With the school holidays here in Australia, kids are running, playing and using lots of energy, so why not have some fun ways to keep them in the moment while learning mindfulness.Here are ten easy techniques, that don't cost a thing and get you involved too. Let's face it, anytime we can be mindful ourselves will benefit the kids as well.
1. Keep it simple and fun. Use the words 'awareness' or 'noticing' with young children. Mindfulness is noticing our thoughts, what our body feels like, what our ears are hearing, and anything else that is around us and happening right now. Get them to tell you what they are noticing around them at breakfast or on a nature walk.2. Listen to the bell. An easy way for children to practice mindfulness is to focus on paying attention to what they can hear. You can use a bell, a set of chimes, or a phone app that has sounds on it. Tell your children that you will make the sound, and they should listen carefully until they can no longer hear the sound, 30secs is long enough. This exercise has a calming effect my kids, and it’s a fun way to teach them to pay attention to their surroundings.3. Create a mindful bedtime routine. Bedtime is a great time to introduce mindfulness to kids. Get them to do a short body-scan meditation before bed, which means getting them to close their eyes, and tell them to bring their attention to their toes, to their feet and legs, etc. It is a calming way to return to the body at the end of the day. Playing soothing meditation music after you read them a book is also wonderful for calming.4. Practice with a breathing buddy. For young children, instructing them to simply “pay attention to the breath” can be hard to follow. So here's a simple trick, each child grabs a stuffed animal, and then lies down on their back with their buddy on their belly. They focus their attention on the rise and fall of the stuffed animal as they breathe in and out. Only a few minutes should get them grounded and relaxed.5. Make walks mindful. Have a walk through your neighbourhood and notice things you haven’t seen before. Make one minute of the walk where you are all are completely silent and simply pay attention to all the sounds you can hear — birds, crickets, a lawnmower. 6. Start a gratitude practice. I think gratitude is a fundamental part of mindfulness, teaching our children to appreciate the abundance in their lives, as opposed to focusing on all the toys and things they want in the future, is so important. Every night at dinner or at bedtime share one thing you are thankful for. Get the whole family involved, then your children know you walk the talk.7. Meditate with your children. My husband and I meditate every morning and continue meditating even if the kids are around us, as I think it's important for us to show them a good morning routine. Sometimes, my eldest son will often sit and join us and we love that. I also get them to breathe in and out slow and steady when they are having a moment of frustration and agitation. They also, as mentioned listen to meditation at bed time, but try what works for your child.8. Get them to tell you what their inside weather feels like - Sunny, rainy, stormy, calm or windy. This allows kids to observe their present state without overly identifying with their emotions. They can’t change the weather outside, and we can’t change our emotions or feelings either. All we can change is how we relate to them, for example, 'I am not the rain, but sometimes it feels like a storm inside'. Talking with your kids about their emotions early will help later in life and give them a sense of trust in you. Just remember don’t judge their feelings, accept them. 9. Practice mindful eating. The is a great exercise and a fun way to teach children to pay attention to and savor their food whilst also staying in the present moment. No television at mealtimes will help them calm down and also get them to put their fork or spoon down after each bite. Talk to them about the food and what they like about it, taste, texture etc.10. Once again, keep it fun, kids may only be able to do these activities for a minute or two at a time to begin with, but giving them this knowledge early in life, can be a game changer later.
* Please note, I'm not a qualified psychologist, all themes in this blog are just my beliefs from my personal experience and research.