Mindfulness for kids is an amazing way to help your child recognize their feelings, and know how to properly react to them. Teaching your child mindfulness will help them in so many aspects of their lives, starting when they are really young all the way to their adulthood.
Teaching mindfulness doesn’t have to be hard, boring or complicated. In fact, it shouldn’t be forced at all. You can incorporate mindfulness very easily into their daily life through play and bonding time. We will talk about what mindfulness is, what kids should practice it, how we should practice it as parents, and what fun activities you can do to teach your child mindfulness.
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What is mindfulness
You may hear the term mindfulness a lot, especially in reference to self-care, and that’s because it’s important to practice mindfulness as a self-care routine.
Mindfulness or being mindful is just that. Bringing your mind to conscience in the present moment. Being completely aware of your thoughts, feelings, body’s sensations, and your environment around you. In this busy life that we now live in, it’s very easy to not realize that we are just living in this world and everything is just passing right by us, without us fully enjoying it.
Being mindful isn’t just about being aware of life and not letting it zap right by you, but it’s also about slowing down and listening to your body, and really pay attention to your thoughts, and how those thoughts are making you feel, and how those feeling are affecting your reactions, and how those reactions are affecting your life.
There has been research proving that mindfulness has increased brain activity, while helping with reducing anxiety, improving concentration, regulating your emotions and reactivity and so much more. This page About Mindfulness has a lot of interesting research about how it is a great idea to teach mindfulness in school, to benefit both teachers and the students.
The research has shown incredible results with how practicing mindfulness has helped kids in all aspects of life all the way through their adulthood.
How will mindfulness help my child
Having your child start at an incredibly young age, as young as infant will help them so much in life. You may be wondering how you can teach baby mindfulness, they don’t even understand how to control their own head. Well, you’re right. But, we will talk about this more later in the post, but it has something to do with you being a positive role model for them.
So, how does mindfulness help your child? If you haven’t read the research above you should, there’s great information there.
A child learning mindfulness will benefit them in school, focusing in class, knowing how to behave in social settings. Childhood is full of learning, confusion, roller-coaster emotions. It’s a big world and a billion things to learn. They struggle with understanding how it works, and why they need to do things. They don’t know how to properly express their feelings, and that can be just part of developing, but it could also be what they learn in their environment.
Starting at a young age is so great, but if your child is older it’s not too late to teach them how to be mindful. How mindfulness will help your child in life:
- Improve attention
- Emotional Regulation
- Learn and practice compassion
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Reduces activity in the amygdala. This part of the brain is reactivated when we have strong and difficult feelings such as fear.
- Increases activity in their hippocampus, where it’s responsible for learning and memory
- Mindfulness helps activate the prefrontal cortex where it is responsible for maturity and regulating emotions and behaviors helping us make wise decisions.
Having your child practice mindfulness it will also teach and make them be more compassionate and empathetic towards others. Compassion and empathy go hand in hand really, where compassion allows you to feel for another human being, and empathy allows you to understand some else’s feelings and put themselves in their shoes.
Mindfulness helps calm the mind and allows us to not only focus on ourselves, but be aware of other people, and creates this urge to help other people. These are great attributes for kids and adults to have, especially in the world today. Us as parents can help and show them how to develop these skills.
Having these personality traits will also let your child be full of gratitude. They will appreciate life, and what they have, instead of what they don’t have. For kids, especially in school that can be a very hard thing to do. But, if they start learning how to develop these skills early it will become natural to them.
What Mindfulness for kids is not
Like I have said before, you can teach your kids mindfulness at a very young age. But, what you should be aware of is that it won’t change the typical and normal learning experiences that toddlers go through. So, they will still act out, and probably throw tantrums, because that is part of their learning process. You can still teach them how to express their feelings in a calmer way and be consistent with teaching them, don’t give up. Just know they may still go through those phases.
Also, do not force them to be mindful. This is about being able to open your mind and be more aware of your surroundings, feelings, and sensations. Forcing them will not do anyone any good, and will be the complete opposite of what you are trying to achieve. There are ways to make it fun and feel more natural in their daily routine, we will talk about those later on in the post.
