What is mindfulness for kids?
A lot of people live in the future: Tomorrow I have a presentation due, or this afternoon I have a dentist appointment. With mindfulness you focus on the now. You do not think of tomorrow or yesterday, but you focus on what you are doing in this moment.
Mindfulness will contribute to the quality of your life and that of your children, since it will bring inner peace and confidence. Mindfulness is taught to leaders, athletes and children, both at home and at school. It is a great aid for children of all ages. The tools of mindfulness teach kids to diminish anxiety and stress, which increases their happiness both in childhood and as adults. The following book is a useful, research based guide for parents to learn about their children’s emotions.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Children who use mindfulness will:
- Be bullied less, or be more resilient when bullying does happen.
- Have less attention span issues and be able to stay focused on what they are doing: Very suitable for children with ADHD.
- Will grow up to be adults with good social skills; non-judgmental and empathetic.
- Be able to use the mindfulness exercises at a later age, improving or maintaining their mental health.
Why mindfulness for kids?
Children are the ones that benefit the most from mindfulness exercises. This is because their brain is still developing. Connections and pathways in the brain are formed in early childhood. By learning the tools of mindfulness at a young age, the parts of the brain used in mindfulness get developed. This means development of focus, intellectual control, patience, empathy, and compassion. All very important traits to develop into a good human being. Keep in mind that habits we learn in early childhood are hard to forget, and can be applied throughout life.
How do I teach my kids mindfulness?
This question has a simple answer. All everyday events can be turned into mindfulness exercises. For example, when you and your toddler are walking to the supermarket, try and pay attention to the things your toddler experiences. They will see things that you do not notice; they will see little rocks, pick them up and study them. See dogs and want to touch them and feel them. Your toddler is not thinking about the grocery list and the meal that should be ready in an hour. Your toddler lives in the now.
If as an adult you can see through the eyes of your toddler, and if just like your toddler you can marvel at little things, you can share a beautiful moment of mindfulness. Make sure not to rush, push and stress your child. Unfortunately I have witnessed toddlers with such full agenda’s that they do not have the time to calmly discover the world.
7 Mindfulness exercises for kids
Have your child sit or lie down and relax, with closed eyes. Say: ‘What do you hear?’ The sounds of silence are important as well: The wind or the rain, a clock ticking… This exercise is meant to focus your child’s attention on the world around them.
What I hear and see more and more is that children have breakfast in front of the television. How can they experience what they are eating and really taste what they put in their mouth? So eat at the table, and pay attention to the food! Take a bite of the bread, chew it well and swallow it. What did you feel? Take a sip of cold milk. How did that feel? Food has different structures, let them experience this.
Focus on breathing: Have your child relax, either sitting or lying down. Say: ‘Put your hand on your stomach. Feel the movement of your stomach. When you breathe in, it fills up like a balloon, when you breathe out, you let go of the stomach.’ Do this for one minute at first, and slowly expand this to five minutes.
Mindful in nature
Being outside is always good for all kids. They experience the different kinds of weather, can get rid of their energy, breathe in healthy fresh air, etc. Especially highly sensitive children will greatly benefit from this. Take your kid for a walk through the woods, the park or any other place in nature. Agree to observe, and not to talk. Taking the same route back, take turns to mention the things you noticed.
Mindfulness coloring for kids
Coloring and other creative activities require concentration. Your child will temporarily think of nothing else. That is why coloring is a kind of mindfulness. Turn on some calming music. It gets even better when as a parent you also sit down and color. There are coloring books for adults. On my Pinterest page you will find a section ‘Mindfulness for kids’ on my group board: Let’s talk toddlers.
Once again have your child relax, either sitting or lying down. Together with your child actively focus on the body: From the toes to the top of the head. Say: ‘Think of your toes, what they feel like… think of your ankles… do you feel them?..’ etc. It is important not to talk too much during the exercise. Afterwards you can talk about it all you like.
This combines the elements of yoga and mindfulness. This way children work on their minds and bodies simultaneously.
Put child in dog’s pose, with hands and feet on the ground, stretched legs, like a triangle of hands, feet and buttocks at the top. Say: ‘Breathe in and breathe out. Feel your breathing. Now we take a few steps forward with our hands. Breathe in and breathe out. Do you feel the same?’ Change the position a little bit again and say: ‘Breathe in and breathe out..’ Do not do this for too long if this position is uncomfortable for your child.
Mindfulness in silence
This will be strange at first, because as parents we are used to always lend an ear to our children. Agree with your child not to speak for a certain period of time, this includes written messages or gestures. A good time would be for example when you are sitting a table together, while drawing or doing crafts. Agree to be silent for one minute. Set a timer for a minute. Nothing is said during this minute. This can slowly be expanded to five minutes. Believe me: Both you and your child will enjoy the silence!
It is a good thing to do these exercises together with your child, to participate together. Always end all sessions with a firm hug.
In my experience mindfulness exercises contribute to a life with less stress. Children (and their parents) will be able to concentrate better, will understand emotions better and will develop a more positive self-image.
The following book contains another 50 great mindfulness exercises. Highly recommended!