Mindfulness is the "mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations" in a non-judgmental manner. Teaching children to practice mindfulness can benefit their healthy development in variety of ways. Mindfulness can help children deal with stress and anxiety, improve social skills, reduce rates of and/or mitigate the effects of bullying, increase focus in children with attention problems, increase compassion, and promote overall well-being and mental health.
Now, I'm sure you're thinking "that all sounds great but how am I going to wrangle energetic kiddos into a calm and mindful practice?" Well, keep in mind that mindfulness does not have to mean sitting still and quiet for half an hour. In fact, children may perceive that as a punishment! It's important to keep it fun for them and not to force it when kids are full of energy. When they need to run and jump, they should! Perhaps before bed time, or first thing in the morning, might be a better time to try one of the mindful activities listed below. Also remember that you, whether you are a parent, teacher, program director, or caretaker, are a role model to the children around you, and if you're not practicing mindfulness yourself, it will be difficult to pass it on to your little ones. Try a grown up version of any of these activities, spend 10 minutes a day meditating, or attend a beginners yoga class. If you are more present, your kiddos will be too.
The Mindful Jar: From PositivePsychology.com
First, get a clear jar and fill it almost all the way with water. Next, add a big spoonful of glitter glue, or glue and dry glitter, to the jar. Put the lid back on the jar and shake it to make the glitter swirl. Finally, use the following script or take inspiration from it to form your own mini-lesson:
“Imagine that the glitter is like your thoughts when you’re stressed, mad or upset.
See how they whirl around and make it really hard to see clearly? That’s why it’s so easy to make silly decisions when you’re upset – because you’re not thinking clearly. Don’t worry this is normal and it happens in all of us (yep, grownups too)."
Now put the jar down in front of them
"Now watch what happens when you’re still for a couple of moments. Keep watching. See how the glitter starts to settle and the water clears? Your mind works the same way. When you’re calm for a little while, your thoughts start to settle and you start to see things much clearer. Deep breaths during this calming process can help us settle when we feel a lot of emotions” (Karen Young, 2017).
This exercise not only helps children learn about how their emotions can cloud their thoughts, but it also facilitates the practice of mindfulness while focusing on the swirling glitter in the jar. Try having the kids focus on one emotion at a time, such as anger, and discuss how the shaken verse settling glitter is like that emotion.
Other Suggestions from PositivePsychology.com:
- Go on a nature walk and focus all of your attention on one aspect of nature at a time: a plant, bug, animal, water, tree, wind, etc.
- Lay down, close your eyes, and focus on just the top of your head. Then move to each part of your face, your neck, shoulders... all the way down your body until you reach the tips of your toes.
- Do jumping jacks for one minute. Then, sit down and place your hand over your heart. Notice your heartbeat and breathe until it slows back to it's normal rate.
Once you've tried these, get creative! Come up with your own mindful activities and share them with us on social media. We would love to share your ideas with our followers! Namaste!