What is mindfulness to kids?
In its simplest form, mindfulness is being in the present moment and attentive to what is happening within and around you. Mindfulness encourages nonjudgmental observation of your experiences, which often means tuning into your senses and feelings. The idea is to be honest and gentle with yourself as you encounter each moment, trying to stay as present as possible instead of analyzing your experience.
So what does mindfulness look like in kids? The answer is, It depends. For little ones, who are already very connected to the present moment, mindfulness is more about seeing others be intentionally mindful. Really, children of all ages can benefit from mindfulness being modeled for them. As a parent, this means embodying the practice of mindfulness yourself and staying present with your children as much as possible. Even simple acts, such as maintaining eye contact, smiling, and remaining calm when your kids are upset goes a long way. As children grow and are able to practice mindfulness skills themselves, mindfulness becomes a tool. It can help them navigate adversity and enhance the mind body connection. With guidance and practice, kids too can embrace mindfulness and reap the benefits of this incredible social emotional tool.
What are the benefits of mindfulness for kids?
The benefits of mindfulness for kids are numerous. On top of increasing kids’ emotional IQ, mindfulness supports executive functioning and promotes self-regulation skills that are integral to emotional wellbeing. For example, when kids practice focusing their attention on the present moment, they are developing their ability to concentrate and control their thinking. This in turn can improve academic performance, problem-solving, and self-control. Mindfulness exercises, like deep breathing, are also a wonderful way to navigate difficult emotions such as stress and anxiety. It’s no wonder that mindfulness techniques are especially helpful to kids with ADHD and anxiety.
Mindfulness activities for kids also help boost protective factors like self-esteem and gratitude. As kids learn how to observe their experiences in a nonjudgmental way, their capacity for self-compassion and self-understanding flourishes. Mindful kiddos also tend to be more thoughtful in their interactions with others. Equipping your child with these important emotional skills and coping strategies can foster resilience and self-love that will shape their lives in powerful and positive ways.
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Do mindfulness activities really work
Again and again, research demonstrates how beneficial the practice of mindfulness can be for kids. In fact, schools are beginning to recognize the importance of teaching mindfulness to kids of all ages, including preschoolers and elementary school students. Some schools are even ditching detention and instead teaching mindfulness and creating “mindful moment” rooms.
Still, the best way to determine if mindfulness activities really work is to see for yourself. Introduce mindfulness into your lives, and after a while, you may notice improvements in your child’s social skills, decision making, and emotional regulation. For some kids this might look like knowing when to take a break or take a deep breath. These are signs that mindfulness is working. If you’d like to take a deeper look at the empirical evidence for mindfulness, here is an overview of mindfulness research in kids.
How can I practice mindfulness with my child?
The best way to share mindfulness with your child is to incorporate it into your own life and parenting. Engaging in mindful behaviors such as noticing your feelings, pausing to connect with your breath, and embracing the imperfect will set the stage to practice mindfulness with your child. The better you take care of yourself, the easier it will be to stay present with your kiddo and interact with them in a calm intentional way. Parenting can get messy, when life happens, the RAIN technique is a great mindfulness strategy to try.
Remember, there is no prescription for mindfulness, and it doesn’t have to look or feel perfect. Don’t be too judgmental of your parenting or hard on yourself if you make mistakes. In fact, a cornerstone of mindfulness is embracing your humanness and understanding that difficult moments and emotions are not permanent and will pass. If you are gentle with yourself, it will teach your kids to do the same.
In addition to mindful parenting, families can practice mindfulness together through simple activities such as device-free dinners, taking a mindful walk around the neighborhood, or even practicing mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing, in the car. Feel free to get creative and figure out what mindful moments can be easily incorporated into your family routine. The key is to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine, not just use it in stressful situations.
5 fun mindfulness activities for kids at home
Mindfulness can be a fun and simple practice. Here are a few kid-friendly activities that will help introduce your child to this beneficial skill and support their mental health.
Create a calming glitter jar that is fun to look at and encourages mindfulness. Together, fill a jar with water and add glitter glue and larger pieces of glitter if you wish. Secure the lid tightly and shake the jar. Explain to your child that sometimes we feel big emotions, and it makes us feel all shaken up, like the glitter in this jar. Then put the jar down and let the glitter settle. As it settles, take deep mindful breaths with your kiddo. Explain, just like the glitter in the jar, we can calm down and regain control. Kids can also practice focusing on a piece of glitter or even use the jar as a coping tool when they are triggered. This simple crafty activity is hands-on and perfect for young children.
Children’s books are a wonderful way to introduce kids to the practice of mindfulness. Kids can connect to the characters in the story and enjoy the illustrations, and reading together is a great way to spend quality time with your little one. Mindfulness books for children use kid friendly language that promotes understanding of what mindfulness is. Here are a few titles you might want to add to your child’s bookshelf or check out from the library: I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness by Susan Verde and Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) by Eline Snel.
Turn a typical afternoon stroll into a super-hero adventure that requires kiddos to engage their superpower-heightened senses! Remind kids of their 5 senses- seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting. As you walk, ask them to think like Spiderman (or any other superhero) and notice things around you with your super senses. Tell kids to really wake up their senses by looking for tiny details in their surroundings. Kids can even dress like a superhero for this activity!
Guided or scripted meditations are another way for kids to relax and practice mindfulness skills. Some incorporate a body scan and breathing exercises that help kids tune into how their body feels when they are practicing mindfulness. Here is a quick and easy guided meditation to support emotional regulation. You can also check out this free printable deep breathing resource that includes some kid-friendly mindful breathing techniques and visuals.
A simple, fun way to practice mindfulness at home is with a mindful eating activity. Usually eating is not something kids put much thought and attention into, but mindful eating challenges them to slow down and experience their food on a deeper level. This mindful eating activity for kids is a great way to apply mindfulness to an every-day task and can be done with any food, even a raisin!