23 Jun Child Friendly Mindfulness Practices
We’ve all heard the term, but what exactly is mindfulness? How can it really help me? Mindfulness and relaxation practices have been around for ages, but in recent years have gained attention for their calming effects on people of all ages. Being mindful is synonymous with staying in the moment and being present. You might be thinking, “I’ve tried meditating, it doesn’t work for me”, or “there are so many people in my house – how can I possibly practice mindfulness?” These are all valid statements, and valid thoughts that many of us experience (yes! even us Mental Health professionals).
Stress comes in many forms and can manifest differently in each person. For kids and young adults, stress can show up as increased agitation/reactivity, prolonged irritability, or even depression. For adults, stress may even manifest itself as physical or somatic pains in our body. Practicing mindfulness each day can help our brains adjust to navigating stressful or chaotic environments and have lasting impacts on the nervous system long after the few minutes you are doing the exercise.
Below are three easy mindfulness practices you can do on by yourself or with others. My recommendation to clients is to just give it a try. If you hate it or it doesn’t impact you positively, you can move along to something else. If you are willing to try, you just may find a quick and simple exercise that helps your brain quiet the noise and calm the chaos.
Breathing exercises can be anywhere! They can be done standing up or sitting down. The beauty of practicing breathing techniques is that each of us has a tool that is built into our body. It is always with us, always handy. I recommend starting with one to two minutes at a time, then see how long you can build up your practice from there!
- Start by imagining something peaceful in your mind – a forest, a running stream, a blank canvas, or anything that brings you a sense of calm. Begin to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth slowly. Each breath cycle should last for approximately six to eight seconds.
- As you get into the rhythm of your breathing, imagine your thoughts floating away on clouds. Let go of your to-do list, things you’ve been working on, and visualize them floating slowly away. Should pesky thought clouds return, simply acknowledge their presence, then gently push the cloud away, and refocus your attention on your breath.
- Pay attention to the rise and fall of your belly and chest as your breath enters and exits your body.
- When you finish the exercise, take a few minutes to reflect on how you feel. Notice anything? Has your heartrate slowed down? What else did you notice about the practice?
These exercises can be a great way to introduce children to mindful practices. It helps them focus and keeps their attention on the task at hand.
- Tell your child you have a three-minute exercise you want to do with them, and it involves a snack!
- Pick something that has a lot of flavor and can last in the mouth for a few minutes – this could be a small piece of chocolate, a raisin, a skittle or other hard candy, or even a piece of gum or mint.
- Tell your child that once the exercise begins, each of you will be quiet for the duration of the activity. Let them know you want them to explore the item and notice any tastes, smells, or sensations they have.
- Start the exercise! Set a timer to help you. Have your child close their eyes
- When the timer goes off, talk about what they noticed. Prompting questions might be “how did it feel on your tongue, against your teeth/roof of your mouth? Did you notice anything different from the way you usually eat this item? Did you have any other thoughts that popped into your head? Did you notice any changes in your breathing?”
This exercise is like mindful tasting but doesn’t involve food. We all have pennies in our home so it’s an easy activity to do. Note: if you’re doing this with a small child that may be prone to putting the penny in their mouth, pick a larger item they can notice such as a stuffed animal, textured item, or even an ice cube!
- Tell your child you have a three- minute exercise you want to do with them.
- Tell your child that once the exercise begins, each of you will be quiet for the duration of the activity. Let them know you want them to spend the time focused on what they notice about the penny including what they see, smell and how it feels when they touch it. They can even experiment with what it sounds like against other materials!
- Start the exercise! Set a timer to help you keep track of time.
- When the timer goes off, engage in a dialogue and encourage them to share what they noticed. How did it feel in your fingers? What did it smell like? Was it new or old? How could you tell? What did it sound like when it touched other surfaces? Did you have any thoughts while you were doing this exercise?
Brittney Walters, LCSW is the Clinical Director of CHRIS Counseling Center-Atlanta. To learn more about our counseling services, available for the whole family, email Counseling.Center@CHRIS180.org