How to teach your kids mindfulness
How to teach mindfulness to babies
I know this might seem a little weird, how can babies possibly learn mindfulness at an infant age? Well, they learn through observing at this age. Thier brains are super sponges and they soak in everything, whether you think so or not, they are very aware. At this age it’s your resposibility to show them mindfulness.
A way for them to learn is by watching you and feeling your presence. Babies have such a strong sense they can tell when something isn’t going right, or when their is tention in the air, or when you are distracted. Have you ever held your baby and when you look away and not pay attention them they make a noise or move your cheek for you to look at them?
A great way to show mindfulness is when you are holding your baby, when they are gazing up at you, you gaze back and give them all your attention. I know it’s hard when you’re holding your baby and not looking at your phone! But, it’s a good practice for you to be more mindful too. Take these moments in, and appreciate them.
Another way is by staying calm. I know as a new mom that is so much easier said than done, but staying calm in the most frustrating moments- ei. crying at 230am, is important. When a baby is crying they want to be confronted, and when you are getting agitated and screaming or crying they feel the tension and it makes them want to cry and scream even more. They feed off of our emotions and reactions. Staying calm while getting them calm will help them calm down faster, and build a strong trust in you.
How to teach mindfulness to toddlers
The toddler stage can be so fun and full of laughter when they are showing their personality and learning what they like. But, at the same time, it can be incredibly difficult. They are learning what they like and don’t like, learning how to express themselves. It’s great for them to do these things, but it can be challenging for them and parents. When they are happy it is easy to practice mindfulness because they can appreciate their feelings and express gratitude. But, when they are in a bad mood mindfulness can help redirect them to something that makes them happy and distract them from what was upsetting them, and brings their attention to new happy things.
Just like for babies, the way they learn mindfulness and any other good (or bad) behavior are by watching their parents. By practicing mindfulness they will learn by example. The way you can show them how to be mindful is by not paying attention to your phone so much. Make sure you set a little bit of time looking at your phone (because we are human and have desires), but also make sure you set aside a lot more time for your child.
You can read to them, do art crafts together, have an actual conversation with your child. Also, when you express gratitude and compassion they will see that and imitate you.
How To Teach Mindfulness To Young kids
By this age they are able to retain what you have been helping them with when it comes to practicing mindfulness. It is also very important that when you are assisting them with mindfulness that you don’t only have them practice during stressful and negative situations. Teach them to practice mindfulness like you would teaching them to read or learn their ABCs. You can teach them to use it to bring awareness of when they are feeling happy, curious, and unfamiliar.
Your child may be going into preschool which is a big change for them, being in a different environment, having a teacher and learning new things in a more structured way. If they have already practiced mindfulness at home, by this age just maybe they will remember what to do when they are in an unfamiliar situation or if a classmate wouldn’t share a toy.
A great way to help them is by asking them how their day was. What their favorite part of the day was, why was a hard part of their day, and how did their favorite and least favorite part of day make them feel? This can help them learn about their feelings and know how to listen to their feelings, and emotions. Being mindful for kids is important because this will help them know how to listen to their body when they are feeling happy, sad or scared. It can help them understand what they need to do if they are feeling uncomfortable or unsafe.
Teaching your child forgiveness is another way to be mindful. At this age your child is in school and is exploring a whole new world where you aren’t able to be there to help them in stressful situations. If they are having issues at school, whether it’s them or with another student, make sure you address what is going on with a calm and mindful way, and help them through it.
When your child is going into middle school it can be a bit nerve-racking and it’s such a vulnerable time for them. Being a parent to a tween or teen is hard work, having to deal with teaching them about real life, and seeing their moods going up and down, because of them trying to fit in, finding themselves, and also their hormone changes.
It is very easy and pretty natural to feel frustrated and uncertain about what to do in these tough times. But, practicing how to calm your mind, put yourself in their shoes and try to remember what it was like to be their age again. It is very easy to forget, and not understand their thought process, but we were all there once.
