Kids mindfulness is a vital part of a child’s development these days. Compared to a decade ago, children have far more information and communication to process.
If you think this deluge of information is stressful for adults, imagine what it does to kids who don’t fully understand the world or how to manage their emotions.
With global lockdowns in 2020, kids also have to deal with remote learning and playdates, something none of us ever had to grapple with as youngsters.
We will show through several references to studies that mindfulness for kids is highly effective for self-regulation, reducing anxiety, and increasing working memory and cognitive function.
What is Kids Mindfulness?
A 2020 study by Andrea Browning described kids mindfulness as:
“…the practice of cultivating attention to foster greater self-awareness and self-knowledge about thoughts, feelings, and sensations, and how they can affect one’s actions.“
Kids are naturally curious, so mindfulness is about developing a curious introspection to become more self-aware and familiar with their feelings and emotions.
Why do Kids Need Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is an essential tool to help kids, and adults, improve social, behavioural, and academic skills.
A 2013 study in the Journal of Children’s Services found that a regular kids mindfulness practice will help children to improve their long term mental health and well‐being, mood, self‐esteem, self‐regulation, positive behaviour and academic learning.
By starting early with mindfulness for kids, you can ensure that your child has the tools to navigate the complexities of life with a calmer, more focused mindset.
Kids mindfulness exercises also allow parents to interact and spend valuable time getting to know their child on a deeper level.
Benefits of Teaching Kids Mindfulness
In a two-year study, researchers monitored two groups of preschoolers. The first group followed a regular preschool routine, while the second introduced a kids mindfulness program.
At the end of the two-year study, researchers discovered improvements in working memory, planning and organising, higher vocabulary and reading scores in the mindfulness group.
How Do Kids Practice Mindfulness?
Kids mindfulness strives to achieve the same goal as a regular mindfulness practice—to develop an awareness of the unconscious mind.
We use mindfulness activities that encourage kids to be more mindful and curious about their feelings and emotions. For kids, this is often through play.
You don’t have to get your child to sit and meditate to practice mindfulness. All you have to do is look for opportunities where you can play mindfully.
This mindful play will usually encourage children to describe what they’re doing and how they’re feeling. As your child gets older, you can start more challenging mindfulness activities for kids like breathing exercises, journaling and eventually meditation.
Be Mindful as a Parent
Parents also influence children through their activities. For example, if you’re teaching mindfulness to your children, you need to be present yourself.
Put away the phone or other distractions and give your full attention to your child during any mindfulness or quality time with them.
Mindfulness for Infants and Toddlers
Most parents unknowingly teach their infants mindfulness. Have you ever touched something or eaten something and encouraged your child to do the same?
For example, getting your baby to feel a blanket and then encouraging them to repeat “blanket soft.” Or maybe fed your child a lemon, “sour.” In their most basic form, these are mindfulness activities for toddlers.
It isn’t easy to get infants and toddlers to sit still, so you need to turn everyday activities into mindfulness exercises. Bathtime, meals, and playtime are all fantastic opportunities to practise mindfulness for a baby.
Preschoolers Mindfulness (4 – 6 years)
Preschool is a great time to teach your kids mindfulness. With a growing vocabulary, insatiable curiosity, and seemingly endless amounts of energy, you can introduce fun mindfulness activities for preschoolers.
If you want to teach your kids yoga, this is the perfect age to start! Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube provides youngsters with a fun introduction to yoga with lessons as short as 3 minutes.
Also, consider toys and games aimed at mindfulness for kids. We developed HappySnap, an emotional awareness game for parents to play with their children. HappySnap encourages kids to identify and talk openly about their feelings and emotions. As a parent playing HappySnap with your child, you may be fascinated to learn about their comprehension of complex feelings and emotions.
Mindfulness for School Kids
In a 2010 study in the Journal of Behavioral Health and Medicine, researchers found that attending behaviours improved in grade one and two kids exposed to daily mindfulness programs.
Another study from 2004 showed similar results, noting that: “Results from three attentional measures administered to the students show significant differences between those who did and did not participate in mindfulness practise training.“
Consistency is essential to see the positive results of kids mindfulness, but some studies notice behavioural changes within a few days!
Kids Mindfulness Exercises
Here are a couple of examples of the kids’ mindfulness exercises used by researchers in the Journal of Behavioral Health and Medicine study mentioned above.
These kids mindfulness exercises are effective in a classroom setting, but parents can also use them at home.
