Let’s look today at wasy to instill mindfulness in your child.
Mindfulness may sound complicated. But it simply refers to awareness of the present moment. Rather than reacting to what happens, we can learn to observe it with calm curiosity.
If you want to support your child’s mood, focus, and self-control, look no further. Research shows that mindfulness practice increases grey matter in parts of the brain connected to planning, problem-solving and emotion regulation.
With all these benefits, you might be wondering how to begin. Just how do children learn to be mindful?
Mindfulness doesn’t have to mean sitting still. Activity-based mindfulness is the perfect solution for kids. Practices that incorporate visuals, games, and movement are what children need to stay engaged and interested.
The activities below will teach your child to be mindful, and have fun doing it! Let’s take a look at these ways to instil mindfulness in your child
1. Read about it
One of the simplest ways to introduce mindfulness at home is through stories. Picture books show your child what mindful behaviour looks like–taking a deep breath, pausing, or tapping into the senses.
“Adding a mindful book or two to the current cannon of bedtime
stories feels like adding an extra nutrient to the meal.”
Fortunately, there are many excellent options from which to choose. Consider any of the following:
- “My Magic Breath” by Nick Ortner and Allison Taylor
- “Breathe Like a Bear” by Kira Willey
- “I Am Peace” by Susan Verde
- “What Does It Mean To Be Present?” by Rana DiOrio
As you read, pause and point out each character’s mindful behaviors. Talk about how they look and feel as they practice mindfulness.
2. Take a listening walk
The next time you go for a walk, invite your child along with you. It could be in nature, your yard, or even a hallway at home.
As you walk together, prompt your child to focus on the different sounds she hears: twigs snapping, a car driving by, even her breathing. There’s no need to get caught up in each sound–simply notice and let them pass by.
You might read Paul Showers’s “The Listening Walk” beforehand. She’ll see that by slowing down, she will notice things she would have otherwise missed.
Children who love nature or art would also enjoy a rainbow walk. Have your child bring a journal, and find something from each color in the rainbow. When you notice she’s fully engaged in the moment, point out that she’s practising mindfulness!
3. Meditate together to instill mindfulness in your child
Mindfulness is the opposite of living on autopilot. It requires us to notice, observe and engage with the world around us.
Breathing meditation is an easy way to practice with your child. Start by asking him to take a few minutes to sit with you. You can inhale together for four counts, and exhale for four counts. Or simply feel the air rise and fall in your belly with each breath.
“I would suggest that parents encourage their children to take a few minutes
a day to practice and then practice right along with them.” -Danielle Mahoney, mindfulness educator
Know there will be times when your child interrupts or refuses to practice with you. In these moments, just keep going. He will learn from watching you persevere.
4. Try yoga
Mindfulness and yoga go hand-in-hand. And the popularity of kid-friendly yoga means there are limitless options for teaching your child. All you need is a quiet place to get started.
You might wake up together with a story like “Good Morning Yoga” by Mariam Gates. Let your child pick several of her favorite poses to try. Or do a pose of your own, and let her get curious and try to imitate it.
You could also try yoga cards like the ones from Yogi Fun or a yoga spinner game to keep things fun and silly. For excellent instructional videos, check out Cosmic Kids Yoga on Youtube (options include Frozen, Harry Potter and Trolls yoga, and many guided relaxations).
5. Instill Mindfulness in Your Child – Practice mindful eating
Slowing down while we eat brings tremendous benefits to children (and adults). Mindfulness at mealtimes prevents overeating, and promotes healthy food choices.
Start by pausing before a meal. Stop and take a breath together. Smell the food, and notice its colors, shapes and sizes. (Be sure all electronics and other distractions are removed beforehand).
As a family, you might brainstorm the elements that went into creating your food (the sun, rain, farmers, grocery store workers, etc.) and send a quiet “thanks.”
After the meal, relax again to let the food settle. Experts suggest waiting at least 15 minutes to decide if you want seconds, since it takes that long for your brain to register fullness.
Tip: At snack time, consider this 3-minute exercise for savoring a favorite snack
6. Create a mindful bedtime routine
Bedtime is often a struggle. Whether it’s nightmares, fear of the dark, or just wanting to stay up later, kids often fight going to sleep.
Fortunately, it’s simple to create a positive nighttime ritual as a ways to instill mindfulness in your child Set the scene by removing electronics, turning lights down, and playing soothing music. Let your child choose a guided meditation from kid-friendly apps like Stop, Breathe and Think or Smiling Mind.
Just before bed is the perfect time to help your child release thoughts and worries from the day, and feel safe and connected. You might take these last few moments to share a happy memory from the day, give your child a compliment, and quiet your minds together.
7. Encourage journaling
Studies show that children who journal are happier and healthier. Journaling allows kids to examine their thoughts and feelings, and grow from past experiences.
“Reflection is such an enormous part of your growth, and when you journal,
you get out of your head and become present.”
-Brittany Nowicki, yoga teacher
Be sure to designate time for writing each day, and set an example by keeping a journal too. When your child sees you reflect on the positive events in your life, he will be more likely to do the same!
8. Take brain breaks
If you want your child to stay focused and productive, regular breaks are key. Without these pauses, kids can easily become bored, distracted or disengaged.
A “brain break” simply refers to a brief period of breathing or movement taken several times a day. It primes the brain for learning by shifting focus, and allowing your child to be present.
“A brain break is a short period of time when we change up the dull routine of incoming information that arrives via predictable, tedious, well-worn roadways.”
-Lori Desautels, professor
Each break can last from three to five minutes, and is especially useful during moments of stress and frustration. Homework time, transitions, or tackling a new activity are all perfect times to build in a mindful pause.
Incorporating mindfulness into your family life is both simple and highly beneficial. There are many ways to begin this crucial practice with your child, from listening walks to guided meditations. Whatever you choose, know that simply pausing and noticing the present moment is being mindful–and is a gift to you both!
Alexandra Eidens is the founder of Big Life Journal, an engaging resource to help kids develop a resilient growth mindset so they can face life’s challenges with confidence.
I do hope you have enjoyed this post on 8 Ways to Instill Mindfulness in Your Child. You might also like my post on filling our children’s memory banks