As a parent or guardian, you want your child to have the skills and tools necessary to lead a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life. Mindfulness is one such skill. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judgment.
Research has shown that mindfulness can help children cope with stress, improve their focus and concentration, and enhance their self-esteem
But mindfulness is not just for adults, it can be learned and practiced by kids too!
This article will provide a comprehensive overview of mindfulness for children including its importance and techniques for teaching it in an engaging way.
Why is Mindfulness Significant for Children?
Mindfulness is a mental state attained by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, calmly acknowledging and accepting one's emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations. Teaching mindfulness techniques to kids allow them to be better understand their thoughts and emotions and respond to stressful situations in a healthier manner.
Benefits of mindfulness for children:
- Improved Focus and Concentration
- Better Academic Performance
- Decreased Stress and Anxiety
- Enhanced Self-Awareness
- Better Emotional Regulation
- Stronger Relationships with Others
Why Teach Mindfulness To Kids
Teaching mindfulness to kids can help them become the masters of their own minds. While their brains are not yet fully developed, children are constantly absorbing what they experience from their environment. With the experience to know what is a good habit or a bad habit, they often find themselves at odds with structures adults place before them.
Mindfulness interventions assist children in their development of impressive skills. With a greater grasp on their focus, they will find paying attention and remembering information much easier, while swiftly transitioning between tasks with ease. What's more, kids with a deep understanding of mindfulness practice develop a greater sense of empathy, which promotes healthy and appropriate behaviors with others.
These abilities are known together as executive functions the key components for successful planning ahead and problem solving so they can make meaningful relationships as they learn and grow.
How to Teach Mindfulness for Children
Teaching mindfulness to children can be enjoyable and interactive. Here are some tips for incorporating mindfulness into your child's life:
- Begin with Simple Breathing Exercises: Encourage your child to take a few deep breaths, focusing on their breathing and counting from one to four on the inhale and from one to four on the exhale - This is a technique known as Four Square Breathing.
- Encourage Appreciation Practice: Ask your child, "Do you ever feel disappointed by someone or something?. Allow them to answer and lead with "How did that make you feel?" Then, express and show appreciation by stating something like, "I bet when you are feeling down an disappointed there are good things happening around you, too. Let's name 3". When you practice appreciation games, just remind your child that the goal is to not pretend that they are upset when they are not. It's to remember that they can express gratitude for good things while feeling sad.
- Play Games: Games such as "I Spy" or "What's the Sound?" can help develop mindfulness skills in children. These types of games allow children to be present in the moment while using their senses.
- Make it a Part of Your Daily Routine: Encourage your child to take a moment every day to focus on their breath. You can do this as a family right before you leave the leave the house or even start the car. You can also encourage kids to have share three good things from their day right before you eat dinner.
- Play with Arts and Crafts: Kids love to craft and use their hands while building something they can showcase to their parents, friends and family because they have a sense of satisfaction and proudness. Allow them to be in the moment crafting with paints, glitter, markets, or even clay.
- Work Up to Meditation: When and if your child is ready to meditate you can ask the, to lay down where ever they feel comfortable, and to lay a stuffed animal on their stomach; begin to take deep breaths. Have them recognize and become aware of the stuffed animal rising on each inhale and falling on each exhale.
- Utilize Technology: There are many apps and videos designed specifically for children that teach mindfulness in an engaging way. Apps that include: Headspace for kids, Meditation for kids, Mindful Meditation Area, Smiling Mind, and Sleep Meditations for Kids are a variety of apps that can be used for a resource.
If any one of these tips seems daunting to unleash upon your children, just know that there are various ways you can introduce the concept of mindfulness your kids while they enjoy familiar activities.
A Sweet Introduction
If you have older children who are not behaving well, or refuse to listen to you, asking them to do anything out of the ordinary without a fuss may cause more headaches than provide benefits. However, a subtle introduction to mindfulness can instill a sense of appreciation in the otherwise mundane.
One example is to try a fun game of savoring the smell, texture and taste while enjoying snacks. After behaving well or getting good marks at school, hand them a mystery-flavored candy or a snack they have never had and have them mull over what the flavors are and grade how much they like the texture, taste, smell, and flavor. Offer them rewards for thinking critically or providing insights.
Explain that this exercise is not about getting something correct or even arriving at a desired conclusion, but that curiosity is more important than getting things right all the time, despite what they may be taught in school. This is a lesson in mindfulness.
Unfortunately, as our world becomes more globalized, humanity becomes more atomized and separated from each other. This leads all of us to spend our time in front of screens, watching fast-moving entertaining media, releasing reward hormones, and creating addictions to the artificial.
This is the antithesis of what being mindful is about.
Negative and Positive Reinforcement
As a parent, it is your job to ensure your children learn how to think critically for themselves. We cannot rely on teachers, the government, or society to mold our children for us. Instead, we need to take the reins in our own hands and create an environment that rewards being present.
