How to Teach Mindfulness to Children
There is an emerging body of research proving that teaching mindfulness from an early age to our children is super beneficial. They indicate that mindfulness can help our children improve their abilities to pay attention, focus, sleep, boost their self-esteem, and to make better decisions, to only name some of the benefits.
Mindfulness is certainly essential for adults. In this busy way of life, mindfulness is a necessity to help build confidence, be able to calm the mind, to connect, to feel more peaceful, be more positive and grateful, as well as clear and focused.
Is there any question mindfulness is also good for our kids? So where do we start? How can we teach mindfulness to kids?
Before you begin any mindfulness exercise, make sure to turn off any distractions, such as television or video games, and be sure cell phones are silenced 🙂
Be the Example
If you do not meditate or know how to meditate, learn to meditate yourself and then teach a shorter version to your child that you can do together. This may not be so easy, especially if they are young and do not want to sit still for long. Do not worry, every little bit counts and there are plenty of options below that will help with that. Be patient.
Mindful Breathing Exercise
The key to mindfulness is to teach children about the importance of the breath. To make this more interesting you may wish to get them a fun pillow to sit on or play some soft music.
Ask the child to sit comfortably and then close their eyes. Ask them to pay attention to how the breath gently moves your body. Can you notice your belly or your chest moving as you breathe?
You can have them put their hands on their tummy to feel the gentle rise and fall with each breath. This will also help them stay focused!
You could also ask them to repeat the word “in” and “out” as they inhale and exhale, or you may even say it for them.
Do this for about 5 breath cycles, 5 inhales and 5 exhales. At the end of the 5 breaths, guide their attention to any thoughts and feelings that may be present.
Also any possible differences in how they feel now compared with how they felt before the exercise.
You could then ask them to let those thoughts and feelings go as they return their focus back to their breath. Repeat the breathing cycle as many times as feels appropriate.
Talk about Gratitude
Chances are you have taught your child to say “please” and “thank you.” However, have you ever taught them to express gratitude?
Two great ways to do this is:
- Each evening when you are putting your child to bed, you can both/all express gratitude for the great things as well as any challenges that happened in the day. It is good practice to be grateful for everything (even the challenges) so that you can learn to see the gift in everything and not see circumstances as “good” or “bad.” That is true gratitude.
- Another exercise you can do is that before every family meal, you go around the table and name something that you are grateful for. It could be something they play with, time spent with a friend or family member, or something that happened that day.
Do your best not to be too controlling about what they say as gratitude. If it is about their favorite TV show, then so be it. Later on they will most likely (hopefully) learn the values of family, health, and so on.
Play Guided Meditations
Guided meditations are an easy way to incorporate mindfulness into their day! The below video may be one that you play for them before their nap or during their quiet time during the day or at night.
Read Books that Teach Mindfulness
These books are a wonderful way to start teaching mindfulness.
Breathe Like a Bear
Breathe like a bear book has beautiful illustrations and 30 simple, short breathing practices and movements that can be performed anytime, anywhere. Awesome!
Listening to My Body: For Kids between ages 8-12
Listening to my body is an interactive guide to help kids understand the connection between their sensations and feelings so that they can get better at figuring out what they need. So wonderful, I wish I had this book growing up!
Happy Breathing! 🙂