How Mindfulness For Children Can Benefit Your Family
Mindfulness for children is increasing in popularity. Though adults have been practising this for themselves and in the workplace for years, there is now a welcome trend to include children in the practice. There is growing proof that children benefit from mindfulness just as much as adults. Mindfulness can:
- help kids thrive at school
- assist with behaviour issues, particularly autism, ADD and ADHD
- help children become kinder, happier and more compassionate
- create a better family harmony
Five fun activities to help you practise mindfulness with your children
I’ve tried and tested most of them with great results so far. The starfish counting in particular is good when out and about to curb a potential tantrum!!
Starfish Counting Meditation
How to do it
Your child holds up their hand with palm facing towards them, fingers spread so it looks like a starfish shape. Using a finger on their other hand, they slowly trace around each finger of their starfish hand. Encourage them to take some deeper or longer breaths while doing so. Focusing on tracing the fingers combined with deeper breathing has a lovely, calming effect.
Great for: stopping tantrums from taking hold or to calm down a boisterous child especially when you’re out and about.
Try: getting them to trace around your hand if they won’t do it on their own. Use yourself when you feel anger or frustration starting to take hold.
I’ve used it many times myself to calm down when I feel like I’m getting angry. My 3 year old struggles a little with the concept, so instead of tracing his fingers I get him to do a really slow ‘starfish high five’ – basically a slowed down version of a high five with the fingers spread a little, like a starfish. I ask him to take 3 slow breaths while we do this too.
How to do it
Get your child to stand with hands by their sides, head looking forward. They should step their feet outwards to the side so their legs are slightly wider than hip distance apart. Raise the arms slowly up until shoulder height, palms facing down, fingers pointing to each side of the room so they look like a star (or about to do a jumping jack). Ask them to stand as tall as they can, then take three slow breaths before releasing the pose. Kids often find it fun to finish with a jumping jack!
Great for: getting little ones to focus on their movement and the breath. It can give them a sense of calmness and confidence so one to try before getting ready for school or before an after-school club.
Try: practising this one together – be a little and big starfish!
How to do it
Your child lies down on their back and puts a soft toy on their tummy. Ask them to notice the toy moving up and down as they breathe. Once they’ve moved their attention to the toy, tell them the toy is asleep. They should breathe slowly and gently as they can to avoid waking their toy.
Great for: bringing awareness to the breathing. It’s a relaxing exercise so one for the evening before bed.
Try: using if your child is struggling to get to sleep.
How to do it
Turn eating a snack into a mini mindful meditation. Begin by all taking a couple of deep breaths. Now look at your food, ask them what they see, what they can smell. If they’re eating finger food such as a cracker or biscuit ask them to feel the texture. Now they can take a bite. Ask them to chew slowly for as long as they can before swallowing. How did it taste? Try this for a couple of bites – they probably won’t want to do much more than this before gulping the rest of their snack!
Great for: teaching mindful eating and getting your children to appreciate their food a little more.
Blowing Bubbles Mindfully
A lovely outdoor activity (or indoors if you don’t mind bubbles on your carpet!).
How to do it
Encourage your little one to take a deep breath then breathe out slowly into the bubble wand. Suggest they focus on the bubble, watch as it forms then floats up and away until it disappears. Your kids will probably get very excited by the bubbles and want to jump up and catch them. Try and focus them on the first two or three bubbles, breathing as slowly as they can. Maybe even suggest that they need to remain calm so as not to scare the bubbles away!
Great for: inspiring your child to get involved in a sensory experience, using their mind and body.
Try: blow the bubbles yourself if your child is too little to do so, but still get them to focus on the bubble as it forms and floats up. If you have a very active child then use a balloon to keep them engaged while being mindful. Gently tap the balloon to keep it afloat and in play!
Mindfulness for children doesn’t have to be difficult. Keep exercises short, under five minutes if possible, particularly if your kids are young. Make the exercises fun; don’t force it. If they’re really not interested, try again another time. Share your experience afterwards, how did they feel during the practise for example?
A Twitter follower (and fellow mummy) recently got in touch to say the starfish counting meditation distracted her 3 year old from going into tantrum mode; result!!
Have you tried one of these practices? How did you find it? Or is there another practice you regularly do with your children? I’d love to hear how you’ve used mindfulness in your day to day parenting 🙂