We know how important mindfulness is for adults. Having a daily mindfulness practice can help combat and prevent, stress, anxiety, depression and other mood disorders. Mindfulness also works for kids. It helps children with their emotional regulation, they learn to keep calm when they are upset. It also helps children attend to tasks, improve their focus and because they are able to maintain their cool they are able to make better decisions. The effects of mindfulness can last the whole day.
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, Mindfulness is defined as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”
According to Sarah Silverton author of “The Mindfulness Key: The Breakthrough Approach to Dealing with Stress, Anxiety and Depression”, Mindfulness is the act of being mindful “waking up to what our senses are telling us. Our minds and bodies constantly receive information, refreshing it moment by moment. This happens automatically and without any effort on our part. Mindfulness invites us to reconnect to this information, using our senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. When we’re being mindful we can choose to pay attentions to each and every experience. We become awake to our experience of ourselves and our lives. “
“Being mindful is something that we all did very naturally when we were small children. When we are being mindful, we are choosing to notice the details of our experiences, just as they are in this moment and without judging or trying to change them in the first instance. Sometimes mindfulness is described as seeing clearly.”
Children are programmed to be mindful. They naturally live in the moment. However, in our rushed society they are losing this youthful pleasure. We don’t want to let that happen.
Here are 6 simple Mindfulness exercises for kids that we can incorporate into our very busy schedules.
1. Stroking a pet:
Petting animals is a great way for everyone to release stress. Children usually have a natural affinity towards animals and feel the calming effects relatively quickly. If you want to help your child understand the benefits of petting animals you can ask your child to stroke the animal with his eyes opened and then with their eyes shut, and try to describe how it makes him feel. (Adapted from http://www.pocketmindfulness.com/mindfulness-exercises-for-kids/)
2. Roaring in the Wind:
Go for a walk on a windy day. Stand in the wind and have your child to spread out their arms and open their mouth and let out a roar for as long as they want to. Children love permission to yell and let go. You can also describe to them the sensations of the wind on your face and in your hair. (Adapted from http://www.pocketmindfulness.com/mindfulness-exercises-for-kids/)
3. Watching bugs:
Children are fascinated by bugs. It can be particularly fun to look at ants. They are interesting creatures and generally safe insects. You can feed them some breadcrumbs and watch how they work to carry the food. There are also some ant farms that you can buy and keep in your home. (Adapted from http://www.pocketmindfulness.com/mindfulness-exercises-for-kids/)
4. Teach children to name their feelings:
In the children’s book, “Sitting Still Like a Frog”, the author, Eline Snel encourages children to “summon the weather report that best describes [their] feelings at the moment.” Are you feeling Sunny, rainy, stormy, calm, windy, tsunami? This helps them identify their emotions in a child-friendly manner. Children learn that just like the weather, they can’t change their feelings, but they can change their reaction to them. You can have your feelings, you are allowed to get mad, there are things in life that upset us, but we have the choice how to react to those feelings. They also learn that they are not their feelings: “I am not the downpour, but I notice that it is raining; I am not a scaredy-cat, but I realize that sometimes I have this big scared feeling somewhere near my throat.”
5. Take a “Notice” Walk:
Sara Rudell Beach of LeftBrainBuddha.com recommends making your walks mindful:
“One of my children’s favorite things to do in the summer is a “noticing walk.” We stroll through our neighborhood and notice things we haven’t seen before. We’ll designate one minute of the walk where we are completely silent and simply pay attention to all the sounds we can hear — frogs, woodpeckers, a lawnmower. We don’t even call it “mindfulness,” but that’s what it is.”
6. Make a mindful jar:
Looking at a snow globe can also be very calming. You can also make your own or what Sara Rudell Beach calls a mind in a jar.
Kids are naturally mindful. Finding any way to help them attain that nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis, can benefit them in so many ways.
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