Practicing mindfulness as a parent will help you handle these trying situations with an open mind and calm attitude when you seem calm and collected, it’s easier for them to feel that way too. They might not come to you to talk about what is bothering them, but deep down they know they can if they want to and you will build a great strong relationship. And, if they see you practicing mindfulness and even meditation, they may want to try it, and if they have practiced it when they were younger it will come naturally to stop and focus on the present.
These two popular techniques to help your child practice mindfulness when things are getting tough, or even when things are good to take a moment and appreciate what is going on.
Stop. Take a momentary pause, no matter what you’re doing.
Take a breath. Feel the sensation of your own breathing, which brings you back to the present moment.
Observe. Acknowledge what is happening, good and bad, inside and out.
Proceed. Briefly checking in with your present moment.
Recognize. Acknowledge what is happening in a calm accepting manner.
Accept. Allow life to be how it is, and not trying to change it or wish things were different.
Investigate. Take note of how something is making you feel. Is it making you upset, happy, giving you pleasure, or pain.
Non-Identification. Know that the sensation you are feeling won’t last forever, and will pass.
Teens are able to practice mindfulness like adults. An important why for teens to practice mindfulness is through relationships. They are creating relationships all over the place, with adults, other students, in new dating relationships, and even starting to apply for jobs, and any other kind of relationships they may develop.
Mindfulness is great for learning listening skills, and communication skills. They will be able to know how to bring their mind to the present so they can listen, think and react with respect and kindness.
A great way to practice this is when your teen is having a hard time, you can be there for them and really listen to them without reacting. This will build the relationship tremendously, and they will appreciate the moments you take to talk to them. This will teach them to also listen and communicate without reacting, and really take in what someone is saying.
Having family dinners together at the table is so beneficial to kids and parents bonding. Having an open conversation about something fun that happened during the day. Make sure to laugh, and be there for each other. They will appreciate meal time, your hard work for making dinner, and the bonding time, even if they don’t vocally say it, they will value it.
In today’s world it is so hard to make time for each other with the over scheduled schedules that we have. If you can’t sit down at every meal together make it a point to sit down at least 2-3 times a week together even if you’re eating in your car. Keep your phones away if you can (challenging I know!) It’s difficult to get your teen to listen sometimes and they don’t want to put their phone down, you can try to build their relationship around what they like to do and see if you can join them, whether it’s playing video games, going hiking or bike riding etc.
Building a strong AND trusting relationship with your child is a great way to practice mindfulness, because you aren’t judging their interests, or doubting their decisions. When you put trust in them they will make wise decisions, which is one way for them to practice mindfulness.
It all works together. Parents practice mindfulness- parents grow a trust and bond with their teen through mindfulness- child practice mindfulness through you trusting their decisions.
Mindfulness activities for your kids to do
There are all sorts of crafts that you child and even you as a parent can do that are fun, relaxing and makes you focus on the present.
Cardboard Circle Weaving– Check out these cute and very cool art projects that are simple for kids around 4 and up. (via hello wonderful)
Shadow tracing– this is a fun and mellow activity for kids to do, that will help them focus and explore new shapes and patterns, using their imagination. All you need is paper, pencil, and the sun. (via kitchen table classroom)
Sting and twig art– a simple and creative way to make art and let their minds get creative. (via pink striped socks)
Make a stress ball– This is good for anyone at any age. (via my crazy good life)
Mindful breathing wand– This is a great art project for them to make, and practice deep breathing which does wonders for calming down. You can make this wand or a fun paper cup dragon for the littler kids. ( via kristian marcelli)
Gratitude flower– Create a flower using paper and on each pedal write what you are thankful for. (via blissful kids)
Coloring– this is great for kids of all ages. This helps calm their mind and focus on what they are doing in the present. It’s very therapeutic. You can even have them color a picture and have each color mean a different feeling they may be feeling at this moment or throughout the day.
