Mindfulness is a great tool for children during this unprecedented time. With activities and schedules being turned upside down due to COVID-19, mindfulness techniques can help kids to reduce the stress and handle big emotions. The best part about mindfulness is there are many different ways to be mindful – from mind-body practices like breathing exercises, yoga and mindful eating, to stillness practices like guided relaxations. There is something for everyone in the family to try. In these uncertain times, when we all truly need to feel supported and connected, I encourage parents to explore mindfulness and see how it might support them and their family.
Here are few mindfulness techniques to try at home:
Be mindful outdoors. Take a ride your bike. Research tells us that spending time in nature can change how we feel. As you ride, pay close attention to what you see, hear, feel, and smell. If you have a basket, maybe even gather objects such as rocks, sticks, and leaves to create an art project or mandala.
Focus on the good. Every cloud has a silver lining, but sometimes it can be hard to find that silver lining when you are experiencing stress. Encourage your child to use her breath, while thinking of a positive affirmation such as “I am happy.” This will shift the negative mindset to a positive one.
Take deep breaths. Breathing techniques are a useful tool for self-regulation. Many children express how taking deep Elevator Breaths helped them to fall asleep at night or even in yoga! Taking ten deep breaths is a simple solution for big emotions that can be done anytime and anywhere. It is truly an amazing tool for reducing stress.
What makes an activity mindful, is if we pay attention to the activity while using our senses. That being said, there are lots of ways to cultivate mindfulness. If you need a few ideas check out Mindful Child Online classes or my book, Mindfulness for Children, 150+ Activities for Healthier, Happier, Stress -Free Kids. When beginning a mindfulness practice, start small with a few minutes a day. Also, try to pick a consist time to practice mindfulness to make it a habit. If your children are doing schoolwork, add in a few minutes of mindfulness throughout the day. Set time aside so that the whole family can practice together. After COVID-19 is over, kids will think back fondly on the mindfulness activities they did as a family.
The ancient yogi’s thought we had monkey minds, with our thoughts randomly jumping from branch to branch. But they also recognized that even the wildest little monkeys can be mindful too. Monkey Mindfulness allows children to act like monkeys and then use the calming power of their breath slow down.
What are the benefits?
Monkey bites are a healthy, fun snack for children. Bananas are full of potassium. Peanut butter has protein and healthy fats, making this a great snack for little growing bodies. Introducing a little chaos and then using the breath to calm the mind teaches children to self-regulate.
What to say.
We are going to pretend to be monkeys. Monkeys jump from branch to branch just like our thoughts sometimes do.
Stand up and jump across the room just like monkeys. Let’s hop on one foot, now the other foot. Wow, you were fantastic monkeys.
How can we calm our monkey minds? Right, with our breath! Sit in Easy Seated Pose and take ten big balloon breaths.
Mindfully eat some monkey bites. Look carefully at your banana. What do you see? Smell? What do you taste?
Now we are going to add something to dip our bananas in. I’m going to put a little powered peanut butter on your plate.
Using your mindfulness skills, be a food detective and notice how the peanut butter changed your banana.
Take a bite dipped in peanut butter. What do you see, smell, and taste?
How did it taste different from the first bite without the peanut butter?
Want your child to learn more ways to be mindful? Sign up for a camp or class!
Nature Walk is taking a walk with your child; however, he pretends he is walking in the wilderness. While on the walk your child will notice all the wildlife on the walk. The goal is to notice as many details about the birds, insects and other animals as they can. Giving your child a magnifying glass or binoculars really allows them to see bugs and birds up close and notice details they may have missed in the past.
What are the Benefits?
Nature Walk builds visual memory and visual observation skills. It helps children focus their attention and concentrate.Wildlife walk promotes mindful awareness and mindful movement.
What to Say.
Let’s go on a wildlife walk! As we walk through the wilderness we want to remain quiet and mindful. We will walk slowly so we don’t miss anything.
Turn your senses on high and notice all the birds, bugs and wildlife that you can. Remember we are always kind to our environment. Just notice the wildlife, don’t interact with it.
Use your magnifying glass or binoculars to watch the wildlife in silence and notice what it sounds like, how it moves, and what colors you see.
Afterward we will draw what we’ve observed so really pay attention and watch all the insects, animals, and birds that you find. Reflect on the Wildlife Walk by asking, “Was it hard to focus on just one thing? Which details were easier to remember? Did you notice something that you haven’t noticed before? What helped you keep your focus?”
For older children, search for objects in nature to explore as well. Have them notice what it looks like, smells like, how it feels, and if it makes a sound. Ask them to remember as many details as possible. When you return from the walk ask your child to write down all the details they remember and reflect on the experience. Discuss ways mindful seeing connects to real life. You may ask, “How does mindful seeing help someone who has seen an accident? How does being mindful help you at school? What are jobs that require mindful seeing and memory skills?”
This mindfulness activity requires visualization and a good imagination. Have your child imagine they are bird in flight. As he is flying over the earth, ask your child to look down on all the things he is grateful for. Next, have your child draw a picture of the bird flying over all the wonderful things he has to grateful for in his life.
What are the benefits?
Visualization coupled with gratitude is a powerful combination to shift a negative mood to a positive mood. Take flight is relaxing, enhances well-being, and encourages mindful reflection.
What to Say.
Lay down in a comfortable position such as Corpse or Mummy Pose. Close your eyes. Let’s take a couple Elevator Breaths. Imagine you’re a bird. Think of what your bird looks like. In your mind, form a picture of your bird. Is he a small bird or a majestic eagle? What color is your bird? Now imagine that your bird has taken flight and is flying over the earth. Your bird looks down and sees all the things you are thankful for. Breathe in and out through your nose. What does your bird see? Picture the things that you are grateful for as your bird fly’s high overhead. Remember to keep breathing in and out through your nose, as you picture your bird flying. Slowly open your eyes and come to an Easy Seated position. We are going to draw a picture that shows what your bird saw when he was flying. You can even add your bird flying over ahead. Ready? Let’s draw!