Being in the moment. Staying present. Most of us know mindfulness is about fully experiencing, without judgment, whatever is happening right now. But we may not know how much this practice can help our children—or how easy it is to get started.
Kids have a natural dose of open-minded curiosity and acceptance when they’re enjoying experiences in the moment. Yet external stressors and chaotic lifestyles can make it difficult for them to know how to relax, or even how to notice and understand their emotions.
Mindfulness can help with this, and it may also help with something that looms large in the fall: academic performance. One small study, for example, found kids in Grades 4 and 5 scored better on math tests and demonstrated better working memory after taking a four-month mindfulness program.
So … who’s ready to get mindful?
3 Kid-friendly mindfulness exercises
1. Mindful breathing
Ask your kiddo to describe the sensation of their breath as it enters and exits their body. Is it warm? Cool? Do they notice any other sensations? Encourage them to focus on what a deep breath feels like throughout their body. Do they notice any effects on tightness they may be holding on to elsewhere? It might be helpful for younger kids to visualize their breath, adding colors or textures. Encourage their creative experience without directing it.
2. Mindful eating
Introduce mindful eating with a raisin or other fruit. Have your child hold the fruit and really feel it, looking closely at the ridges and colors. Then have them hold it on their tongue, tasting it without immediately biting into it. This teaches how we often quickly chew our food without really experiencing the taste and texture or noticing when we are full. Using all the senses in this exercise also teaches kids to fully engage with the pleasurable process of eating. (And hey—it’s a good reminder for adults too!)
To take your family’s mindfulness practice to the next level, create a quiet, peaceful space or a special corner away from computers, TVs, phones, and devices. Add a cushion or two—get cozy! If possible, keep the room or space solely for practice: a special sanctuary for your little one.
3. Mindful movement
Invite your little one to stand and stretch their body with their arms raised up high, imagining they are literally reaching for the stars or the moon (or have them share their own creative visualization). Ask them how it feels to stretch their body fully.
Then, with feet planted firmly on the ground and arms back by their sides, have them move their body side to side, allowing their arms to swing where they may. This is a natural tension easer and may spark a few giggles. That’s great! Keep it fun and joyful.
Remember that each child is unique, and there are no hard rules to follow or goals to be achieved. Some days your kiddo may be engaged and keen, while on others they may be uninterested. Stay patient and trust that the results may not be immediate or obvious from day one—but they’ll soon appear.
Why start a mindfulness practice with your kids?
- reduces stress
- fosters compassion
- improves focus
- enhances sense of well-being
- lessens emotional reactivity