The practice of mindfulness offers a plethora of benefits to a child’s growing mind and body. Mindful practices allow them to unplug and check-in with themselves. Through this process of checking in, children begin to have a better understanding and ability to cope with their emotions and feelings. It also helps them with noticing the positives, developing a sense of appreciation, and feelings of gratitude. So, let’s talk about mindfulness for children and how parents can help teach their children to practice mindfulness (as well as improve their own mindfulness skills).
Mindfulness Techniques: When You are Short on Time
As a busy parent, you’re likely often short on time but that doesn’t mean you have to skip the mindfulness practice. Try one of these right before bed or take a moment to pause while you’re out and about.
- Place a pillow or favourite stuffed animal on your child’s tummy
- Encourage them to breathe deep into their belly while inhaling and exhaling slowly: their tummy should move up on the inhale, and down on the exhale
- Belly breathing may feel different to them as usually, we breathe into our chests, but this will start to relax them
- A perfect activity for right before bed
Finger Counting Breaths
- Have your child make gentle fists with both hands, with each breath have them uncurl a finger (E.g., inhale slowly, then on the exhale release a thumb)
- Continue until all fingers on both hands have been released
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
- Teach your child to take a moment to appreciate their surroundings
- Admire a particularly beautiful leaf while walking to school, a newborn baby at the grocery store, or the smell of a fresh hot chocolate
Mindfulness Techniques: When You Have a Bit More Time
When you have a bit more time you can try one of these longer mindfulness practices for children.
Draw Your Emotions
- Sometimes children have difficulty explaining or naming the way that they feel, so drawing can be a great way for them to be mindful of how they are feeling
- Implement this activity at different times, not just when your child is upset
- It’s okay to give them some ideas for feelings (e.g., happy, sad, angry, excited)
- This is probably not the silent game you played as a kid!
- It’s best to have the child engage in this activity when they are already peaceful or calm
- Ask the child to keep their bodies and minds still
- Use an hourglass timer to aid the child in knowing how much time is left (one minute is a good start!)
- After the time is up, ask the child what they felt or saw during that time
Tense and Release Muscle Activity
- Starting at the feet, have the child squeeze the muscles in their feet, then slowly release them
- Next, have them move to the muscle in their calves, tensing and releasing
- Have them slowly move up their bodies, tensing and releasing muscles as they go
- Have the child reflect on each of their five senses (something they can see, smell, touch, hear, and taste)
- If the child is older, have them name 3 or more for each sense
- This is a great grounding exercise for anxious children
Mindfulness for Children and Parents: Techniques to Do Together
Of course, mindfulness is just as important for parents as it is for children. So, while learning about mindfulness for children it’s also important to keep in mind that we should all be practicing our mindfulness techniques. Here are some practices you can do together with your children, or as a whole family.
Share a three breath hug
- While hugging your child, take three deep breaths together
- Relax your shoulders and any other muscles that feel tight
- Be present in the moment with your child
- This is great for good-bye hugs in the morning or just for fun!
Establish a Gratitude Practice
- Use this technique to encourage your child (and your whole family!) to reflect on the abundance they have in their lives
- This could be done by going around the dinner table and reflecting on one thing you are grateful for
- Stretching, moving, and feeling present in the body can be very grounding for children (and people of all ages!)
- Try getting outside and practicing some poses or even in your living room
- There are many great online resources for child-friendly practices:
Check Your ‘Personal Weather’ Report
- Ask your child if they were weather, what type of weather would they be
- For example, cloudy, sunny, snowing, rainy, cloudy, windy
- Go around the dinner table and ask everyone in the family!
When we talk about mental wellness we talk a lot about mindfulness practices, but specific mindfulness practices for children are addressed less often. Not only is mindfulness helpful for children to practice to better understand and cope with their emotions but beginning the practice at a young age helps to set them up for success as adults. Do keep in mind that not all of the techniques are going to work with every child, and different ones may work better depending on your child’s age and stage of development. So, give a number of these mindfulness techniques a try and find out which ones work best. And remember that all of these require practice.