Children are experts when it comes to mindfulness. Have you seen the focus a five-year-old brings to building a sandcastle or drawing her favorite place? How about the complete joy that a trampoline elicits for a group of seven-year-olds? It’s clear they know how to let go of distractions and be in the moment. But it can be hard to apply that natural ability to be aware to situations like the first day of school, a disagreement with a friend, or disappointment when plans change. It can be challenging for children (and for all of us) to manage the regular ups and downs of life without letting stress build up and reacting with a fight-or-flight response when things feel uncomfortable.
This is where learning specific meditation and mindfulness tools can help. Mindfulness is being aware of our thoughts, feelings, sensations, and the surrounding environment in this moment. It also includes bringing acceptance to what we’re experiencing rather than judging any of it as good or bad. Mindfulness is a way to become more comfortable with what we are experiencing, no matter what it is.
A great place to begin this practice with children is to focus on the body and the breath. Guiding a child to notice her inhale and exhale and how she is feeling inside helps to put space between actions and reactions. When children are able to pause and connect to what is happening in the moment, they have more choices of how to respond to situations. By bringing this kind of practice to young people we are giving them tools to resolve conflicts, de-stress, boost mental and physical health, and enhance their concentration and attention in classroom settings. We are giving them a way to access their own resiliency and develop skills that will be a support to them throughout their lives.
The following simple steps from Meditate with Me: A Step-by-Step Mindfulness Journey teach children to feel, breathe, listen, and relax in a way that is easy, accessible, and most importantly fun!
4 Steps to Teach Kids Mindfulness
Sit and Relax
Sit comfortably and try squeezing and relaxing your body to release physical tension. Take a deep breath in. Flex your arms, clench your hands, crinkle your face, and curl each toe—squeeze every part of your body. Let a long breath out and relax. (Repeat 3 times.)
Breathe and Relax
Bring one hand under your belly button and one hand to your chest. Try filling each spot with air as if slowly filling a balloon. Then let all the air out. Notice your hands moving up and down with each breath. (Repeat 3 times.)
Listen and Relax
Place your hands in your lap and close your eyes or look down. Start to listen as carefully as you can and notice any sounds outside the room. Now try to notice any sounds inside the room. Can you hear your own breathing? What else can you hear when you are completely quiet?