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Growing Mindfully: Mindfulness with Young Kids

Adults aren't the only ones that can benefit greatly from mindfulness. In today's fast-paced world, our children are needing to find their own sense of calm and grounding more than ever. Why not make it a family experience? By incorporating mindfulness – the practice of focusing on the present moment in a non-judgmental way – into your family routine, you can create stronger connections and promote emotional well-being for both you and your children.

1. Mindful Breathing

Breathing exercises are a simple and accessible way to introduce mindfulness to your kids. This can be easily added to any bedtime routine. To start, have you and your child find a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down. Encourage them to place one hand on their chest and the other on their belly. Guide them to take slow, deep breaths, feeling their chest and belly rise and fall with each inhale and exhale. You can also use visualizations, such as imagining a balloon inflating and deflating, to help them focus on their breath.

Making it mindful:

  • Have them focus on the sensations of breathing ("Is the air warm or cool when it moves through your nose? Do you feel it more in your belly or your chest?")

  • Tell them when to inhale and exhale - this can really help younger children stay focused.

  • Play with comparisons ("let your belly get big like you're blowing up a balloon", "breathe out like you're trying to blow out your birthday candles", "see how big you can make your chest")

  • Change it up! There are many different styles of kid's pranayama that you can try together, or even let your kids make one up! As long as they are keeping their attention on their breath, there's really no wrong way to breathe together.

2. Gratitude Practice

Cultivating gratitude is a powerful way to promote positivity and well-being. As a family, make it a habit to share three things you're grateful for daily. This can be a fun way to greet one another after-school/work. Or maybe during dinner, before bedtime, or any other time that works for your family! By making gratitude a daily practice, you'll encourage your children to focus on the positive aspects of their lives and foster a greater sense of appreciation.

Making it mindful:

  • Don't have any requirements for what they can be grateful for. Let them choose anything they want to.

  • Ask them why they think their gratitude items came to mind.

  • If they have a hard time thinking of things, you can give them a topic (things in this room, things at school, people in your life, things you like to do)

  • If they aren't feeling like participating, that's okay! Instead, you can "substitute" by expressing gratitude for things that are specific about them.

3. Mindful Listening

In a world full of distractions, teaching your children to truly listen can be a valuable skill. Have your child choose a favorite song, then with their eyes closed, ask them to try and find a sound or instrument they haven't noticed before. This exercise can help develop their listening skills and increase their ability to focus.

Making it mindful:

  • Ask them how a certain sound makes them feel.

  • Challenge them to "hunt" for a sound that is far in the background of the music.

  • Let them describe what the music "looks like" to them in their mind. Does it have a color? A temperature? Does it bring any images to mind?

4. Nature Walks

Taking a mindful walk as a family allows you to slow down, appreciate your surroundings, and bond with your children. Encourage your kids to use all of their senses as they explore the natural environment – listening to the sounds of leaves rustling, feeling the texture of tree bark, or smelling the scent of fresh flowers. You can take turns sharing your findings as you walk.

Making it mindful:

  • Ask them to notice what the ground feels like as they walk and how it is a little different with every step. They can describe it to you.

  • If the walk gets challenging in an uphill section see if they can tell you which specific parts of their body are working the hardest and what that feels like to them.

  • Challenge them to point out 10 unique sounds.

  • Let them be playful with changing their pace while staying aware of each time their heel touches the ground.

5. Yoga for Kids

Yoga can be an easier way to teach mindfulness to kids that have a harder time sitting still, as it combines movement, breath, and focus. There are many kid-friendly yoga poses and sequences available online that you can practice together as a family. Make it a fun and engaging experience by looking for routines that incorporate playful elements, such as music, animal-themed poses, or imaginative stories.

6. Mindful Art and Crafts

Creative activities, such as drawing, painting, or sculpting, can be an excellent way to practice mindfulness. Encourage your children to fully immerse themselves in the activity. Really lean into the fact that creativity is about the process and discourage any forms of comparison or judgment about the finished product. This can help reduce stress, enhance self-expression, and foster a sense of accomplishment.

Making it mindful:

  • Ask them to describe the process as they are creating (Is the paint smooth? How hard are you having to push with the brush?)

  • Redirect judgments ("This looks stupid") into observations ("Wow! Look at how the paints blended together here.")

  • If they begin comparing their work to someone else's, encourage them to make mindful observations of the other person's work instead ("What do you notice about the colors they chose for their painting?")

Incorporating mindfulness activities into your family routine can have numerous benefits for both you and your children. Take the time to slow down, connect, and appreciate the present moment.

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