Kids don’t have to face the daily stressors of adult life, but sometimes they get anxious just like the rest of us. Parents are left wondering what to do to help their kids calm down in these situations. Anxious adults often benefit from the practice of mindfulness, defined as the mentality achieved by focusing on the present and accepting one’s thoughts and feelings in the moment. It isn’t just meditation either, there are mindfulness activities that kids will love doing.
Although its popularity has skyrocketed in recent years, mindfulness is not just a fad. It is a science-backed practice. Mindfulness reduces anxiety and stress levels and lightens a person’s overall mood.
Could mindfulness work for kids too? Experts say yes. Studies on the impact of mindfulness in classrooms have shown that the practice boosts academic performance, increases optimism, and calms anxiety. Learning mindfulness early in life will help kids grow up to be healthy adults with a strong grasp on stress management.
While it may be difficult to get an anxious child to sit still and meditate for half an hour, there’s a variety of other activities you can try. If you’re looking for mindfulness activities for kids, here are 8 ideas.
1. Blow some bubbles
Kids love bubbles! Have your kids breathe in slowly and then relax as they exhale into the bubble wand. Tell them to visualize their anxious thoughts inside the bubble and watch as the bubble floats away into the air and pops. After the bubble is gone, so are the kids’ worries. This exercise is a good way to teach your kids about mindful breathing, which can help them calm down quickly in stressful situations.
Blowing bubbles is also a mindful activity. It gets kid out of their heads and focus on blowing bubbles. Want to challenge them and get them to focus more? Challenge them to blow the biggest bubble they can! Watch as they light up with attempt after attempt.
2. Focus on the 5 senses
Teach your kids how to be present in the moment by using their senses. This classic mindfulness exercise distracts them from their worries by forcing them to engage with their immediate surroundings. Taking a minute to focus on each sense can slow down racing, anxious thoughts.
To perform the 5 senses exercise, kids will need to look around and ask themselves the following questions:
- What can I see?
- What can I hear?
- What can I smell?
- What can I feel?
- What can I taste?
Introduce props and even things they may have never smelled, heard, seen, or felt before. Give them the prop, ask them to use their senses to describe the object in detail. Is the object rough or soft? Is it heavy or light? Does it smell good or bad?
3. Draw it out
Drawing is one of the most fun mindfulness activities for kids. Tell your kids to close their eyes and think of something that makes them happy. Once they have decided on something, give them a notebook and some crayons and ask them to draw it.
While they are drawing, ask them to think about how it feels to hold the crayon. Next, tell them to focus on the texture of the paper. Ask them to describe the colors they are using in the picture. This will calm the kids’ anxious thoughts by pointing their full focus towards the act of drawing.
Encourage your child to describe what they’re drawing as they’re drawing out loud. You’ll also notice that they might become distracted and talk about other things as they draw. When this happens, gently ask them to describe what they’re doing. “What are you doing now?” “Which part are you drawing now?”
4. Enjoy a mindful snack
Teach your kids the practice of mindful eating by giving them a healthy snack, such as an apple or a granola bar. Before they eat the tasty treat, ask them to take a moment to look it over, focusing on its shape and color. Have them describe how the snack feels in their hands. After they take a bite, tell them to think about the flavor and texture of the treat.
Mindful eating has several benefits. In addition to calming down anxiety, studies show that this practice can help prevent poor eating behaviors, such as binge eating, by allowing the body to more easily recognize fullness. Focusing on the experience can also make a snack seem more enjoyable.
5. Go out for a stroll
Physical activity can reduce stress levels, so take your kids for a walk around the neighborhood to burn some energy. Kids don’t need to know it’s a walking meditation for it to be a mindful experience.
This is one of the easiest mindfulness activities for kids as well as an excellent opportunity to teach them how to enjoy nature and appreciate their surroundings.
While you are out, have them describe some of the things they see. Ask them to notice and point out any noises or sounds. Get them to point out any smells. Ask them to call the colors they see.
6. Practice buddy breathing
The concept of mindful breathing exercises might be difficult for young kids to grasp, so enlist the help of a favorite teddy bear. Have your kids lie down on their backs. Place a stuffed animal on each kid’s belly and ask them to gently place their hands over it. Count to 3 and instruct them to breathe in through their noses. As they inhale, tell them to focus on the feeling of the air inflating their bellies. Count to 4 and have them breathe out through their mouths. The stuffed animals will rise up as they breathe in and fall as they breathe out, providing a good visual representation of what is going on inside of their bodies.
Deep breathing is a fantastic mindfulness exercise. A recent study from the University of Waterloo found that mindful breathing boosts brain function and energy levels. It also relaxes the mind and body, so teaching this exercise allows anxious kids to calm themselves down quickly.
7. Make your own stress balls
This fun craft has the added benefit of giving your kids an excellent mindfulness tool. Take colorful balloons and insert a funnel in the neck. Help your kids carefully pour in the filling of your choice. Try flour, sand, or cornstarch for squishy stress balls. You can also use dry rice or birdseed for a firmer texture and a less messy experience.
Once the balloons are filled, tie them up and let the kids decorate the outside with paint or stickers. Stress balls allow kids to physically relieve any negative feelings with just a squeeze. They are also great as an object to focus on while meditating.
8. Feel the beat
Encourage your kids to let out some energy by doing jumping jacks or running in place for 30 seconds. After they are done, have them sit down, close their eyes, and place a hand over their hearts. Tell them to focus their full attention on how their heartbeats feel. Ask them if they can feel their heartbeats slowing down as they rest. Next, have them focus on their breathing. End the exercise by encouraging them to share any other physical sensations they are feeling.
Teaching your kids meditation is easiest when introducing them to fun mindfulness activities. It doesn’t need to be a chore or super high level for kids to start seeing the benefits and learning the usefulness of mindfulness early on.
It isn’t important that your kids understand the philosophy of mindfulness, how it works, or even why it’s important to learn. Instead, make it fun. Help them build the skill so that when they grow older, they will be better equipped to learn mindfulness meditation and manage their emotions and happiness better.
Have a recommended activity that teaches mindfulness to kids? Share it in the comments below.