Standard education ensures that my children learn everything the state thinks they should know—mostly reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Even student-driven models of learning and homeschool education put a strong focus on academics and tangible applications of knowledge.
I understand that, in today’s world, my kids need to graduate with a certain level of book-based intellect.
But who is teaching them to be mindful?
The hectic pace of today’s culture of doers and thinkers means we’ve lost our sense of stillness. There is not as much outdoor play and discovery, where opportunities to slow down and appreciate small moments in nature abound and help us to recharge and be in the moment.
Instead, tests are taken, calendars are kept, appointments are made, and activities move from one to another, all while we frantically chatter thoughts at one another.
Here are the top five things I do at home to teach my kids the importance of staying present and how to be more mindful:
1. Regular time in nature
Forest bathing and just sitting quietly in nature have proven health benefits and help kids stay more present. The natural world is the greatest teacher of presence and the beauty of stillness. I encourage my kids to play outside regularly, ride bikes, roll down the hill, or just sit and watch natural moments unfold.
2. Coin flip method
I teach my kids to turn their mood around with the flip of a coin. I tell my kids to close their eyes and picture a coin where one side is joy and happiness and the other is all their “blah” feelings. They take a deep breath and imagine the coin flipping to joy! It really helps them to understand that, even if they can’t always control what happens to them, they can control how they react emotionally. It’s a simple exercise that offers incredible benefits.
It’s so simple that even my three-year-old does it!
3. Breath bear
Don’t forget to breathe! I encourage my kids to use a stuffed animal (like a teddy bear) on the tummy, and then watch as the bear rises and falls with their breath. It’s a great visual aid to help them become more mindful of each breath as the bear moves up and down.
4. Simple yoga moves
Yoga poses, like Tree pose, Downward Dog, Child’s pose, or a simple series of poses like Sun Salutations, help my children become more mindful of their bodies. It’s a great centering activity after they come home from school, especially on stressful test days.
5. Gratitude journal
This one is on our list to implement as a family. We will all take a moment each day to write down things that we’re grateful for. It is a great way to teach mindful presence—and is the fastest route to happiness.
The best thing I can do for my children is teach them mindful practice in everyday situations before they need to use it to move through an emotional time. I’m even writing a children’s book series that encourages mindfulness.
We should all be encouraging our kids to become more self-aware, tap into their inner wisdom, and inspire others through positive action and kindness.