Mindfulness For Children
Children's development includes learning to work with their minds and control their emotions. Even though the specifics are different from adults, children have stressors too. They are navigating relationships with family members, friends and teachers. They are developing their concentration and learning new academic skills. Mindfulness can benefit children, just as it does adults. Research has shown that children who practice mindfulness have increased focus and are better equipped to handle emotions and stress.
The Mindful Schools definition of mindfulness is: "paying attention to what you want to be paying attention to on purpose with an open, kind, and curious mind." Mindfulness can be taught to children through activities including breathing, movement, read alouds, and listening activities. The goal of mindfulness is to help children be more comfortable with their bodies, minds, and emotions in the present moment. Mindfulness can help children develop executive functioning, self control, coping abilities, and healthy emotions.
An example of a simple mindfulness exercise is called "hand breathing." ( A handout of this activity can be found at https://childhood101.com/take-5-breathing-exercise/ ) Have the child open her hand wide like a star. Using the pointer finger of the other hand, have the child trace up her thumb while breathing in and down the other side while breathing out. Have her trace up and down each finger slowly while breathing in and out. When she reaches the outside of her pinky finger she is done. By the time the child has finished this activity, she has taken five deep, slow breaths. Research indicates that such breathing calms the nervous system.
The leaders in mindfulness for children can be found in the Mindful Schools nonprofit organization (www.mindfulschools.org). During the shutdown of schools due to the pandemic, Mindful Schools created a series of ten videos, each focused on a mindful concept or technique for elementary school children. These videos were highlighted on CNN. The videos include:
1. Mindful Breathing
2. Mindful Movement
3. Practicing Gratitude
4. Read Aloud and Big Emotions
5. Sending Kind Thoughts
6. Read Aloud and the Glitter Jar Mind
7. Chair Yoga
8. Your Five Senses and Breathing Sticks
9. Mindful Breathing with the A,B,C's
10. Mindfulness of Emotions, Feelings and Stress
These video lessons and other resources can be found at https://www.mindfulschools.org/free-online-mindfulness-class-for-kids/ .
Additional resources can be found at: https://www.mindful.org/mindfulness-for-kids/.
Additional reading on mindfulness and children:
The Whole Brain Child, by Daniel Siegel, M.D.
Growing up Mindful, by Chris Willard
Calm: Mindfulness for Kids, by Wynne Kinder, M.Ed.
Mindful Classroom, by James Butler, M. Ed.
Teach, Breathe, Learn, by Meena Srinivasan
Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness, by Deborah Schoeberlein
Books for children:
Moody Cow Meditates, by Kerry Lee MacLean
Anh's Anger, by Gail Silver
The Lion in Me, by Andrew Jordan Nance
Puppy Mind, by Andrew Jordan Nance
Charlotte and the Quiet Place, by Deborah Sosin
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