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Inside: A basic introduction to mindfulness, and how you can introduce mindfulness to kids. Lots of resources, including scripts, books and videos.
It’s quite a popular topic these days. But what does that even mean? And how exactly do you teach it to kids?
What is Mindfulness?
Put in the simplest terms, mindfulness is being aware of what’s happening in the present moment. It’s not about trying to clear your mind, but allowing thoughts and emotions to come and go without judgment and familiarizing ourselves with the present moment. It takes practice to be able to do this.
In his TED Talk on Mindfulness, Andy Puddicombe uses a metaphor of juggling to go through some typical reactions to mindfulness, such as getting anxious about being anxious, intrusive thoughts coming in over and over again. He normalizes these experiences and encourages people to keep trying.
Why should we teach it to kids?
Kids are stressed out these days. They may feel pressure from school. They may be quite busy with after school activities. It’s hard to slow down in such a fast paced world. But it’s important that children learn how to do just that - slow down. Mindfulness helps kids focus on the present instead of focusing on the past or future. As they grow into adults, they need to learn to manage stress in healthy ways and make sure they have a healthy balance in their lives.
Mindfulness can be a helpful tool for kids who have challenges with self-regulation or difficulty managing emotions, or want to improve their concentration. it would be helpful for them to be able to calm down and be aware of the present. When they are aware of the present, it will help them be more able to see what’s happening around them and settle themselves and their minds.
To teach Mindfulness to kids, work on your own mindfulness first
First, as a parent or teacher, you need to start with your own mindfulness practice. Since you’re also practicing mindfulness, talk about it. When the opportunity presents itself, talk about how you used mindfulness during your day. Perhaps you took a few mindful minutes before a stressful meeting. Or you took a mindful walk. Kids learn by seeing what the adults in their lives do.
Work together as a family on mindfulness, at the child’s pace.
Start with just simple breathing exercises. Then focus on the senses. Try listening mindfully, eating a treat mindfully or taking a walk mindfully using all of your senses. Introduce exercises when things are calm and your child is in a good space. Try to do some mindfulness activities as a family. It could be a great way to connect with one another. Keep the time short, especially if your child is on the younger side.
Try to incorporate mindfulness on a regular basis at home. Pick one or two days a week and set a short time limit to start. It’s not going to go perfectly, nor will it last a long time when you first begin. Remember to let your child set the pace. If they’re done, don’t push it. It may not go as you planned, but the important thing is to keep trying.
Scripts and Activities to Encourage Mindfulness:
Teaching Mindfulness to Children at Home and at School - a great video from Go Zen!
Sitting Still Like a Frog - A great list of audio exercises for kids, including one called Sleep Tight. I’ve used that one with my own daughter. She also wrote a book Sitting Still Like a Frog that’s a wonderful way to start working on mindfulness in your family
Annaka Harris - InnerKids - There are several scripts available from the InnerKids program. I had my daughter try the calming one before she did her homework. She loved it.
Kristina Sargent - The Art of Social Work - Here are a couple of kids activities for mindfulness and feelings. Kristina has also written a book to help kids with mindfulness, Ursula Unwinds Her Anger. My son loved reading through this book with me. He loved looking at the different colors and figuring out what feeling was associated with what color.
Spider Man Meditation - My kids love superheroes. This is a great way to use that interest to work on increasing their focus and awareness.
3 SImple Exercises to try with kids from Mindful.org
Mindful Time in Nature - I love these ideas for different nature walk activities you can do. The next time I go on a walk with my family, I plan to make part of it a mindful walk. But I also know that I can’t expect the kids to be mindful for a full 60 minute walk. We’ll try to be mindful on the walk for short bursts of time, just a couple of minutes here and there.
5 Strategies to Teach Mindfulness to Children from Baby Buddha
Yoga Card Deck - Yoga and Mindfulness Practices for Children from Jennifer Cohen Harper. She also wrote Little Flower Yoga for Kids, a wonderful resource. She does a fantastic job explaining the connection between yoga and mindfulness and has tons of great activities for kids and families.
A Still Quiet Place - Another great mindfulness video from Go Zen!
Other resources about mindfulness practice with kids:
Why Mindfulness is Good for Children from Blissful Kids
Tackling anxiety with Mindfulness - Watch these middle schoolers manage their anxiety with simple mindfulness exercises.