Keeping kids entertained with wholesome things to do is tough! Mindfulness activities for kids provide an excellent opportunity to engage with young ones while helping them to develop valuable life skills.
In this article, we share the best mindfulness activities for kids of all ages. We’ll start with toddlers and end with early teens. Feel free to skip to your preferred age group.
While we have split these kids mindfulness exercises into age groups, there are no set rules. You can try any of these activities for any age group.
Mindfulness Activities for Toddlers (1 – 3 years)
If you have a toddler, we don’t have to tell you how difficult it can be to get them to sit still or focus for extended periods!
The most effective mindfulness activities for toddlers are basic sensory recognition exercises – smell, taste, touch, hear, see. The goal is to develop a curious mindset, the basis for mindfulness and mediation.
With fewer distractions, bathtime is a fantastic opportunity to teach a toddler mindfulness. As you’re washing your child, make a point of verbalising what you are doing.
For example, “washing Jake’s back.” Try to get your child to repeat what you are saying. Use items in the bath like soap, sponge, face cloth, or toys to encourage your child to verbalise things that might otherwise remain in the subconscious. For example, “soap is slimy, or the sponge is soft.”
Mealtime is another opportunity for a toddler’s mindfulness activity. Talk to them about the food. Teach your child to describe the flavour, texture, and perhaps aroma of what they are eating. Again, the goal is to make unconscious thoughts and actions conscious.
Most of a child’s early development comes from play. Playtime is a fantastic opportunity to encourage your child to play consciously. Choose games and activities which stimulate the senses.
If you choose an art project, start by getting them to feel the texture of the paint, the bristles of the brush, and verbalise those actions.
Through all of these mindfulness activities for toddlers, the goal is to nurture a curious mind. Our goal is to bring the unconscious to the conscious mind.
Mindfulness Activities for Preschoolers (4 – 6 years)
As your child progresses from toddler to preschooler, their vocabulary grows, and they begin to start identifying emotions.
This stage of development is the perfect time to use mindfulness activities to teach your child about understanding and dealing with emotions.
SnapHappy Emotional Awareness Game
MindPanda’s SnapHappy emotional awareness game is perfect for preschoolers but can also be helpful for kids up to the age of 10.
SnapHappy encourages children to think outside the box to help build social skills and emotional intelligence. The game prompts players to describe emotions and why these feelings might occur.
Even as adults, we rarely stop to sit and observe the world around us. That’s why a mindful observation activity could benefit both you and your child.
Mindful observation is an essential exercise in this list as it’s a mindfulness activity we can continue to practice throughout our lives.
You can practice this indoors or outdoors, but somewhere less familiar like a park or other public space will be more effective. Find a place to sit or lay down and observe what’s around you.
You could do something as simple as staring up at the sky and watch clouds pass by, talking about the different shapes.
- What does the cloud look like to you?
- Does the cloud remind you of something?
- How does that shape make you feel? And why does it make them feel that way?
Make sure you also take a turn answering those questions yourself. Your input will encourage your child to think differently about emotions, and you might learn something too!
Counting heartbeats is a fantastic way to slow things down and get your child into a calm state, and a great introduction to meditation. This kids mindfulness activity is especially effective in the evenings before bed.
- With your child, find a quiet place to sit or lie down.
- Close your eyes and place your hand over your heart.
- Set a timer for one minute.
- Ask your child to feel their heart beating and to count each beat silently in their head for a minute.
- You can then repeat this exercise, but this time they have to follow their breath – in, one, out two, in three, and so on.
Once complete, ask your child how many beats or breaths they counted? How do they feel after doing the exercise?
This mindfulness activity for preschoolers will help develop listening skills. Using objects around the house or find a YouTube video with different sounds.
When you make a sound, for example, banging a pot. Ask your child to listen until the sound complete disappears, and then put their hand up. As you can imagine, sounds with long decays like a steel triangle or metal pot will make this game more interesting.
You can also find instrument sounds on YouTube and get your kids to listen to identify the quality of each instrument. Loud or soft, high or low pitch, how long it takes to decay, etc.
Like the SnapHappy game, drawing emotions is an excellent way for children to identify their feelings.
You will need coloured pens/pencils/crayons/paint and paper for this kids’ mindfulness activity.
- Describe an emotion and ask your kids to draw it.
- They can draw whatever they like and encourage them to use a colour or colours they associate with that feeling.
You can also use a colouring book for this activity. For example, ask your child to colour in an animal using colours to show that it’s feeling happy.
Mindfulness Activities for Kids (7 – 12 Years)
In the first few years of school, kids start to learn the discipline of sitting still. You can now begin to develop mindfulness activities for kids that introduce them to meditation practices.
Using these mindfulness exercises, you can prepare your kids for the wild ride of becoming a teenager and learning to cope with stress and anxiety.
Yoga is arguably one of the most utilised mindfulness practices in the world. Countless studies describe the incredible benefits of yoga, both physically and mentally.
In the United States, one study looked at more than 940 schools where yoga is part of the regular curriculum. Researchers learn that yoga helped with skills like self-regulation and positive social interaction.
Here is a 10-minute yoga practice for kids to learn at home or school.
