Everyone could use tools to tame anxiety in a fast-moving world. Kids who learn mindfulness and focus at a young age tend to be more capable of regulating their emotions later in life. A side effect of teaching these practices is that it can bring calm to adult caregivers as well. It doesn’t take special training or tools to implement mindfulness into daily activities with kids. It’s quite simple. Read on to discover a few tips from parents and caregivers, and how you can incorporate them into your day starting now.
Mindful breathing exercises
Teaching children to focus on their breath helps them to stay present. As humans, our minds are generally in either “the familiar past” or the “predictable future.” Without even realizing it, we are very rarely in the present moment. Being present takes concentration, and our breath is the easiest way to send a message to our bodies that we are safe and calm. When our breathing is relaxed, our body is calm.
With kids, it can be as simple as exercises like counting breaths out loud by saying “Breathe in 1-2-3-4 and out 1-2-3-4”. It can be made fun by focusing on the sensation of the breath moving in and out of the body, the motion of the lungs, and the tummy expanding and contracting. Try it with your little ones and witness them direct their concentration and awareness to their breath and body.
“I tell my little ones to imagine the breath going unfurling down into their arms, their fingers, their legs, and even the tips of their toes, then slowly making its way back up,” says one nanny. “It distracts them away from whatever was upsetting them almost instantly.”
Encouraging children to stop and listen to the sounds around them can help them become more aware of their surroundings and develop the ability to focus.
“One fun exercise,” says a Mom (who is also a yoga instructor) “is to have them lie quietly and tell them to start by listening to the sounds outside. Draw their attention to the sounds of voices, cars, or dogs barking in the distance. It’s amazing to watch the calm that is induced by their concentration while they strain to hear these far-away sounds. Once they seem settled, ask them to listen to the sounds on the inside. By this you mean, their heart beating, their breath moving in and out of their lungs, and their arms brushing against the floor while they lie in a restful pose.”
By, focusing on different sounds and their qualities the mind and body connect in the present moment. This induces calm and relaxation. With practice, kids can learn to do this on their own.
Coloring books designed specifically for mindfulness can help children become more aware of their thoughts and feelings. Talk about the colors they are choosing to use and why. Give descriptive words to the colors that go beyond the label on the crayon or pen. Is it a sunshine shade of yellow? Is it an egg yoke yellow? Maybe it’s a fuzzy baby chick type of yellow?”
Instruct them to focus on the movement of their hand as they color, and the feelings that come up as they engage in the activity. This particular pastime has caught on with adults too with some amazing coloring books for the grown-ups to join in the fun with the little ones. Creating art is one of the most accessible forms of mindfulness that exist and there is no wrong way to participate.
Practicing yoga, tai chi, or other forms of mindful movement can help children develop their ability to focus on the present moment. “My kids love tai chi.
They stand with their wide feet apart and slowly sway back and forth swishing their arms from side to side in big sweeping motions” says one parent of a popular tai chi movement. “The idea is that you are moving the energy around and kids love it”. The slow and deliberate movements of these practices can help children become more aware of their bodies and their breath, as well as their surroundings.
One area we all could do better is to eat more slowly. It seems everyone is in a hurry, and eating on the run is common. By modeling mindful eating with our kids we can teach them habits that will last a lifetime.
It’s proven that eating slowly is better for your digestive health. Did you know it’s also good for your mental health? By encouraging children to eat mindfully we help them become more aware of their senses, develop a deeper appreciation for the nourishment, and improve their relationship with food. They can practice focusing on the colors, smells, and textures of the food, as well as the sensations of chewing and swallowing.
By learning to stay calm under stress, mindfulness can help both kids and adults become more resilient in the face of life’s challenges. These skills provide healthy coping mechanisms and they are free and accessible at any time.
In summary, mindfulness can positively impact both mental and physical well-being for people of all ages. The focus on the present cultivates awareness and provides skills to better manage stress and emotions.