Mindfulness for Elementary Aged Children (and children at heart!)
I am lucky to not only have two teenagers in my home, but also a 3rd grader. For her, this quarantine feels very different than it does for her older brother and sister. I have to imagine that many young children are struggling in different ways with everything that is going on. It is never too early to teach kids mindfulness. As a matter of fact, I think that the earlier we teach our children this tremendous life skill the better. Here are a few ways to introduce and practice mindfulness with children:
- Teddy Breathing – This is one of my favorite techniques to use especially at bed times. Have your child choose their favorite teddy bear or stuffed animal. Have them lie down and put the stuffed animal on their belly. Teach them to take notice their breath by watching the bear on their belly. This is a great way to calm a child and a great foundation to other mindfulness exercises. Click HERE to watch a short video that describes this technique.
- Journaling – One of my favorite things to do with my children is journaling. Create a journal where you communicate with your child back and forth. Ask them questions about what they are feeling and have them respond in writing back to you. Not only does this make a great keepsake, but it also gives those children who have a hard time opening up the opportunity to put their feelings in writing. Some of the hardest conversations have started with sort of communication.
- Coloring – Coloring is just as mindful for children as it is for adults!! There is a reason that kids love this activity and do it for hours. Now is a great time to have your child color or paint pictures to put in the windows of your home.
- Color Hunt – Choose a color and have your child silently walk around outside or in the house looking and noticing everything that they can find in that color. Have them write down what they found our simply point it out to you.
- Play dough – Anytime we do anything creative, it can be considered mindful. For some children, the kneading of clay or play dough and creating with it can be very therapeutic and calming. (maybe not so much for mom and dad, but I will have another post for you!!)
- Gratitude – Teaching children gratitude, especially at a time like this is such a great exercise. Each night or at any point in the day, teach your child to make a list of at least 5 things that they are grateful for. Talk to them about the good that you are finding in this unstable time.
- Mindful Walks – Very similar to the walks that I spoke about with older kids, make your walks mindful with your child. Take time to have them listen for sounds of nature. Take a small bag to collect stones. Stop and teach them to smell the flowers.
- Listen to the Bell – One of the first ways that I introduce my students to mindfulness is to teach them to listen to a chime or bell. You can use an actual bell or you can download the app Insight Timer and use one of the tones that they have. Have your child listen to the bell from the start until the end. They can even practice raising their hand when they no longer hear the tone. This will help them to pay attention to the sound.
- Practice with them – When kids see that you have a mindfulness practice and that you carve out time in your day for it, they will see the importance as well.
- Read a book about mindfulness – This is a time when there are a wide variety of really great children’s books that talk about mindfulness. Many do such a wonderful job of discussing kindness, empathy, compassion and self care as well. Here are some of my favorites:
I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness by Susan Verde. (Click HERE to hear the book read aloud!)
Puppy Mind by Andrew Jordan Nance (Click HERE to hear the book read aloud!)
A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles Book by Thich Nhat Hanh