We know about the benefits of teaching children about meditation and mindfulness but how do we put that into practice? While the idea is great, the practice sometimes goes a little awry, so here are some terrific tips we found from Kidsstuffworld and HuffingtonPost that we’re borrowing…
1. Mindful Smelling. Collect a few household items for your children to smell, like fresh herbs, an orange, lavender, strawberries. Let your children smell each item and ask them to think about how it makes them feel. For example, “Lemon makes me feel energetic”, “Chocolate makes me feel hungry!”
2. The Happy/Sad Shuffle. Play a collection of songs one by one and identity whether the song is happy or sad. Ask your children what makes them think it is sad or happy – e.g. pace, volume, and pitch of the notes. You can try this in the car or during wind-down before bed time.
3. The Happiness Board. Print family photos, sketch pictures of warm memories, or cut out happy scenes from magazines with your children. Make a collage with the pictures and hang it somewhere the children will see often. When you’re sitting down together, ask your children to look at the board and reminisce with you.
4. Active Listening. Take a walk and encourage your children to be quiet for while you identify all the sounds you can hear together, e.g. birds singing, passing cars, the hum of cicadas.
5. Breathing Buddies. Ask your children to down on their backs with a favorite stuffed animal in their arms. Encourage them to watch Teddy rise and fall as they slowly inhale and exhale. Learning to focus on breathing is an important life skill, but it can be hard for children to grasp the idea so a visible cue, like a soft toy rising and falling, can help them better understand what we mean when we say, “Take a deep breath.”
6. Resonating Sound. Ask your children to take a few deep breaths while they wait for you to make a sound, such as with a bell, a chime, a note on the piano, or even a spoon striking a pot. When they hear the sound, ask them to listen closely as the sound resonates and then fades away. When they finally can’t hear it anymore, ask them to raise their hand.
7. A Gratitude Habit. Practice gratitude regularly by taking a few moments each day to each share something you are grateful for. You can do this in the car, just before dinner, or before bedtime.
8. Body Over Mind. How we hold our bodies shape the messages we send ourselves, not just the people around us. Try a few poses with your children and think about how strong each one makes you feel. These are especially great if you child is nervous about something, like an upcoming test or sporting event.
- The Superman: Fists clenched, arms straight out above you, feet planted firmly a foot apart.
- The Boss: Fists clenched, hands on hips, feet planted firmly.
- The Sphinx (for the yogis out there): Body flat on the ground, belly down. Elbows under your shoulders, supporting your upper body. Palms to the ground. Head and eyes straight forward.
9. Superpower Activation. Ask your children to choose a place on their body that activates their superpower senses. Every time they touch their activation site (an earlobe, their nose, a freckle or birthmark), they suddenly can hear, smell, taste, touch, and see with superpower senses.
10. Touch Points. Choose a place in your home that can serve as a reminder for your whole family so that each time you touch that spot – for example, the handle on the front door – you can pause to take in your surroundings and live in the moment for that instant.
11. Conscious Walking. Take a walk with your children and look out for things you haven’t seen before.
12. Check your personal weather report. Ask your child to sit as still as a statue and come up with a weather report that best describes their feelings at that moment. Is it sunny, rainy, stormy, calm, windy, or a tsunami? This activity allows children to observe their current state without overly identifying with their emotions. Just as they can’t change the weather outside, we can’t change our emotions or feelings either. All we can change is how we relate to them. Children can learn to recognise that: “I am not the downpour, but I notice that it is raining; I am not a scaredy-cat, but I realize that sometimes I have this tight feeling in my throat.”
13. Make a Mind Jar. A mind jar is a bit like a snow globe – shake it up and watch the storm! As you sit and breathe and simply watch the disturbance, it eventually settles. This is the same with your mind.
14. Practice mindful eating. The exercise of mindfully eating a raisin or a piece of chocolate is a basic mindfulness practice, and it is a terrific one for children. Try this script for a seven-minute mindful eating exercise for children.