If you are reading this, you are probably entertaining the idea of bringing mindfulness into your child’s life.
And if that’s the case, you are on the right track. Increasing research suggests that mindfulness and yoga helps kids with attention, emotion regulation, and cognitive focus, all of which account for better performance in academics, sports, and extracurricular activities.
Are you sold yet? If not, keep reading.
Mindfulness helps kids develop awareness of their inner and outer experiences so they can better calm themselves, focus, manage difficult emotions, be kind and compassionate. I honestly think that mindfulness practices are becoming less of an option and more of a necessity.
Kids are living increasingly fast-paced lives, they are constantly exposed to the negative aspects of media and screens, and they have less and less time to just be. Mindfulness practices are simple, take very little time, don’t cost anything, and help kids lead healthier happier lives. Practicing mindfulness is a no brainer!
The best way to introduce mindfulness to children is through short, kid-friendly, and consistent bite-sized nuggets. Read on to learn more about the three main benefits of mindfulness for kids - and how you can start teaching these techniques right now!
1. Mindfulness improves focus and attention
Children’s mindfulness training starts with learning the basic skills of focusing.
When kids learn to focus on just one thing, like sound or their own breath, their minds calm down and they perform better. Refined concentration skills are linked to better participation in class, as well as improved performance in school, sports, and other activities. Do I even need to ask if this is something you want for your kids? Here are a couple of mindful exercises you can try.
- Mindful bell
- Breathing buddy
With older kids, don’t be shy to use more age-appropriate explanations of how our breathing can help settle our minds and bodies.
- Nature walks and yoga
2. Mindfulness improves self-regulation
Mindfulness increases children’s ability to self-regulate through breathing and other grounding techniques, especially when they experience difficult emotions like fear and anger.
When children practice focusing skills, they become more aware of what their minds are up to, and they learn that it’s ok to have different emotions and sensations throughout the day. With consistent mindfulness practice, kids are less likely to be overwhelmed by the more challenging feelings.
Ultimately, mindfulness helps children recognize when they need to steady themselves so they can replace impulsive reactions with thoughtful responses. Mindfulness is also invaluable in teaching kids to be ok with the occasional discomfort that we all experience every now and then.
At this point, you might be wondering how on earth you can deliver all this wisdom in a kid-friendly way. One trick is to adapt existing games to include mindfulness principles. Take a look:
- Mindful Candyland: Play Candyland with a mindful twist by adding a corresponding emotion to each card color. When a child draws a red card, she can describe a time she felt angry, how long it lasted, how she handled it, and so on. Similarly, blue cards represent sadness, yellow cards relate to happiness, orange cards denote fear, and green cards symbolize hope. You can change up the emotions, but the idea is that you start a conversation about the different feelings you experience. Explain that all emotions are ok, even the ones that feel uncomfortable. Remind kids that emotions come and go, and that they can always use their breathing or take a quiet break to settle down when difficult emotions arise.
- Mindful Charades. Use some index cards to write different emotions that kids can act out in a charades game. To make it more challenging, ask two kids to act out two different emotions at the same time. Talk about how they can handle those situations in real life.
3. Mindfulness helps build positive relationships
Mindfulness is an incredible tool to teach kids socio-emotional skills like compassion, empathy, respect, and peer acceptance. Empathy, or the ability to understand what another person is thinking or feeling, improves children’s awareness of others. This in turn helps them build positive relationships through kindness, generosity and compassion. Needless to say, these prosocial behaviors are essential for life. As kids learn to be kind and compassionate to others, they remember to extend the same positive attitudes to themselves and their bodies.
Here are some tools for teaching mindfulness to build positive relationships:
- Kids Yoga: I cannot emphasize enough how helpful it is to teach your kids yoga and the basic yogic philosophy of non-judgmental awareness of the body and the mind. Make it fun. For example, incorporate animal poses, and use your imagination to keep them interested. If you need fresh ideas, head over to Pretzel Kids Yoga for a great yoga certification program. You can then teach the Pretzel Kids yoga games, poses and breathing techniques to your kids or start earning money teaching Pretzel Kids classes in your own community. Better yet, you can do both! What can be better than using yoga to teach children to embrace all body shapes and abilities.
- Good Thoughts Delivery: As you practice some breathing breaks, ask your kids to think of someone they love (it can be a pet too). Invite them to really picture that person or animal, and then ask them to think of something kind they can say to that person. After a minute or so, ask your children to think of someone who is having a hard time, and invite them to think of something kind to say to that person. Over time, this exercise will build the muscles of kindness and compassion.
- Gratitude Jar: Start by having your kid decorate a jar with stickers and/or paint. Explain to him that you will start a gratitude jar routine, and help him write a short note about something that makes him happy. It can even be a joke! Fold the note and put it in the jar. Continue to do this as often as possible. On days that your kid is feeling blue, remind him to go fish a note from the gratitude jar so he can be reminded to smile. As always, try to lead by example and voice your own reasons why you’re grateful.
Are You Ready to Teach Mindfulness to Kids?
As your kids grow up, they need to do more than just cope with the challenges of the world. The hope is that they grow up to make positive changes too.
The best thing you can do to help children become more mindful is to commit to some regular mindfulness practice yourself! The more present and mindful you are with your children, the more happy, mindful and resilient they will be. Are you ready to start teaching mindfulness to kids? We thought so!
About Patricia: Patricia came to the practice of yoga in 2000 and has never looked back. Motivated by a desire to positively impact children’s lives, Patricia incorporates mindfulness-based practices into her yoga classes. She draws on her years of experience as a preschool and elementary teacher to design and implement developmentally-appropriate curricula for children of all ages and abilities. Patricia also serves on the Board of Directors at the United Nations of Boston, where she collaborates in educational initiatives to benefit girls and women. She is currently pursuing a Master Degree in Mindfulness Studies at Lesley University.
Editor's Note: The Pretzel Kids Yoga Certification course is a great way to start teaching yoga and mindfulness immediately! If you want to learn more about the Pretzel Kids yoga opportunity, click here to download our e-book!