Although many of us adults have taken a step back to reassess mindfulness during the Pandemic, we can’t say it’s been the same for children.
In fact, many of us were simply trying to find ways to keep our children occupied. Perhaps some of us tried to convince our children that nothing had really changed and that everything was okay. On the other hand, some may have made sure their children were aware of the dangers of contracting this virus and prohibited them from going out to play with friends. It was certainly a time of confusion for us all.
While many of us were working on ourselves, we may have incorporated a plethora of different skills or habits, such as eating more consciously, consistent workouts, learning how to meditate or play an instrument, etc. However, what did we do for the little ones in our lives?
Today we’re going to go over some mindfulness activities you can do with children, but we won’t stop you if you want to use these on yourself. Honestly, this can work for everyone!
Why do people seek out mindfulness?
- Build your confidence
- Improving physical health
- Improving mental health
- Increasing intellectual skills (memory, attention, concentration)
Mindfulness for children can help teach them the three critical skills developed in early childhood: paying attention and remembering information, shifting back and forth between tasks, and behaving appropriately with others. Here are some specific benefits of mindfulness for children:
- Improved cognitive outcomes, such as better attention and focus or higher grades.
- Improved social-emotional skills, such as emotion regulation, better behavior in school, higher empathy and perspective-taking, and better social skills.
- Greater well-being, for example, lower test anxiety, lower stress, fewer posttraumatic symptoms, and less depression.
I wish that I had been introduced to mindfulness a bit earlier on as a preventative method of emotion regulation instead of having it be taught to me as a struggling adult. Not only
Activity #1: Meditation
If adults can do this, why not get your kids to join along? You can simply throw a meditation on the Headspace app or any app on your phone.
Another option is to throw on something VISUAL. This is an example of a visualization meditation that works well for children who need visual stimulation in order to remain focused. As someone who meditates using an app, I realize I do need some kind of stimulation. This could be guided meditation to paint a picture or even walking meditation.
Here’s a great children’s meditation that anyone can use!
Doing a meditation together can help bond the family, calm and regulate your mood, whether you’re an adult or a child. It’s best to practice this habit consistently, just like you would for your own practice.
Activity #2: Art
Adult or child (or child stuck in an adult’s body), art can be a very therapeutic and calming way to settle down one’s mind. This is likely because it’s hard to focus on something else at the same time. Art typically requires the right side of your brain, and often 1 or both hands.
That being said, mindfulness does not always have to put someone in a quiet and peaceful state. Sometimes, being mindful means being able to express your sadness, anger, or any other emotion. It can be messy, loud, and/or active!
Many of the following examples can take place indoors or outside on the street! Not only will children like them, but teens can also benefit from some of these. Give them a go!
- Mindful Glitter Jar: Grab a Mason Jar. Add warm water to the jar until it fills up about 3/4. Then pour in glitter glue, and mix it with the water. Put in three drops of food colouring and stir. Then comes the fun part: pour in the glitter! Top up the jar with warm water so that it is almost all the way to the top. You just need a little gap at the top to help the mixture move and shake around. Screw on the lid, and you are ready to go. Kids really enjoy this one because they can shake the jar and watch the different swirling patterns. It can be pretty mesmerizing!
- Drawing or Painting: Take a pen, pencil, paint brush and start to draw as you take a deep breath in. When you release the breath (slowly) change the direction of the line. Keep doing this until you feel calm and your breath is under control. You can add other colors, drawings, or words in between the lines or on top.
- Photography: Had I know this one earlier, I would have started taking pictures when I was young! Photography helps you slow down and notice more: colors, textures, smells, and more. They’re fun to look at after the fact rather than the moment you take them. Take a bunch of pictures while you’re out, get home and upload them or just look at them on your camera or phone, and then perhaps even print one for a photo album. Organizing your photos can be a therapeutic exercise in and of itself!
Activity #3: Breathing exercises
This is a popular one in modern Western yoga classes. Breathing is the key to managing your central nervous system (CNS), which controls most functions of the body and mind. Breathing helps you to get out of the sympathetic, fight-or-flight, system, and helps you change gears into the parasympathetic, where you get more rest-and-digest benefits.
Many adults can benefit from deep and mindful breathing, but we often forget to dedicate time to do it!
Here’s a great video for those who are already attached to a tablet or phone screen. Although it may seem counter-intuitive to keep them on their devices, it’s also a great way to make sure they are focusing on one thing.
The visuals can help both adults and children learn how to breathe with ease. If the inhale or exhale is too long, don’t worry! You can shorten your breaths until you get used to the exercise.
You can use different props as well! Try using the following:
- A stuffed animal on a child’s belly when lying down will help them visualize taking deep breaths.
- Hoberman Sphere breathing**
- Deep-breathing GIF
There are lots more that can be found in some of the resources below!
Although I do not have children of my own, I was taught something called Brain Gym as a way to centre myself. This is an exercise that was created for children in order to strengthen the the corpus callosum, a thick bundle of nerve fibres that connects the right and left side of the brain.
Brain gym movements is used to connect both brain hemispheres (right and left), with the final aim of improving the brain functions, balancing the effects of daily stress and tension and, helping one reach an optimal state to help them stay in shape, to think, learn and concentrate at any time.
It’s not something everyone believes is super beneficial, and perhaps it doesn’t work for everyone. But my lack of coordination and my immediate calm after performing only a few Brain Gym exercises taught me that I don’t actually have the capacity to sit still and just relax. It was pretty frustrating, especially because I had so many bad habits already engrained in my body and mind.
Getting a child started on a mindfulness practice can be beneficial in so many ways, but I think the best thing about this is that you can be proactive about their mental health. Many times we try to fix a problem once it has already occurred. In this case, you’d be working on developping a child from scratch and helping them along the way. They’ll still make mistakes, get upset, and have meltdowns. We do this as adults, too! But you can help provide them with tools to avoid future meltdowns, or at least, shorten/dull the intensity of their stress or emotions.
If you’ve tried some of these exercises, please let me know in the comments below! If you’ve got any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!
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