Mindfulness for kids is a great way to help them cope with the stresses of modern life. We have chosen some useful tools and resources to make a start at home.
It might sound a bit hippy, like the kind of thing they offer at a Steiner school and not your local comprehensive, but mindfulness is now mainstream. Not necessarily religious or even spiritual, it’s simply the practice of being in the moment and focussing the mind in order to better cope with the stresses of modern life. And these days our kids face numerous pressures, from the social and academic aspects of school, to growing up surrounded by distractions, and being permanently plugged in.
So if your local school is not yet ‘enlightened’ enough to offer it in the curriculum, here are a few simple games you can play at home to start introducing mindfulness…
Mindfulness For Kids: Exercises & Resources
- Breathing Ball
Ask your child to lie down and place a tennis or golf ball on their tummy. Tell them to breathe silently for a minute (and time them). Ask them to concentrate on the sensation of the ball moving up and down and to think about what other things they notice about their body and breath. Tell them that any thoughts that pop into their heads will turn into bubbles and float away. The ball will help them to focus with purpose and remind them to concentrate on their breath.
- Heart Beat
Have children leap and jump, skip, race and shake as fast and as much as they can. After a minute is up, tell them to sit down, close their eyes and put their hand on their heart. Ask them to concentrate on the sensation of their heartbeat inside their body and against their hand while they take 5 deep and slow breaths.
- Mindful Walking
Once they understand how to focus on their breath, try an active mindfulness game. Start by asking them to focus on their breathing: count five breaths in and five breaths out. As you walk, encourage them to think about how the ground feels under their feet, how their clothes feel against their skin, if they can feel the breeze in their hair. Aim to guide them to feel these sensations but not to think about them. Return their attention to their breathing to help them focus.
- Colouring Books
The process of colouring in between lines is not only great for honing fine-motor skills, it’s also a fantastic way to focus thoughts and is one of the best (and cheapest) stress relievers around. Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom is a bestseller because the detailed and intricate designs are beautiful and require patience and intense concentration. Available from Amazon and Waterstones.
- Smiling Mind App
Although there’s something faintly ironic about turning to a device to find headspace, the Smiling Mind app is actually a great tool for when you are on the go or surrounded by distractions, to get kids to calm down and focus. Suitable for children aged 7+, the psychologist-developed meditations start with questions to focus the mind, followed by straightforward meditation exercises. Download the App here (for iPhone and iPad).
- Story Time
MindSpace have developed a series of teaching tools for meditation in schools, some of which can easily be used at home. A good way to teach meditation to 6-7 year olds is to tell a story in which the children are invited to imagine themselves as characters. In this example, the protagonist, Stillness, talks children through a series of mindful breathing exercises. Download the story here to try at home.
- The Mindfulness Project
On September 19 children’s psychotherapist Camilla Sim is running a one day mindful parenting workshop in central London. There is also six-week course which includes modules on mindful parenting. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.