You’ve probably come across various mindfulness strategies in many wellness spaces by now. The 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 kids every day isn’t expensive or overly time-consuming for busy parents. Plus, many mindfulness techniques involve enjoyable everyday activities like our favourite picks listed below.
Encourage Gratitude and Kindness
Gratitude drawing: We’ve talked about traditional gratitude journals before, but sometimes little ones need some 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.
Write a letter to a loved one: With this activity, your kiddos get to practice their printing or handwriting skills while learning about snail mail, plus 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. 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 all the fun they’ve had 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 mimick the feelings of a frustrated frog, caring koala, excited elephant or grateful giraffe.
Feelings walk exercise: Feelings walking is kind of 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 these worries, fears, frustrations, etc., down together or draw pictures of them.
- As your child places their concerns into the monster’s mouth, talk with them about how they can either choose to let these emotions go or let them rest here until they’re ready to revisit them later.
Be Mindful in Nature
Take a mindful walk: Practice walking in silence for a few minutes at a time 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 the pages, work on observational drawings or help them write down their thoughts or maybe even a haiku reflecting on the wild beauty around you. On literal (or figurative) rainy days, your nature journal can serve as a reminder of the good times behind and in front of you.
Mindful gardening: Just 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 watering houseplants. Buy a special watering can for your little one so you can hydrate your indoor garden together. This is an opportunity to be 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 meal.
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 is also a fun way to introduce your kids to new foods, but 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 and 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 child should start to notice positive changes over time as you equip yourselves with tools that keep you calm and ready to handle the chaos of life. So keep at it and seek out advice and community support along the way.