Mind over Matter
It may not have been on the timetable when we were in school but teachers and health professionals alike are seeing the value in meditation and mindfulness for kids as a tool to de-stress and improve overall emotional well-being with some professionals pushing for it be added to the school curriculum.
It has been reported that up to one fifth, some 20%, of Australian students are currently disengaged at school. Research shows that mindfulness can be a useful tool in our classrooms and furthermore our homes. Whilst helping kids function more effectively overall, specific benefits can include reducing stress and anxiety, increasing focus, building psychological and emotional resilience, learning how to breathe properly and learning how to emotionally regulate.
Jill Emanuele, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, notes, “Mindfulness isn’t complicated”.
So how do we get our little ones practicing mindfulness
The same mindfulness activities that work for adults will not work for kids, we can’t expect our children to sit still for 45 minutes listening to a meditation tape.
The most effective ways to incorporate mindfulness into children lives are to add an element of play to the practice and to keep it simple. We’ve compiled a list of exercises to try at home to kick-start your child’s mindfulness practice
- A Mindful Walk
Pound the pavement and awaken the senses, whilst walking try and notice five different sounds, four matching colours, three different textures and two different smells – you can add in textures and shapes and other sensory cues turning your walk into a mindful game of family bingo. If the weather is bad outside this exercise can be adapted inside.
- Mindful Eating
Next time the family sits down to eat get the kids to focus on the smell of the food, the colour of the food, the taste of the food, the texture of the food, taking in the details with each bite!
- Blowing Bubbles
Take the kids into the garden, grab some bubble solution and wands and ask them to blow bubbles. When blowing the bubbles kids can notice how big the bubbles are, count how many bubbles they blow and take in the colour of the bubbles. The simple act of blowing the bubbles is all about letting go.
- Mindful Colouring
Mindful colouring is the perfect activity to calm kids down. Focusing on fine motor skills, attention and control there are plenty of free printable colouring sheets you can download online.
- Belly Breathing
Kids start by placing one hand on their tummies and the other hand comfortably on their chest, slowly breathing in using their stomach, imagining that they are expanding a balloon and then slowly breathing out imagining that they are deflating that same balloon.
- Play Music
Put on music and get yours kids to listen for the instruments, the words, focus on the whole song – as musical tastes develop, individuals will associate different genres of music with their moods and may use a particular genre to de-stress. Dancing is encouraged!
- Squeeze and release muscles
Starting at the bottom of their bodies kids squeeze their toes first holding them tightly for five seconds and then releasing them. Repeat this exercise moving upwards throughout the body feeling the muscles engage and soften. If you want to add another element of fun to this exercise ask your child to pretend that they are a robot on the floor and create a remote control using and empty box (shoe box, cereal box etc.). The remote controls the level of electricity in their bodies as you send “electricity” into a part of their body it tightens and when you release the button they release holding the muscle. This is also a fun one for siblings to pay together.
My First Gym offers a children’s yoga program which introduces the fundamentals of a yoga and children’s mind/body awareness, in a fun and engaging way.
Ideally mindfulness is something that should be incorporated into our child’s daily lives, providing a chance for them to clear their minds, get creative, relax and express their feelings in a healthy a positive way.
We’ll be posting mindfulness tips, kid friendly recipes & all things kids health and fitness if there’s something you want to hear about please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org