Mindful breathing is excellent for kids but also a beneficial mindfulness activity for adults. It’s a great opportunity to introduce your child to a simple meditation practice.
Start with 1 – 2 minutes, but try to work your way up to 5 minutes or longer. Find a quiet place, preferably to sit, but you can also do this lying down.
- Start your timer.
- Get your child to place one hand over their chest or tummy and close their eyes.
- Ask them to breathe normally while following their breath. A hand placed over the chest or stomach will make it easier to follow each breath and provide an area of focus.
- At the same time, they can count each inhalation and exhalation to ten before starting from one again. For example, in, one, out, two, in, three, out, four, and so on.
You can also try this deep breathing exercise in the evening before bed. Deep breathing calms the mind and puts your child in a peaceful state, perfect for bedtime.
7 to 12-year-olds might be a bit young for journaling, but you can start sowing the seed. Your child can use words, a drawing, or other art for this gratitude exercise for kids.
If you can get into the habit of doing this daily or even weekly, this mindfulness activity can help to develop a regular mindfulness routine as your child gets older.
- Using their preferred medium (writing, drawing, art), ask your child to describe three things that made them grateful that day or week.
- You can save these on a “grateful wall” or in a file so you can sit with your child and regularly review the positive things in their lives.
Kid’s Mindfulness Scent Game
Fragrances have fantastic physiological effects. One study found that aromatherapy is helpful for the prevention and treatment of emotional distress.
How to play:
- Sit in a circle on the floor or a comfortable place where you can sit across from each other.
- Ask the first (or only) child to close their eyes, and then place the stress ball in their palm.
- Without opening their eyes, ask your child to inspect the ball only using their hands.
- Ask your child to tell your child to describe the experience. How does the ball feel in your hand? When you squeeze it, what happens? Does it make you feel anything?
- If they haven’t already smelt the aromatherapy stress ball, ask them to hold it close to their face and smell the ball. What does the ball smell like? What does it remind you of? How does the smell make you feel, i.e., happy, sad?
Mindfulness Activities for Teens (13+ Years)
At 13, your kids are more familiar with identifying feelings and emotions, but now you want to develop the skills to deal with the stress and anxiety of being a teenager.
Mindfulness mediation has fantastic mental and physical health benefits. Practising mindfulness mediation regularly also increases cognitive performance, a crucial attribute for teenagers as schoolwork starts to get more mentally challenging. Regular mindfulness practice also helps teens develop self-love and self-acceptance.
For this mindfulness meditation exercise, try to do a minimum of 5 minutes to work towards a 30-minute practice. You can do this meditation with your child to offer silent support.
- Set a timer for the mediation.
- Close your eyes and breathe normally. Try to breathe only through the nose, but you can use the mouth instead if that’s too challenging.
- Focus on the breath entering and leaving the body in the area around the nose and mouth. With a curious mind, notice how the breath feels around your nose and mouth.
- Every time the mind wanders, identify the emotion associated with distraction and return to the breath. For example, if your child starts thinking about an exam, they might notice they are anxious and then bring the mind back to focusing on the breath.
- It doesn’t matter if the same distraction comes up continuously or that they get distracted often. The goal for your child is to be mindful of when they are distracted and return to the breath.
If you or your child needs some guidance, here is a 10-minute and 30-minute guided mediation for teenagers.
Early teens is an excellent time for your child to start journaling. Your teenager can also incorporate gratitude journaling with this mindfulness activity.
While journaling is a personal experience, you can practice this mindfulness exercise together. Find a comfortable place in your home where you can sit together. Make sure it’s a space where your teenager knows they can write in confidence without anyone seeing what they are writing.
Here is some teen journal prompts to get you started:
- Write five things that made you grateful today.
- Write about something difficult that you experienced today. How did it make you feel, and why? What did you learn? What can you do better next time?
- What brings you the most joy and why?
- List three bad things about social media and what you would do to change them?
- What is a good way to give back to your community?
- Describe an instance where you were motivated today?
- How do you think your best friend would describe you?
- List five qualities your best friend or family member has that makes you love them.
- The UN has asked you to give a speech about anything. What would you talk about and why?
Mindful Sounds & Music
For those who struggle with standard breathing mediation, using instrumental music or sounds provide an excellent anchor for focus.
Below are two examples of music and soundscapes your teenager can use as anchors. Start with 5 minutes to work towards 30 minutes. This mindfulness exercise for kids can be practised at any time of the day but is highly effective at calming the mind before bed.
- Close your eyes, and breath normally.
- While being mindful of your breathing, listen to the music or soundscape, identify how it changes, what sounds you hear, and your emotions.
After this mindfulness exercise, your child could write a short journal entry about the experience.
The common theme of mindfulness activities for kids is awareness. The goal is for your child to develop a routine of being aware of your feelings and emotions.
The art of mindfulness is being aware of what’s happening in your unconscious mind. Often those thoughts and feelings control our actions, sometimes to our detriment.
By practising mindfulness, your child will improve their social skills, self-regulation, and mental performance. In addition, they will learn to identify their feelings and emotions and the coping mechanisms to deal with those issues.