How to introduce children to mindfulness

Many (or possibly, most) of us only discovered the value of mindfulness in our lives as adults. And many people, myself included, wish that we had been introduced to this skill as children. If you have ever considered how to introduce children to mindfulness, I hope to provide a few helpful ideas in this article.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is defined by The Institute for Mindfulness in South Africa (IMISA) in the following way:

Mindfulness is moment-to-moment awareness, cultivated by purposefully paying attention in the present moment with an attitude of non-judgment, kindness, and curiosity.

The reason why many of us find mindfulness so helpful, is because it helps to create a pause between what we are experiencing and our reaction. Instead of becoming victims of our own emotional responses, mindfulness allows us to become aware of when an emotion is triggered and why.

The small pause that mindfulness creates between feeling and acting, allows us to think about what we are feeling, instead of reacting instinctively. This pause helps our thoughts to guide us through emotions we may be feeling in a calmer way, and helps us to feel more in control of our emotions and circumstances. This can help us to manage stress and anxiety in a more productive way.

In short, mindfulness helps us, and our children, to slow down. And this is an incredibly important lesson to learn in the fast-paced world we live in today.

Why is it beneficial to introduce children to mindfulness?

There are immense benefits to introducing children to mindfulness. Mindfulness practices can help children to:

  • manage their emotions better
  • overcome challenges with self-regulation
  • sleep better
  • cope with change
  • feel more connected to others
  • understand, feel and express feelings of gratitude
  • be more compassionate
  • develop self-confidence
  • improve focus and concentration
  • develop resilience
  • be happier and more content

Mindfulness do’s and don’ts

Mindfulness should never be used in an attempt to control a child’s behaviour. For example, practicing mindfulness during time-out as a punishment for impulsive or emotional behaviour is never a good idea.

Mindfulness should be about providing a child with the emotional tools to choose more helpful reactions to anger, frustration, fear, anxiety and stress than acting out.

Mindfulness do’s

  • Practice mindfulness yourself
  • Keep it fun
  • Know when to practice
  • Remember to keep the practice age-appropriate
  • Consider your child’s unique needs

Ideas for introducing children to mindfulness

Breathe

Simple breathing exercises are a wonderful place to start and can have an immensely calming effect on the nervous system. Practice breathing deeply yourself as well – children learn by example!

Blowing bubbles, or teaching a child to breathe into their belly offer opportunities for short, fun mindfulness exercises.

Move

Yoga is an incredibly helpful way of teaching children to move their bodies in a mindful way. It is wonderful for relieving stress and anxiety, and for grounding energy. Yoga also introduces children to mindful breathing exercises as well as meditation.

A fun way of practicing yoga at home is to use a card deck with yoga poses. Blissful Kids has a beautiful yoga card deck for children which you and your little one(s) can use to inspire a series of at home yoga poses and breathing exercises.

Become quiet

An article about mindfulness would not be complete without mentioning meditation. There are so many wonderful resources and guided meditations available these days – many of which were specifically created for children.

Children are never too young to learn about meditation, but you should adjust the length of a meditation to your child’s age and ability to focus. A rough guide would be to start with a minute of meditation for every year of a child’s life. Children are often able to listen to guided meditations that are slightly longer, because it is similar to listening to a story.

I hope that you will have fun introducing your child to mindfulness! I would love to hear from you – do let me know which of these exercises worked for you!

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