Kids are inherently mindful when they’re young. They spend hours staring at and exploring new objects as babies. But as they grow and the busy world around them demands more of their attention it can be helpful to teach them mindfulness practices to help refocus and get calm when needed. It can also help them slow down and stop and smell the roses when everything around them is constantly zooming along at full speed.
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing all your attention on the present moment and observing your feelings and thoughts without judgment. In that space there is no worrying about the past or the future, just focusing on the now. Meditation is one mindfulness method we can use to give the mind a rest from all the crazy while focusing attention on the present.
Studies have shown that kids can benefit greatly from mindfulness practices. A 2016 review found that mindfulness practices can help reduce anxiety, improve regulation of emotion, attention and the ability to focus.
OLDER KIDS AND ADULTS
A friend put me on to the Chill app recently and I am finding it a wonderful way to stay mindful throughout the day. Find out more here.
For younger children, we have had success at our house with the following practices.
BLOW THE BUBBLE
When emotions are running high and my little ones are finding it difficult to calm down and think rationally I have them sit comfortably (if possible!) and start breathing through their noses. I ask them to imagine that there is a bubble, like the ones they blow outside, just in front of their faces. It can look however they want it to. I ask them to imagine blowing that bubble gently away from their face, then as they breath in, gently drawing it back towards themselves. They have to keep their breathing calm and slow so the bubble doesn’t break. If it does, just restart.
This little practice of focus and sneaky slow breathing helps to calm the nervous system and get things back on track.
THE SLEEP JOURNEY
My kiddos sometimes have trouble getting to sleep at night. Several weeks ago, while they were tired but wired (they were having a sleepover), and at my wits end, I started to tell them a story that they had to imagine in their mind (with eyes closed, of course). This is also known as guided meditation.
The kids followed along in their mind’s eye as I lulled them off to sleep with a very comfortable and cozy journey. And they have asked for another sleep story over and over again since. You’ll find an example below if you want to give it a try. The details are important. It gives them a starting point to create and imagine as they breathe. So is a soft comfy setting that they feel safe in. We have had stories where they are traveling in a cloud (the soft, squishy, marshmallowy variety) and others in giant teddy bear vehicles. I like to have them get comfy in their beds and take 3-5 deep breaths in and out through their noses before we get started. I use my calm, quiet yoga teacher voice and try to stay fairly monotone.
HAWAIIAN BEACH WALK
This story had us all walking along an empty beach in Hawaii. The sun was shining, warm, but not too hot, the waves gently lapping on the shore and the palm trees were quietly swaying in the gentle breeze. As we walked with our feet in the warm water we came across a open-top deck/cabana with posts on each corner. Attached to the posts were hammocks with cozy pillows and light blankets for each of us. We all climbed in and felt the hammocks fold in around us while we snuggled into the pillows and blankets.
The hammocks were gently rocking in the breeze, making us all a little sleepy. Occasionally we’d hear the gentle sound of a bird flying overhead, but mostly we felt the sun and the gentle breeze as we rocked. I left the kids to continue to rock in their hammocks and listen to the quiet sounds all around them. They were asleep in no time.
Give some of these a try. I would love to hear how they work out for your family!