The Silent Game
The silent game is an effective exercise to introduce mindfulness to young kids. The aim of the game is simple; the kids must sit still in their chair until the teacher tells them the exercise is over.
- Kids must either close their eyes or gaze down at their desk without looking around.
- Kids must sit in an upright position, practising good posture.
- The teacher can start at 30 seconds with the aim of increasing the duration.
With its short duration, the silent game can be used at the start or end of a lesson to provide kids with a “calming reset.”
Kids Mindful Breathing Exercise
The kids mindful breathing exercise is a continuation of the silent game, but with guidance and instructions. Instead of just sitting still, the teacher guides students with mindfulness statements, similar to a guided meditation.
Kids must sit upright in their chairs and close their eyes. Once settled, the teacher can begin with the mindfulness statements. The aim is to encourage kids to focus on their sensations, senses, and feelings.
Here are some examples:
- “Notice the feeling in your chest/nose/mouth as you breath in and out.” Pause. “Try and become aware of how this feels. is it the same every time or are there slight differences?”
- “Notice how your body feels as you’re seated in your chair.” Pause. “How does the chair feel against your back and legs?” Pause. “Notice how your feet rest on the floor, supporting your legs.”
- “Without reacting, notice any sounds you can hear inside (outside) the room.” Pause while they listen. “Imagine what you would see if you could hear what’s making the sound or sounds you hear.” Pause again. “How do you feel when you hear that sound?”
Noticing Self was another guided mindfulness breathing exercise teachers used in the 2010 study. In this kids mindfulness exercise, teachers offered a lot more guidance. Below is an example of one of the guided meditations (you can find all of the activities under the paper’s methods section).
Kids Mindful Eating Exercise
The kids mindful eating exercise has several layers of education. It encourages kids to think about where their food comes from while taking the time to savour and appreciate the experience.
Depending on the size of your group, this mindful eating exercise can take up to 30 mins to complete. It’s best to use fruit like mandarin or orange.
- Kids each receive a mandarin which they place in front of them.
- Before peeling it, discuss the supply chain from the tree to the grocery store.
- Next, allow the kids to peel the mandarin, taking their time to observe as much detail as possible. This process can take up to 5 minutes, and kids should be encouraged to focus on the task and not talk amongst themselves.
- Before eating, discuss the process with the kids, including textures, smells, and any feelings or emotions associated with the peeling process.
- Before the first bite, without answering, ask kids to take a few moments to imagine how the mandarin will taste, the textures in their mouth, what they might smell.
- Next, ask the kids to break off a segment and take the first conscious bite without eating the whole piece. Kids must chew slowly until the entire piece of fruit dissolves in their mouth.
- Again, discuss the experience with the kids. How did the mandarin taste? Was it what you expected? How did it feel as you swallowed? Did eating the mandarin make you feel anything?
- Now ask kids to finish the fruit but in the same slow manner. When they’re finished, have a final discussion. How do they feel having finished the mandarin? Have they noticed any change in their body? What have they learned from the experience? Is this a good way to eat, and why?
Mindfulness for Teens
Mindfulness could be a vital tool to help teenagers navigate this challenging and sometimes confusing period of life.
Several studies have shown a regular mindfulness routine improved cognitive function and working memory for teenagers. Essential qualities at a time when teenagers are required to absorb, memorise, and articulate school work.
A daily five-minute guided meditation also reported to reduce anxiety and increase a sense of calm for students.
But where do you start? And how do you get your teenager started with mindfulness?
Our 30 Days of Mindfulness package is the perfect introduction for teenagers (or anyone looking to get started in a daily mindfulness routine).
The package includes 35 cards to guide you through your month of mindfulness, including yoga, meditation, and self-care exercises. We have also included a journal with prompts to get you started with journaling, an essential mindfulness tool.
Guided Meditation for Teens
Guided meditation is an excellent way to get your teenager started, and it’s a practice you can do together. It’s a beautiful way to connect and share a meaningful experience.
Here are a couple of guided meditations for teenagers:
30-minute guided meditation for teenagers.
3-minute body scan meditation for teenagers.
We hope this article has given you some insight into how simple a kids mindfulness routine can be. There are so many feel tools available for parents, and you don’t have to be a guru to teach your children how to be mindful.
Kids mindfulness is about encouraging and fostering their natural curiosity. Most important is, to be effective, a kids mindfulness practice needs to be a consistent, daily practice.