Mindfulness has definitely become a buzzword in recent years. There are websites, books, classes, and apps galore on the topic. All geared towards helping you increase your awareness of the present moment and calmly recognize and accept your emotions, thoughts, and patterns.
As a former yoga and mindfulness teacher, it’s been an ongoing practice of mine for nearly 15 years, but I love watching the tools become more widespread and accessible.
Mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress, increase focus and attention, boost your memory, help you regulate emotions, improve relationships, and help you work through difficult situations, to name a few.
So it isn’t surprising that children benefit from mindfulness as well!
I’ve experimented with various mindfulness practices with my own children, and here are some fun activities to try with your family:
One of the first steps to being more mindful, starts with recognizing everything inherent in the present. It’s so easy for kids to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of their activities, that they may not notice what else is going on around them. When you go outside, ask your children what they hear? What do they see? What do they smell? If they’re having trouble answering these questions, help them to notice what’s around them. Listening to birds chirping, the noise of crickets on a summer night, the smell of a neighbor’s barbeque, the sound of a fire truck off in the distance, the different tastes in a bowl of pasta. Help your children to become aware of what’s around them through all of their senses.
Go for a walk in nature! Humans tend to be more present in a natural environment, without all the “noise” from more urban or public settings. Encourage your children to learn about and enjoy the life and sensations around them.
Yoga is many people’s go-to mindfulness activity, as it connects our bodies and minds into one. But even kids can do yoga! I used to teach children’s yoga, and there are so many fun and interactive ways to introduce this ancient practice to children. If you’re new to yoga with kids, I recommend you check out the books Storytime Yoga by Sydney Solis and Good Night Yoga by Mariam Gates.
Noticing your breath is a GREAT tool to help regulate your emotions and lower stress and anxiety! As a Pediatric Sleep Consultant, I often recommend to my families with preschoolers to try this during bedtime routines (especially with kiddos who struggle to wind down before sleep or have any sleep-related exercises). Practicing deep belly breathing by pretending to blow out candles or blow bubbles are great activities! With older children, you can teach 4-3-2 breathing (breathe in for the count of 4, hold for 3, and out for 2).
Create a Calming Corner
Recognizing one’s emotions is a huge part of mindfulness. Having a space where children can go when they are feeling dysregulated emotionally or overwhelmed can be really helpful for them to be able to feel and process their own emotions. I love the tools and activities in the Time-In Toolkit from Generation Mindful for this one. Check it out!