You’ve probably encountered mindfulness practices in many wellness spaces. Mindfulness techniques can help practitioners fully experience the present moment and gain insight into their thoughts and feelings by focusing on an activity like breathing, walking or eating. Other benefits of strengthening your ability to be mindful and fully in the present moment include:
• Enhanced ability to self-regulate, be resilient and make good decisions in the face of fear, anger, stress and anxiety.
• Strengthened capacity to focus in our increasingly complex and distracting world.
• Improved ability to use emotional awareness to grow the compassion, kindness and communication skills necessary for nurturing meaningful relationships.
Do these sound like skills you’d like to cultivate with your child? Practicing mindfulness with your little one isn’t expensive or time-consuming for busy parents. Plus, many mindfulness techniques involve enjoyable everyday activities like those we’ll explore in our favourite mindfulness exercises for kids below.
Encourage Gratitude and Kindness
Gratitude drawing: We’ve talked about traditional gratitude journals before, but sometimes little ones need extra help understanding and practicing gratitude. Set out their favourite art supplies and ask them to draw things, people, pets or places they love and feel thankful for in their lives. Check out Zina Harrington’s 10 Gratitude Drawing Prompts for Kids.
Gratitude scavenger hunt: Like a regular scavenger hunt, except easier because you don’t have to hide any loot or come up with clever clues. This exercise helps kids bring positive feelings to the forefront of their minds while running around the house searching for the things they love most. It’s the perfect boredom buster or activity to break up a long day of staring at a screen. Download this free gratitude scavenger hunt printout from Brain Blox, or make your own.
Letters to loved ones: With this activity, your kiddos can practice their printing or handwriting skills while learning about snail mail and manifesting mindful gratitude and kindness! For example, it could be a thank you letter to grandma for a birthday gift or a kind “thinking of you” note to a family member who lives far away.
Your child doesn’t have to send a letter for this practice to be beneficial. For example, maybe they need to work through difficult emotions after a disagreement with a friend or write a letter to themself as a reminder of how amazing they are! They may even wish to write to a favourite toy or family pet to reflect on fun times together.
Emotions yoga: Yoga is a favourite mindfulness-enhancing activity for all ages. This clever version from Kids Yoga Stories can help your child explore their emotions with familiar yoga poses, reimagined with fun new animal personas. Encourage your child to move, sound, and mimic the feelings of a frustrated frog, caring koala, excited elephant or grateful giraffe.
Feelings walk exercise: Feelings walking is like moving to music. But instead, you’re walking to the beat of different emotions.
• Ask your child to walk around as if they’re experiencing a specific emotion like joy or nervousness.
• Discuss how the feeling changes things like their pace, posture and facial expressions.
• Ask them to walk as if they feel another emotion and help them observe how their body changes in response.
You can use a full-length mirror or copy your child’s movements to help make it easier to monitor these changes. This exercise allows kids to recognize how their bodies respond to emotions and become more proactive about identifying and handling them in the future.
Make a worry box: Get creative by transforming a regular old tissue box into a fantastical worry monster. This worry monster can help children place healthy boundaries around their worries.
- Schedule a regular “worry time” to discuss any upsetting emotions your child is experiencing.
- Write down or draw these worries, fears or frustrations.
- As your child places their concerns into the monster’s mouth, talk about how they can let these emotions go or allow them to rest until they’re ready to revisit them.
Be Mindful of Nature
Take a mindful walk: Practice walking in silence for a few minutes to take in your surroundings. Help guide your child to pay close attention to what you see, hear and smell. How does the weather feel around you? If you get distracted, ground yourselves by focusing on the steady rhythm of your breath or feet on the ground.
Nature journaling: Help your child add their favourite reminders of your outdoor explorations to a scrapbook or nature journal. Collect leaves to press between pages, work on observational drawings or help them write down their thoughts or maybe even a haiku reflecting on the natural beauty around you. On literal (or figurative) rainy days, your nature journal can remind you of the good times behind and in front of you.
Mindful gardening: Like experiencing nature in the wild, cultivating plants is also very calming. Whether your child is helping you pull weeds in the garden, harvest veggies, or simply water houseplants. Buy a special watering can for your little one so you can hydrate your indoor garden together. Nurturing living things is an opportunity for your child to become mindful of how each plant’s unique properties and appearance help communicate its needs.
Focus on food
Cook together: Preparing food is an excellent way to be fully in the moment while spending time with kids. Minimize distractions and focus on carefully following your recipe. Don’t know what to make? Check out our favourite no-cook summer recipes and camping menu items!
Mindful eating: Mindful eating can extend your enjoyment of the meal or snack you’ve worked hard to prepare together. It’s all about taking a little extra time to engage all of your senses as you prepare to eat and enjoy your food.
Taste test game: Make a game out of mindful eating. Blindfold your kids as they try to guess what you’re serving based on feel, smell, texture, and finally, taste. This mindful eating guessing game is also a fun way to introduce your kids to new foods. Be nice and keep the menu limited to foods you’re confident they’ll enjoy!
It’s cliché, but don’t forget that mindfulness is about practice, not perfection. One mindfulness exercise won’t cure your child of anxiety, temper tantrums or a desire to play video games all night. However, like yoga or meditation, you and your kid may notice positive changes over time or simply feel more connected while enjoying the moment. As you equip yourselves with tools to handle life’s stressors, including professional advice and community support, you can return to mindfulness as a simple way to foster gratitude, calm and connection.