Decades of research has shown how beneficial practicing mindfulness can be for adults. It’s no wonder studies are now finding the same benefits can extend to children.
Here are 5 kid-friendly mindfulness activities you can teach in 10 minutes or less, starting today.
We’re living in a time where new-agey ideas and practices are everywhere! It’s understandable why some might be skeptical when they hear the term mindfulness. But I’m here to tell you that this practice isn’t some New-Age mumbo jumbo. It’s roots are actually Buddhist. No matter where it originated, there are some super legit studies and research to support the use of this practice.
First things first. What is mindfulness anyway?
Mindfulness is intentionally becoming aware of what’s happening in the present moment. When a child asks, the answer I give them is mindfulness is paying attention to what’s happening around you right now this very second. It’s pretty easy for them to understand when put this way.
Second, what’s the point of teaching it to your kids?
Simply put, its proven to be quite effective at teaching them to deal with life’s bullshit. Studies show teaching children mindfulness techniques benefits their brains and their behavior. Mindfulness has been shown to help with:
- stress relief
Not to mention the cognitive and social benefits. Children who practice mindfulness tend to get better grades and also get along better with their peers. Who doesn’t want that? Do you need any better incentives?
In case you’re wondering exactly how incorporating some simple practices into your child’s life could yield such significant results, experts say mindfulness helps to alleviate stress by improving emotion regulation, leading to a better mood and better ability to handle stress (Remmers, Topolinski, & Koole, 2016).
Research that examined the parts of the brain associated with memory retrieval, decision making, and outward attention,found evidence to support that practicing mindfulness bridged the gap between these and improved mental health and job performance (Gartenschläger, Schreckenberger, Buccholz, Reiner, Beutel, Adler, & Michal, 2017).
Kids today face just as much pressure and stress as adults and we now know they can benefit in the exact same way as adults from being mindful. These practices don’t require your child to pop a pill, are 100% natural, can be done anywhere, and have no ill side effects. So why not start teaching them today?
Keep in mind the purpose of teaching them these exercises and try not to use these practices as discipline. You want your child to make a positive association with being mindful. A few other things to remember:
- Keep it simple
- Keep it age appropriate
- Ditch the electronics
Here are five simple, yet fun ways to start practicing mindfulness with your kids today. The best part, these can be done in only 10 minutes or less!
- Play the noticing game
This can be done anywhere but I prefer to do this while on a walk. A simple walk around the block or cul-de-sac will suffice. The trick to getting kids to want to participate in just about anything is making a competition of it. Explain you’re playing a game and the objective is to see who “notices” the most around them. For the first two minutes of the walk have everyone be completely silent and make a mental note of the things they notice. Have each child try to come up with something from each of the following categories: touch, smell, sight, sound. After two minutes have them focus on what they felt. Wind in their hair? Hard asphalt beneath their feet, mist from a sprinkler nearby? Then have them identify the kinds of sounds they heard. A barking dog bark? Chirping bird? Car driving by? Do this until you’ve covered all the senses.
- Use your Spidey-senses
So this it totally not original, but such an awesome idea, I just had to share it. I found this exercise over at Kids Relaxation. Basically, to encourage kids to be aware of the present moment you pretend that you are Spiderman and activate your Spidey senses. Take a moment to focus on each of the senses sight hearing smell taste and touch. Ask what do you smell right now. What do you hear right now?
3. Start a gratitude practice
Another way to help children become more aware is to have them focus their attention on the positives in their lives. Come up with a gratitude practice that works for your family. At dinner, whether it be in the dining room or on the run in the car, I have each child tell something positive that happened to them that day or what they’re grateful for. If they chose to list what they’re grateful for the list has to be equal to their age. And they have to do this before they can take their first bite.
- Blindfolded taste tests.
This teaches them mindful eating. Blindfold your child and give them a small bite of a specific food, like a grape or an orange. Tell them to move the food around in their mouth for about 60 seconds or so to see if they can figure out what it is. Have them focus on the taste, texture, and temperature. Is it sweet, sour? Chewy and soft? Hard and brittle? Hot or cold? Research also shows that not focusing on your food while eating contributes to obesity. Just one more reason to start this good habit with your kids.
- Heartbeat Exercise
Run in place for 60 secs. Then have your child place their hand over their heart. This teaches them to focus on their heart beat. Note the differences between beats right after running compared to when at rest. This is a good time to teach them to notice their breathing as well.
Incorporating new habits into your child’s life doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. Just 10 minutes a day is all it takes to get started. Remember, keep it simple.