tinyfry.com.
Hi my name is Nicole! I enjoy exploring new places and destinations, and I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. Join me on my Housewives journey as I share my interests in fashion, cooking, and fitness!