The idea of “mindfulness for kids” has been floated around for a while now (no pun intended!). The Smiling Mind app has been an entry into mindfulness for kids for many Australian (and international) families. My nine-year-old uses it and both my boys are aware of what mindfulness is.
As the world grows more rushed and competitive, I want to teach my children the importance of staying ‘in the moment’.
It’s important that they learn how to prevent their thoughts and worries from running away with them. I wanted to know how to help them make mindfulness their every day lifelong practice, so I researched what’s out there and here’s what I’ve learned.
The benefits of mindfulness for kids
• There is evidence that primary school kids who practice five minutes of meditation a day are more resilient and more focused, with better task concentration.
• Mindfulness practice can help kids reduce anxiety and stress by helping them to manage their emotions and remain calm ahead of difficult events.
• Regular mindfulness can improve behaviour and self-esteem.
• Kids who learn to be mindful have greater self-awareness and empathy.
How do I teach my kids to be mindful?
Mindfulness for kids is more than meditation and a few minutes of ‘quiet time’. Mindfulness is being present, right here, right now. Being mindful is being focused on what we feel, hear, see and experience at any given moment. It’s being aware of our bodies and our surroundings and it’s having control of our mind; being able to bring our attention back to what’s in front of us when we’re getting carried away with ‘what ifs’ and ‘when wills’ and ‘whys’ and ‘why nots’.
For kids, mindfulness practice is really reminding them to do what they do naturally – to stay in the moment – and encouraging them to keep doing it.
How to practise mindfulness with older kids
(from Kids Matter)
• Mindful hearing. Ask older kids to pause and be aware of the sounds in their environment. You can use a guided meditation like this one or just pause when you’re out and about and prompt them to listen. What can they hear? Ask them to pick out as many sounds as possible. Then ask them how they feel after that minute or two of mindfulness.
• Mindful breathing. An awareness of breath is the basic skill underlying most meditation. This is a great exercise that you might like to try with older kids at bedtime. Ask them to lie still with hands on belly and closed eyes. Suggest that they take a slow, steady breath and imagine that breath travelling through their bodies down to their toes and back up through their bodies as they breath out. Repeat this for five in and out breaths. This is a great relaxation exercise as well as mindfulness practice.
How to practise mindfulness with little kids
(from Kids Matter)
• Give kids your full attention when speaking with them
• Give them a mindful hug
• Take them outside, get them to close their eyes, place different objects in their hands and ask them to describe and name the object using only touch
• Move slowly and ask them to mirror your movements, then change roles.
Practise what you preach
Mindfulness is a lived experience. We need to do it to know it and benefit from it. We also need to practise it ourselves if we want our kids to follow our lead. Investigate a few mindfulness apps or programs to help you learn how to stay in the moment and let your thoughts of past or future events simply drift. Calm is a good one, or try Headspace.
More ideas here: 12 apps that will give you a happiness boost
Other useful resources
The more I researched the more great tips I found for making mindfulness for kids fun and engaging. Check these out:
• Mind, Body, Green has 7 fun ways to teach your kids mindfulness.
• Mindful Monkey Happy Panda is a great book for the little people.
• Smiling Mind is a fantastic app.
• Janet Etty-Leal’s Meditation Capsules is chock full of resources for parents and schools.
Do you have tips for teaching mindfulness to kids?