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  • Writer's pictureAshley

Mindfulness for Kids

Updated: Jan 8, 2022

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of paying full attention to the present moment. It is intentionally slowing down and focusing. Some mindfulness practices will have you focus on breathing while others will focus on what is happening at the current moment. Overall, mindfulness can help children's brains.

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

There are several benefits of mindfulness for both children and adults. Here are some of the most common perks of practicing mindfulness:

  • Decreases stress and anxiety

  • Helps to achieve or maintain calm

  • Increases the ability to regulate emotions

  • Increases feelings of joy and happiness

  • Builds stamina and patience

  • Practices skills such as focus and attention

  • Improves impulse control and attentiveness

  • Improves executive functions like self-control, cognitive flexibility, and working memory

Why should kids practice mindfulness?

The earlier the habit is formed, the stronger it will become for the life ahead. Children face stress and adversity in school, groups, sports, etc. Modeling mindfulness practices and helping children grow those practices into habits provides them with tools that can be used to help them as the stressors grow and change in different seasons of life.

Mindfulness practices for children

Take time to pay attention to your 5 senses.

If you have flowers, take a moment or two to have your child focus on the smell of the flower, feel the petals, and describe it.

While eating, practice chewing slowly and thinking about how the food feels, smells, and tastes. Talk about it after a few minutes.

Playing in the sand or a sensory tub? Encourage your child to feel with their eyes closed and describe it to you.

Adopt a few different breathing exercises that you frequently practice.

(Hint: If you practice these when your child is calm, you can reference them when they are angry or anxious.)

Belly breathing - put your hand on your stomach, close your eyes, and practice feeling your stomach inflate and deflate as you breathe.

Blow out the candle - hold your fingers up in front of you, close your eyes, think about the air as you breathe it in (what does it feel like?) then gently blow out each finger candle as you exhale. Put the finger down once it has been “blown out”. When all the candles are gone, you are finished.

Shape breathing - you can download lazy 8s, triangles, stars, and squares that will help your child breathe through the visuals. Basically, you choose your shape, print it out, and laminate. Then when it is time to breathe you simply trace the shape, following the breathing patterns indicated.

Count your breath - Again there are several techniques, so choose one that is easy for your family. You can practice inhaling for one number and exhaling for the next. You can breathe in for 4, hold for 2, and out for 6.

Nostril breathing - Hold your finger to one nostril to block the air, breathe in for 5, then switch nostrils and breath out. Bonus: This one helps younger children develop nostril awareness which is very helpful when teaching them how to blow their noses!

Muscle Relaxation Practice

This exercise takes a little more time but it allows your child to become more aware of their own bodies and the muscles in them. You will need to begin with the expectation that doing the entire body will take some time and practice. Most children will need to build up their stamina slowly.

First, lay down with your child. Next, start at either your head or your feet and name one muscle or area of the body to tighten up, then release. Then, move to the next closest body part. You can do this for a specified number of minutes, until children are calm or ready for bed, or just certain parts of the body.

Listening Exercises for children

Ring a bell or chime - have your child close their eyes and listen to the bell for as long as they can. Try instruments to give your child further practice.

Name the sounds- When you are outside or in your house, have your child close their eyes and name all of the sounds they hear. Can they hear airplanes, birds, friends, or cars? What about the clock ticking, air conditioner running, and siblings talking?

The takeaway on mindfulness for kids

Mindfulness is an excellent practice for children. It gives them coping skills for life struggles, test-taking, and emotional regulation. It helps them to feel happier and less anxious. However, the kicker is that you can't simply tell children about these benefits. They will most likely, not understand or brush it off. #bummer They need to see you model and use these practices for yourself. It needs to become something they buy into and form the habit of, before the angry moments, or anxious thoughts. You have to buy into the practices in order to help your children!

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