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!
Do you remember making paper creations as a child? Once you learned the initial folds the practice of folding the paper became calming and meditative. Origami is a peaceful art activity that can promote mindfulness in the form of a focused attention meditation. Focus is required to fold the paper correctly and your child’s sense of touch is activated keeping him engaged as he makes the folds. There is also the intrinsic reward of making something wonderful out of an ordinary piece of paper.
What are the Benefits?
Mindfold Butterfly helps children build patience, focus, and concentration. Mindfold Butterfly also enhances relaxation and eye hand coordination. This activity improves executive functioning skills and mindful awareness.
What to Say.
Let’s make a mindfold origami butterfly. Origami is an art activity where you fold paper to make amazing mindful creations. Remember to breathe in and out through your nose and really focus on your folds. Sometimes origami can be tricky if you haven’t done it before so we need to really engage all of our senses and be mindful. Remember to use kind words to yourself and keep trying even though it may be a little challenging. I’m going to play some music while we fold.
These are the steps to mindfully fold your paper:
Fold your origami paper in half (vertically). Then unfold it. Make sure there is a crease
Next, fold the paper in half (horizontally). Then unfold it.
Fold the top left point down to meet the bottom right point of the paper. It is a diagonal fold (making a triangle). Then unfold it.
Fold the top right point down to meet the bottom left point of the paper. It is a diagonal fold (making a triangle). Then unfold it.
Bring the two middle folds together (right and left middle of paper) and the paper will fold in to itself making a triangle.
Turn the triangle upside down.
Take the right corner and fold it in to make triangle. Take the left corner and do the same thing. The straight edges from the top should line up to make a diamond.
Turn it over so the triangle point is at the top and fold the bottom of the triangle up.
Tuck the tip that sticks out over the top down to make the head, but only do the top piece of paper. Turn it over. Unfold the triangle to make your bottom wings.
Behold your beautiful butterfly! Want to learn more ways to practice mindfulness? Sign-up for a Mindful Child camp! Camps are full of mindfulness and FUN!
Parents, if you need a visual step-by-step guide this YouTube tutorial will show you the origami butterfly folding steps.
Peaceful Pigeon Pose is a yoga restorative pose that is a deep hip stretch for children. If your child has tight hips, a gentler variation is doing this simple stretch on your back. This is a pose that is usually done at the end of a yoga class when hips are more open; thus, it may be better for you child to begin with the modified pigeon on their back and then move to the full version. Afterwards discuss the two versions of pigeon with your child and see which one resonated with them and why.
What are the Benefits?
Peaceful Pigeon stretches the hips, glutes, hamstrings and groin. Peaceful pigeon pose opens the hips. Pigeon pose promotes inner peace. It reduces stress and tension.
What to Say.
We are going to be Peaceful Pigeons. Lay on your back and cross one ankle over the opposite knee. Making a figure four. Flex your toes.
Now lift your knees up. Thread your arms through the triangle between your legs and clasp your hands around the back of your leg.
Breath in and out for 5 breaths.
Bring knees together and rock side to side for a moment before switching sides. Notice how you feel.
We are going to be Peaceful Pigeons one more time, but in this version our pigeon is going to sit up tall and puff out his chest.
Begin in Down Dog. Bring your right knee forward toward your right hand. Angle your knee to the right and slide your shin forward as much as comfortable.
Extend your left leg out long behind you. Try to not lean to one side or the other.
Take a deep breath in as you sit up tall. Breath in and out for three breaths.
Tuck your toes and come into Down Dog for a moment before switching side. Notice how you feel.
Peaceful pigeon can be done on the ground, in a hammock, or even facing a friend! If your child has tight hips or just needs a little stress reduction sign them up for one of our aerial yoga + mindfulness 12-week session!
Blo-pens combine mindful art and breathing all at once. Blo-pens give art an airbrushed look and require extra focus and concentration to create pictures. In the middle of a poster board write the word mindfulness in big letters then let the creativity begin. Allow your child to draw their mindfulness pictures with colored pencils and then color in the picture with the blo-pens.
Art and breathing combined double the calming efforts. Using blo-pens to color in pictures increases attention and decreases stress. Creating art boosts creativity, self-esteem, and your child’s artistic ability. Blo-pens enhance deep breathing and mindful awareness.
What to Say
We are going to make mindful art with our breath! Mindfulness is written in the middle of your poster board. Using colored pencils write words and/or draw pictures of your favorite mindfulness activities.
Then we will use the blo-pens to color in the pictures we are have drawn. For example, I wrote relax and I drew a picture of myself laying in mummy pose. I made a tree as it is one of my favorite yoga poses. I then wrote calm, balanced, and focused on the branches. I made a yoga hammock with a heart since I love aerial yoga.
Draw and/or write mindfulness activities that help you feel calm and happy. Choose your colors mindfully and notice what it feels like to color with the blo-pens.
Reflect on the activity, by asking, “How did using the blo-pens differ from drawing with the colored pencils? Was it harder or easier to focus?”
Focus is defined as the center of interest or activity. Focusing your attention on what is happening in the moment is part of being mindful. A easy way for children to improve attention is by focusing on their bodies. Brain-based strategies encourage children to notice their breath and heartbeat, and pay attention to how it changes during and after movement. Learning to notice these internal changes will help enhance focus and resilience.
Four Brain-Based Strategies to Improve Focus
Breath Work. Teaching children to control their breath can help them become less reactive when feeling anxious or stressed. Paying attention to breathing also supports functioning in the higher brain regions responsible for cognitive processing, such as the prefrontal cortex. A one minute breathing practice can prime the brain for learning!
Yoga. Yoga poses, especially balancing poses require concentration and strength. Paying attention to the sensations in the body, whether active or moving, is an important step in enhancing mindful awareness.
