These days, our children are facing more stress and anxiety than ever. Whether it is the pressures of tests and assessments in the classroom, of competitions on the sports field, or social anxieties caused by social media and television, our little ones are dealing with an awful lot more than we ever had to on a day-to-day basis.
This is why teaching your child mindfulness practices from an early age is so important. Mindfulness is the state of being peaceful and content in the present moment, rather than worrying about the future or stressing about what has passed.
It is a practice that can benefit anyone, whether they are 3 years old or 80 years old, and there are a lot of very simple exercises that help to achieve this state of calm.
In this article we will go through 10 simple mindfulness exercises that are aimed at children of pre-school and prep school age. You can do them as little or often as you like and many of them can be performed anywhere at all: at home, in the car, or even at the general store.
So read on and find some inspiration for how you can improve your little one’s mental wellness and serenity.
1. Birthday Candles
This exercise is a great way to encourage your child to slow their breathing and their heart rate, and is particularly good if your child is upset or anxious as it will calm them down. All you do is ask them to close their eyes and imagine a great big birthday cake is in front of them.
You can encourage them to hold the imaginary cake in their hands, and to tell you what flavor it is, and what color icing it has. The key is to make them go into detail so that they become fully absorbed.
Then you can put one imaginary candle on the cake and ask your child to take a deep breath in, and then to blow out the candle.
Next, put 5 imaginary candles on the cake, and this time they must take a bigger breath in and blow out more slowly to make sure they get all the flames.
Lastly you put 10 imaginary candles in the cake, and repeat the exercise with the biggest breath in, and the longest blow out. Afterwards your child will feel more relaxed and oxygenated.
2. Bubble Blowing
If you have a child who finds it difficult to stand still and imagine things, as many, many children do, then blowing bubbles is a great way to get them to stand still and control their breath without them realising they’re doing it.
Simply take out your tube of bubble mix and hand over the stick, then encourage them to take a deep breath and to blow out as slowly as possible. You can show them how the longer and slower their exhale is, the bigger and more beautiful their bubbles will be.
And if you don’t have any bubble mx to hand, you can always try this as an imagination exercise too. The more you believe in the bubbles and point to them and admire them, the more absorbed your child will become in the game and the present moment.
This beautiful meditation technique can be done anywhere and involves your child taking a moment out of their day to center themselves and think only about their body and mind.
First ask them to look about and tell you 5 things they can see in the room or space around them. Then to tell you 4 things they can reach out and touch, 3 things they can hear, 2 things they can smell, and one thing they can taste.
It only takes a minute or so to complete, but will leave your child feeling re-centered and calm. This is also a great exercise that they can do by themselves if they are ever feeling anxious or stressed and you are not nearby, because it is easy to remember.
4. My Safe Place
This visualization exercise draws upon feelings of familiarity and comfort, and is great if you have a child who is worried about staying overnight at a friend’s house or being away from home on a summer camp or school trip.
All they have to do is close their eyes and begin to imagine a place where they feel most safe and at home. It could be a family holiday destination, a carseat, or their bedroom, but it must be somewhere that they know well.
Then, you can begin to guide them through the visualization, asking them to think about how warm this place is, what it smells like, and what small details they can envisage.
The more detail the better, and though they don’t need to vocalise you can prompt memories by asking them to move through the space in their mind, opening doors and sitting in chairs. Afterwards they will feel peaceful and calm, and filled with the confidence that that place brings out in them.
5. Coloring Book
Adult coloring books are becoming more and more popular these days, and it is easy to see why. The methodical and quiet process of coloring pre-draw patterns and pictures is very mindful and serene.
If you know that your child has a particular animal or hobby that they love, then getting a coloring book based around that passion will make them all the more enthusiastic to do their coloring.
You can bring a box of pencils and a book anywhere easily, and this is a great way to give your child a creative and absorbing task when they might otherwise become agitated or upset.
6. Painting A Vision Board
Painting is an incredibly expressive practice, and in contrast to coloring books, there are no lines to stay inside of, and no rules to follow.
By encouraging your child to paint a vision board that expresses how they are feeling at that present moment you will encourage them to look inside themselves and draw out any anxieties.
You will also allow them the license to be as abstract and unconventional as they please, which is very liberating and empowering.
And the very act of putting paint down is both practical and artistic, and this creates a balance between thinking and doing which will be incredibly beneficial to your little one’s mental wellness.
7. Walk In Nature
The power of nature is awe inspiring, and taking some time out of your week to ensure that you and your child get fresh air is so important.
Encouraging your child to take deep breaths and swing their arms as they stroll through nature will help to bring oxygen to their brain and will release endorphins in the body which aid good moods and positivity.
Then you can ask your child to look around them and appreciate the many beautiful details in the trees, flowers, water or animals they can see.
Our kids spend so much time indoors and staring at screens these days, that it is vital to remind them of the wonders of the natural world, and enable them to take mindful and meaningful time amongst those wonders.
You might think that yoga would be much too difficult an activity for your child, but in fact teachers are beginning to include the practice in classrooms up and down the country.
This is because the simple postures not only improve flexibility and strength, but also improve mental focus and stamina, and aid mindfulness and positivity. Inverted postures are particular favorites among kids because they get to ‘go upside down’.
The downward facing dog pose is easily achievable and will actually lower your child’s heart rate and breathing rate so that they become calmer and more serene.
The folded leaf pose is a beautiful and very comforting posture that many children really enjoy, and is a great way to make them feel safe and protected.
9. Positive Affirmations
Of course, words and language can shape our understanding of the world, and therefore, the words we use to describe ourselves and to talk to ourselves are incredibly powerful.
Asking your child to come up with some positive affirmations and mantras will both empower them and center them.
Mantras like ‘everything is going to be ok’, or ‘I am special and loved’ are incredibly beneficial and your child can whisper, speak or think them, whenever they are feeling worried or stressed.
A great idea is to get your child to write their affirmations out on cards or posters, and color them in as brightly as they like. This will give them feelings of ownership and authorship over the words and will make the effect all the more powerful.
10. Music And Song
And lastly, having spoken about the power of words, art and nature, the power of music is equally as transformative. If your child is feeling panicky about a test, or a situation that has arisen in the playground, playing some beautiful classical music can have a marvellous effect.
Simply ask them to sit down and shut their eyes, and then play some music as softly or loudly as they like. The melodies in classical music regulate the breathing and restore rhythm to the body, and the harmonies actually release serotonin in the body which is a happy hormone and aids feelings of positivity.
Of course, you don’t have to use classical music. Any gentle and calming music, whether it be a favorite folk song, or nursery rhyme will have a wondrous impact on your child’s mindfulness, and if you can sing along together it will actively slow your child’s breathing due to the breath control needed to sing.
It should never be stressful trying to be mindful. If an exercise is too difficult, too time consuming or too technical, then it will completely defeat the object, which is only for you and your child to feel serene, positive and centered in the present moment.
Luckily, these 10 exercises are simple, quick and effective, so give them a try and see if your child feels brighter and more content in their daily life.
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