Practicing Mindfulness with Kids

There’s a simple way to help your child be happier, less anxious, more focused and compassionate; it’s called mindfulness. Here’s what you need to know about practicing mindfulness and sharing this valuable life skill with your children.

What It Is & Isn’t
Mindfulness is a practice that lets you see and understand the world right now, in the present. It’s about awareness; noticing feelings, thoughts, physical sensations and anything that’s happening around us. It’s without any judgments. There are no bad or good feelings, right or wrong, pretty or ugly, there just is. Mindfulness is not the same as meditation (though it may have stemmed from centering yourself during meditation), nor is it about turning your kids into little Zen-masters. They are after all kids and there still will be tantrums and more, but if you practice mindful responses (not reactions) to their actions, they’ll learn how much easier and pleasant their experiences in the world can be.

Ways to Practice
Mindfulness can be developed by practicing fun exercises that teach kids how to connect to their world and their feelings. It lets them tune out noisy distractions and feel balanced. Remember to keep it simple and directed towards things your kids find interesting. Tell them they’re building Spidey-sense, super powers like Spider Man!
1. Ring the Bell
Ask your kids to listen carefully to a sound until they can no longer hear it. Try ringing a bell once or tapping a singing bowl, or even playing a phone app with individual sounds that last about 30 to 60 seconds.
2. Breathing Buddy
One of the best ways to get your kids to understand what it means to take a deep breath (good for calming down) is to pay attention to how they breathe. Have your child take their favorite stuffed animals and place it on their chest while they’re lying down on their back. They can see and feel their breaths as the toy moves up and down.
3. Taste a Berry
Kids are often distracted when they eat and this simple exercise can help focus thoughts on their food. Hand your child a berry, or raisin, and let them feel it first. Is it soft? Does it have textures? How does it feel on their tongue? Name tastes like sweet, sour, salty, etc. After they swallow it, ask how long the taste stays in their mouth. As they get older this self-awareness helps kids focus on their bodies’ cues for hunger and fullness, not external cues like calorie- counting or unrealistic pictures of thin models.
4. Take a Noticing Walk
Kids love discovery games so take a walk around your neighborhood and find things they’ve never noticed before, to help them be mindful of their place in the world and appreciate nature. Stop for a minute and try to identify all the sounds or smells. Notice the feel of the ground, grass or pavement as you walk.
5. Squish and Relax
Have your kids lie down with their eyes closed. Tell them to squish the muscles in their toes and feet then release. Move on to tightening legs, sucking in stomachs, clenching fists and lifting their shoulders up to their ears, relaxing muscles after each part. This lets your kids become aware of their body and how they can control and relax it.
6. Reinforce Mindfulness with Stories
Read Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda by Lauren Alderfer or What Does It Mean to Be Present? by Rana Diorio to your kids. These books explain mindfulness in a fun, kid-friendly way that you’ll appreciate too.

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