What Mindfulness Means
Mindfulness means paying full attention to something. It means slowing down to really notice what you\’re doing. Mindfulness also means living in the present moment. Essentially, it means being (intentionally) more aware and awake to each moment and being fully engaged in what is happening in one’s surroundings – with acceptance and without judgment.
Being mindful is the opposite of rushing or multitasking. When you\’re mindful, you\’re taking your time. You\’re focusing in a relaxed, easy way.
Definition of Mindfulness for Children
By teaching children meditation and mindfulness skills we help them increase their well-being and enable them to meet the stresses of the world with presence, self-compassion, and openness.
The benefits of helping kids be mindful has been gaining attention. Studies have shown that it can help kids improve behavior and focus. Some schools have even started doing mindfulness training in the classroom. Improved behavior and focus is a plus for all kids. But it can be even more valuable for kids who learn and think differently. That’s especially true for kids who are anxious or impulsive.
Also, kids who struggle in school may have negative experiences that can lead to negative thinking. Those experiences can decrease their motivation and make them feel defeated. Being able to recognize those negative thoughts and block them can help kids stay focused and positive. It can also bring a sense of calm.When we teach mindfulness to kids, we give them the tools they need to build confidence, cope with stress, and relate to uncomfortable or challenging moments. The earlier we do so in their young lives, the greater the opportunity to help them cultivate resilience and develop and refine their mindfulness practice as they mature.
Teaching mindfulness to kids can also help shape three critical skills developed in early childhood: paying attention and remembering information, shifting back and forth between tasks, and behaving appropriately with others. These abilities are known as executive functions and they are essential for more advanced tasks like planning, reasoning, problem-solving, and positive social relationships.
Ways to Teach Mindfulness to Kids
Pretend to Walk on Thin Ice
Teach your child to become more aware of their body and their movements. Tell them to pretend they\’re walking on thin ice and they have to move slowly and carefully around the room.
The Safari exercise is a great way to help kids learn mindfulness. This activity turns an average, everyday walk into an exciting new adventure. Tell your kids that you will be going on a safari: their goal is to notice as many birds, bugs, creepy-crawlies, and any other animals as they can. Anything that walks, crawls, swims, or flies is of interest, and they’ll need to focus all of their senses to find them, especially the little ones.
Playing with balloons
Tell your kids that the aim of this game is to keep the balloon off the ground, but have them move slowly and gently. You can tell them to pretend the balloon is very fragile if that helps.
Smell the Roses
Scent is a great way to help kids become more aware of the here-and-now. An easy way to engage their sense of smell is to give them something aromatic, like a flower or an orange peel.
Invite them to close their eyes and concentrate on what they smell. Spend a few minutes just paying attention to the aroma. Then ask them a few simple questions like, “What do you think of that smell?”
Savor the Flavor
Another way to involve your child’s sense of taste is by encouraging them to savor the flavor. Give them a specific piece of food, like a piece of candy or a raisin.
Encourage them to look at the piece of food for about a minute. Then, have them put it in their mouth but tell them not to chew it right away.
Instead, instruct them to pay attention to how it tastes and how it feels in their mouth. They may experience textures or tastes they\’ve never noticed before.
Yoga is a great way to increase your child’s awareness of the connection between their mind and their body. Kid-friendly yoga poses can help them become more mindful.
Have your kids focus on taking in a deep, slow breath, and exhaling steadily to fill the bubble. Encourage them to pay close attention to the bubbles as they form, detach, and pop or float away.
It’s important to remember that mindfulness should be an ongoing practice. Take time every day to practice mindfulness skills with your child. When you make it a priority in your life, your child will see that it’s important to be in tune with the present.
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