Mindfulness. For children, mindfulness is defined as the practice of paying attention, with the senses. Mindfulness fosters the ability to become more connected to the body and mind, which improves awareness and focus.
Guided Relaxation. Relaxation stories calm the body and mind. They encourage a healthy imagination and develop body awareness. Not able to come up stories on your own? Stress Free Kids is a great website for relaxation stories.
At Mindful Child, we combine social and emotional learning with aerial yoga to teach children self-control. We use brain-based strategies to help children deepen their understanding of their own mental processes. When children are aware of their brain-body connection they are more resilient, confident, and focused. Neuroscience tells us that practicing brain-based activities will enhance receptivity to learning in both academic and social-emotional areas.
Children are faced with many stressors, such as friends, homework, school, and inadequate sleep. This mindful yoga sequence emphasizes stress reduction to create a sense of calm, while enhancing mindful awareness, focus, and executive functioning.
Begin with Mindful Yoga Breathing
Lay down on your back. Close your eyes, place one hand on your heart and one on your lower belly. Bring the soles of your feet together to form butterfly legs. Notice your heartbeat and breath. Take ten deep breaths in and out through the nose. Fill your hands go up as you breathe in and down as your breathe out.
Add Some Mindful Yoga Movement
Stand up in Mountain Pose and move through a slow sun salutation three times. Breathe deeply in and out through the nose. Take a few extra breaths in inversions such as Forward Fold and Down Dog Pose. When your head is upside down it is calming to the nervous system.
Choose a comfortable position. Take a few deep breaths to settle in. Stare at an object you’ve chosen such as a visual timer. Let it fill up your gaze and mind. Tune everything else out. When your mind starts to wander, notice it, and bring it back. When your timer ends, close your eyes and try to keep the object you have been gazing at fixed in your mind. Take a few deep breaths, and when you are ready open your eyes.
End with a Relaxation Story
Find a comfortable position. Place an eye pillow with Young Living lavender essential oil over your eyes. Read one of the relaxation stories from Mindfulness for Children, to your child or make up your own. Try to include progressive muscle relaxation in your story. After your mindfulness practice reflect on the experience with your child. Have them notice how they feel and ask what they enjoyed with most. This will broaden your awareness of the activities that resonated with your child.
This week our camp theme was gratitude. At Camp Gratitude we made mini gratitude journals. When children think of things they are grateful for it activates the calming part of the nervous system. This helps children to feel not only calmer, but happier. With school getting ready to start, now is a perfect time to make the gratitude journal a healthy habit. Every morning, before school, have your child write or draw one thing he is grateful for in a journal or on the bathroom mirror. What a great way for a child to start, not only their day, but their new school year!
Here are a few prompts to get you started. Ask her to write or draw about:
A person you appreciate.
A place that makes you happy.
An item you love (e.g., backpack, waffles, bike).
A skill or ability you are awesome at.
A person who makes you laugh.
Your favorite song.
Something that you accomplished that made you feel good.
A sport or hobby you enjoy.
A pet you love.
A teacher who showed you kindness.
Learning to be grateful helps children to develop executive function skills, which are higher level cognitive skills needed to self-regulate. Being grateful increases mindfulness and compassion for others. Being grateful can shift your child’s mood and enhance her overall well-being.
What to Say
Did you know that practicing being grateful can make you feel happier and healthier?
Each morning think of one thing you are grateful for and write or draw it.
Notice how you feel.
Check out our mini gratitude journal from Camp Gratitude.
Pretending to be a boat is an amazing way for your child to build strength and stamina. When you add rowing and singing, your child’s brain is being stimulated, too. Want more of a challenge? Add a partner!
What are the Benefits?
Boat Pose strengthens the core, which is fundamental
to all movement and to learning, because children will begin sitting up
straight at their desks instead of slumping. It stretches the hamstrings and
improves digestion. Not to mention that it is also fun to do!
What to Say
Did you know your core or tummy muscles are what help you sit up tall so you can learn? We are going to make those muscles strong by making our bodies into boats.
Sit with your feet on the floor and your knees bent. Place your hands underneath your knees. Lift your feet off the floor, like the prow of a boat. Let go of your knees and hold out your arms alongside your knees. Lean backward a bit to find your balance.
As you imagine your boat gliding down the stream, place your palms together in front of your heart. Be a peaceful, mindful boat. Close your eyes. What do you feel?
For an extra challenge, make it a partner pose. Partner boat is great for enhancing social skills and teamwork. If partners don’t work together to create a strong boat it will sink!
For young children or children with special
needs, play a recording or sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Tell the children, “As
you sing, paddle your boat down the stream by bringing your arms to one side
and then the other. Sing the song as many times as you can!”
Books are a great way to teach children yoga and mindfulness. Children love Curious George because he is always on the move and getting into mischief. Read a short story such as Curious George by H.A. Rey and infuse it with yoga, breath work, and mindfulness. At the end of the story give your child a “pop quiz” on the content. Have them show you the yoga poses, breath work, and mindfulness activities they remember, as they explain what happened in the story.
Curious George Yoga enhances creativity, focus, and attention. It builds working memory and concentration, development of logic, and mindfulness. Reading Curious and doing the above poses promotes yoga pose practice and review.
What to Say.
We are going to read a story about Curious George. Curious George is always very curious and sometimes it is hard for him to stay out of trouble. As we read the story we will engage in mindfulness and movement activities. Sit up tall in Easy Seated Pose. Ready? Let’s begin.
After children have reenacted the story have them take it a step further by asking them what they think happened after the story. Have your child show you what happened next with movement, breath, and mindfulness.
Teaching fun, therapeutic, aerial yoga and mindfulness to children