We’ve seen that even a few minutes a day of mindfulness can be beneficial to your long-term health and wellness. With new apps, YouTube videos, and local meditation classes, finding ways to participate in this practice is easier than ever.
But mindfulness training is not just for adults. Children can benefit greatly as well.
In a 2014 study, researchers found that children who had mindfulness practice in their school curriculum had improved cognitive performance as well as more resilience when it came to stress. They also found that these aspects improved even more when a mindfulness practice was implemented in that child’s home in addition to what the school was providing.
It may seem like an impossible task to get your child or someone else’s child to sit still for even one minute, let alone be quiet and still for a few minutes.
So here are some tips and tricks you can use as you start to practice mindfulness with your children.
Make mindfulness work for you
Mindfulness practice doesn’t mean sitting around in silent meditation all day. It can look like asking your kids what they are grateful for or how they overcame a challenging situation at school that day. It can also look like them coloring quietly for a bit, or completing a craft that teaches them about emotions.
Mindfulness is all about guiding the child to examine the present moment and be mindful about how they are feeling both physically and emotionally. It’s a time for both you and the child to press pause and take in what is happening now instead of obsessing over the past or worrying about the future.
Here are some examples of mindfulness practices you can do with your little one:
- Breathing exercises: Have the child picture themselves sniffing a flower, blowing up a balloon, or blowing out a candle.
- Make a mind jar: Fill up a mason jar with hot water and glitter glue. Shake it up and tell kids this is what their mind looks like when they feel anxious or sad or mad. But if you let the jar sit still for a little bit, then the glitter settles. So this exercise teaches the kids to press pause when they are feeling lots of emotions to have the “glitter” settle in their minds.
- Have them be a superhero: This is a way to have the kids connect their mind to their bodies by having them stand with feet wider than hips width apart, hands in fists stretched straight up toward the sky, or have them put their hands on their hips if they feel more comfortable with that. Ask them to explain how they feel and let them know they are powerful and confident, just like a superhero.
- Go to the internet. There are tons of guided meditations and mindfulness practices for kids online or through apps so check out Calm, Cosmic Kids Yoga, or Headspace.
Make it part of your daily routine
When you’re trying to practice mindfulness with little ones, it can be easy to resort to it only in times of high stress and anxiety because it’s a way to calm down. But just like any new skill, it takes practice. And you’re not going to get all of the reps you want if you’re only doing it a couple of times a month.
Integrate the mindfulness training into your morning or bedtime routine with the kids, so they can expect it each day. The more they do it, the more likely they will be able to use it when they really need a pause in their day. Have them complete a breathing exercise before breakfast or a guided meditation before bedtime.
Make mindfulness training a family affair
Kids are highly impressionable and tend to mimic the behavior of the people who surround them, especially the people in their own home. So if you want your children to start meditating or practicing mindfulness, then do it with them. Don’t just turn on a guided meditation for kids and leave the room, but rather sit on the floor and take part in the activity together.
Or just sit down to meditate in front of your kids. Play the guided meditation on a speaker so they can listen in. They may not understand what they are doing or why they are doing it, but sitting there with you and being quiet can help them build a mindfulness foundation, which is really the aim for young kids.