For many parents, this means removing stimuli (limited screen usage, no tv or video games after a certain time, etc.). However, negative reinforcement serves more as a dividing mechanism when the punishment is inconsistent, or there isn't a clear understanding of what the desired action is for the child to take.
For negative reinforcement to work, you need to meet three criteria with the punishment:
- Contingency - Apply the punishment only whenever a targeted behavior appears.
- Contiguity - Apply the punishment immediately and without delay.
- Consistency - Apply the punishment every time the targeted behavior appears.
Shift Punishments to Mindful Activity and Rewards
In addition to limiting external stimuli, rewarding mindful behaviors with access to external stimuli may direct desired outcomes. Just be careful not to anchor mindful activities to a punishment. Instead, apply a mindful activity as a recovery from the punishment.
For instance, a "think about what you've done" grounding punishment can become a mindful activity. "You are grounded until you journal about what happened and your participation in it. Analyze why things happened the way they did and how you could have behaved differently and avoided causing trouble."
Reward your child with something they enjoy after they complete the activity and you go over it with them together. Use this as an opportunity to spend time with them and mindfully listen to them without getting angry or judging them.
This can be easier said than done, so allow time for it grow and build - Similar to building a muscle.
When children are seeking attention from parents, employ mindful activities instead of watching television to distract them.
Mindful Arts & Crafts Glitter Jar For Kids
Kids often face external stressors they can't express with words. Finding creative ways to help them understand the link between their feelings and actions is an important part of development, which snow globes or glitter jars do perfectly.
Through these beautiful visual metaphors we demonstrate how mindfulness – recognizing the stressful lives while staying still within ourselves an be a powerful tool. This practice works whether you are an adult or young.
- Use a mason jar, plastic water bottle or even a spice jar with a proper lid
- At least three different color glitters that sinks rather than floats.
Please, note If you prefer something more eco-friendly, you can use different colored beads, food coloring or oil, or even Legos if you have those in the house.
How To Create a Glitter Jar
- Fill jar to the top with water and have your child pick three colors of glitter to represent thoughts, feelings and behaviors (urges to do things).
- Drop a few pinches of color glitter into the water. The glitter will represent the mind.
- Add your glycerin
- Seal jar with lid or duct tape.
How to Use Glitter Jar:
- Ask your child what type of things they think they will make the glitter swirl encouraging answers that reflect distressing events like fighting with their sibling, losing in a sport, or even being mad at mom or dad.
- Ask your child what type of things they think will make the glitter swirl by for positive events like making a new friend or getting a good grade.
- As your child to identify scary things like getting sick, or falling down at school, or starched by a kitty cat.
- Each time you child identifies a situation, scenario or event swirl the jar. This demonstrates how it become difficult to keep track and clearly see what our thoughts, feelings are urges are.
Suggested Scripts to be Used While Using the Glitter Jar:
- "This glitter jar represents our mind and each color of glitter represents something different in the mind".
- "When we wake up, things are pretty settled an you can clearly see that in this jar by everything sunk at the bottom, but pretty soon when we wake up late or eat breakfast late, things can begin to swirl in our mind".
- "Your big sister eats the last pancake and makes you feel a certain way, now your mind will begin to swirl (swirl jar).
- "Now you are at school, and it's hard to know what your thoughts, behavior and urges are because there are so many people around"
- So, what can you do to help the swirling an glitter to stop moving in the mind? Be still."
- "Be still and breathe. Notice what you see, what you smell, what you feel, what you hear. Just for a few moments, enough to make it all settle back down to the bottom."
- By being still, it helps you see more clearly, and keeps your urges, behaviors and feelings organized (like their favorite things they like to organize, toys, games, socks etc.).
Is Mindfulness Safe for Children?
Yes, mindfulness is completely safe for children. It is a gentle and non-invasive practice that can help kids manage stress and improve their well-being.
At What Age Should Mindfulness be Taught to Children?
There is no set age for teaching mindfulness to kids, but it is generally recommended to start around five or six years old. Younger children can benefit from simple mindfulness activities, such as deep breathing.
How Long Should Children Practice Mindfulness Each Day?
The duration of mindfulness practice for children depends on their age and development. However, even a few minutes of mindfulness each day can have a positive impact on their well-being.
How Can I Tell if My Child is Practicing Mindfulness Correctly?
The most important factor is for your child to be engaged and interested in the mindfulness activity. If they seem bored or disinterested, it may be time to try a different activity or approach.
I am pregnant with my second child, is there something I can do to help the learning stages of mindfulness before my next child is born?
Keep in mind what the definition of mindfulness is. Being present in the moment with all your sense can help you while being pregnant and living a healthy lifestyle. Mindful pregnancy's and mindful birthing may be in your interest. You an talk to a personal care provider, or acupuncturist into women's health for more needs.
Mindfulness is a crucial tool for children's happiness and well-being. By teaching kids to be mindful, you can equip them with the skills they need to manage stress, improve their focus and concentration, and lead a happier, healthier life.