Mindfulness toys for kids – what a splendid idea. Living consciously, rather than on auto-pilot. Savoring the sunshine and finding calm during the occasional storm. Sharing the experience with our kids…
Who are we kidding? Mindfulness can be hard to keep up with. There are a thousand small things clamoring for attention every day. And that’s just for the adults. Children live in a whirlwind of excitement and adventure. If you want to help your kids practice mindfulness, building routine and good habits are the way to go.
Take a deep breath. Count to four slowly, hold, then breathe out for four. Repeat a few more times and notice how calm you’re feeling (or not). The reason we practice mindfulness is because of the distractions and the whirlwind. Because life is so beautifully imperfect. As Jon Kabat-Zinn said: “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”. Childhood lessons in mindfulness can bring benefits over a whole lifetime.
Something that works well for us is physical reminders. Like mindfulness toys. A physical object that you and your kids can take with you during the day. Here’s why it works.
Mindfulness toys for kids: Finding your anchor
Meditation is quite simple, but keeping your mind from wandering isn’t. That’s why many people choose an ‘anchor’ to help stay focused on the present. Each time you feel your thoughts drifting off, bring your attention to your anchor. It’s an easy metaphor for kids to understand, too.Not all anchors are physical.
Many people focus on the breath. After all, it’s something that’s always with you, something you’re always doing. A heartbeat, a body scan, a mantra… there are lots of choices. But they can be difficult to explain to little ones.Tibetan singing bowls are a famous example of a physical anchor.
They’ve been used for centuries and look like standing bells. You can find them in lots of different sizes, for different kinds of sound. When filled with water, they vibrate and make interesting patterns.
And here at MindPanda? We love our mindfulness stress balls. We keep them on our desks as a visible reminder, even when we’re not meditating. Our kids love them too. (Top tip: they’re great for a game of ‘hot potato’. That’s hard to do with a singing bowl.)
Mindfulness toys for kids: The sweet smell of mindfulness
Fragrances have an amazing effect on the body and mind. Did you know that our noses are linked to the emotional centre of our brains? It means they produce powerful memories. Try thinking of an orange without remembering the smell, for example. Some smells are even proven to reduce anxiety and stress. This is why each of the MindPanda stress balls has its own delicious fragrance:
Popular for centuries, jasmine is found in around 83% of women’s and 33% of men’s perfumes. The smell of jasmine creates a sense of alertness. Research has shown that it can lead to an uplifted mood and help with depressive thoughts. A tiny flower that packs a punch.
Not just great for chewing gum, but good for your brain, too. Research found that smelling peppermint could be linked to cognitive stamina and motivation. It even tricks the brain into thinking it helps with a blocked nose. Just the thing you need when you’re feeling a little under the weather.
If you’re looking for a little pick-me-up, ditch the coffee and sniff a lemon instead. It’s known to boost energy and alertness. It can also help to calm anxiety and anger. Talk about a super fruit.If you and your kids use the mindfulness stress balls regularly, you may find that the scents trigger feelings of relaxation. Not only does the fragrance relax you, but it’ll also call up memories of previous meditations. A virtuous cycle.
Mindfulness toys for kids: Getting physical
Stress balls were invented in 1988 by Alexander Carswell. He’d thrown his pen at the wall in frustration and damaged a framed photo of his mum. Clearly, we all sometimes need to release physical tension without property damage.
People often talk about feeling tense. And when stress sets in, that’s what happens. Fight-or-flight hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, make our muscles tighten. When you squeeze a stress ball, you activate the muscles in your hand and wrist. When you let go, you release tension – and that helps us to feel less stressed.
Stress balls are good for concentration too. A study found that stress balls can improve the focus and attention spans of 11-12 year-olds. These educational toys and developmental toys are perfect for increasing toddlers’ and children’s attainment levels by incorporating them into their indoor activities. Squeezing a stress ball, you give your mind a break. And that makes it easier to focus on the task at hand.
Mindfulness toys for kids: Kids’ natural mindfulness
You could say that young kids are naturally mindful. They’re completely aware of their emotions but unable to regulate them. Once children reach primary school, they’re more likely to start expressing worries. Mindfulness is proven to improve kids’ concentration and decision-making. Even with ADHD. That’s why we think mindfulness activities for kids are an investment in their long-term health. If you’d like some more ideas, check out our blog.
In the meantime, have you heard of the raisin exercise? It’s a mindfulness classic and it works great with the MindPanda stress balls, too. It’ll help your juniors engage all their senses (and have a bit of a giggle). Here’s how you go about it:
- Hold a stress ball between your fingers. Imagine you’ve never seen it before. Give it your full attention. What colour is and what shape?
- Start moving it around and feel how squishy it is. You could even close your eyes to focus better.
- Hold it close to your ear. Does the fabric or gel make a sound?
- Give it a good sniff. What does it smell like? Do you start to feel differently if you go on smelling it?
Pay attention to your breath during this exercise. And talk about the sensations and feelings with your children. It’s a great chance for a good chat. Sometimes, all it takes is a positive thought to interrupt the negatives. (We wouldn’t recommend tasting the stress balls though. Mindfulness toys aren’t raisins.)
How are you introducing your kids to mindfulness? We’d love to hear your tips and tricks. Please let us know in the comments below.
What are the best mindfulness toys?
It varies from person to person but the best toys are the ones that help you stay present in the moment.
How can I practice mindfulness with my child?
Using mindfulness activities in a game session is a great way to keep it fun!
What are good toys for kids with ADHD?
Fidget toys are great for kids with ADHD as they help focus their attention.
What are the best learning toys for 5 year olds?
Anything that keeps it fun is great for younger kids.
What do you get kids instead of toys?
Building skills is a great way to give a gift for children. Look for skill building activites disguised as games to help kids enjoy learning.