String Art– You can draw or have your child draw a picture on a canvas or a block wood and get tacks or nails and outline the drawing. Then use the string or yarn to fill in the pattern they drew. (via feels like home blog)
DIY Rainbow Stress Ball– this is a fun bead stress ball that is easy to make and anyone would love to use. (hello giggles)
DIY Calm down glitter jars– this is a great way to get your child to calm down. The jar has glitter, water, and glue. Have them watch the glitter calm down back to the bottom will help them calm down as well. It will help them focus and take their mind off of the situation and think about their emotions. (via preschool inspirations)
These kinds of toys will help your child think and use their imagination. It will help them focus and be more present.
Coggy– This toy is a fun brain teaser that is for older kids. This will get them thinking and using their heads to try to figure out how to turn this into different shapes.
Spirograph– This is a classic toy great for mindfulness. They can get creative and use their imagination creating amazing shapes and patterns.
Imagination magnets– These magnets come in all sorts of shapes for your child to create different pictures that are on the cards provided. This makes them think about what shape they need and how to use them to make the picture. My son has this and loves it!
Color by number– Just like paint by number, but using color pencils. This is a calm relaxing activity for your child at any age to do.
Mosaic Mystery– This is another color by number but you won’t know the image until it’s fully colored. A fun new way to do color by number.
Surf Floor– These are awesome tiles that you put on the floor and it’s full of liquid that changes colors as your kids step on them. Is a great sensory learning activity for babies and older kids! Great for a calming down as well.
Lava Calming Timer– This is a great way for a child to take a time out and watch the lava settle down. It’s a fun and calming way to bring your child to the present and connect with their feelings without suppressing them.
Mindfulness matters game– This game teaches kids and teens how to use mindfulness in real day life and how to apply it to curtain situations.
Block Puzzle– This is like a 3D puzzle that is a brain teaser. Another great relaxing mindful toy for kids of all ages.
Tangled– This game is a great game for the whole family. It helps build teamwork, and communication skills. It makes you use your mind to stay calm, not get frustrated and communicate in a healthy way so you can get each other untangled.
Social Skills– This a fun board game for kids in 1st-5th grade. It teaches them social skills for empathy, your feelings, friendship, showing and managing emotions, and manners. This is full of fun and laughter to make it entertaining.
Gnomes At Night– This is a fun game for kids. They have to use communication, strategies, and quick thinking to help the gnomes find the treasures the queen has stolen.
Mindful Exercises For Kids
Use a mindful jar
Use the mindful jar that we made in the crafting section. If they are feeling strong feelings have them sit with the jar and watch the glitter settle to the bottom.
You can use this script to help them settle down.
Shake the bottle. See how the glitter is all over the place? This is your thought when you are stressed, upset and overwhelmed. The emotions make it hard for you to think of good decisions when we are feeling this way. It happens to adults too.
Then set the bottle on the table in front of them and let them watch the glitter settler down. Now watch the glitter settle and see how the water becomes clear as it settles? That is how your brain is when you take time to settle your mind when you are feeling upset. Once your brain is clear then you can make better decisions, and see clearly. Taking deep breaths can help with calming your mind. (inspired by Karen Young)
Go on a Safari
Tell your child that you are going on a Safari and we are going to explore what is outside. You can have them look and see how many different birds they can see. Look at the trees and see the different leaves, and the kind of trees there are. Take note of the animals and bugs they see. Watch what the bugs are doing and talk about where you think they are going.
This is especially fun for kids. If they love spider man and like to act like spider man this will be a fun way to get them to practice mindfulness.Have them focus on their “Spidey- Senses” thier sight, smell, taste, and sound, . This will have them bring awareness to their senses and bring them back to the present.
Books that teach about mindfulness for kids
Meditation for kids
Meditation is an important part of mindfulness. This will help you and your kids relax your whole body and mind, focusing on your breaths and forgetting about the world. Bringing you back to the center, the present and taking a break for a little bit. Here are some really good guided meditations you can use with your child.
Guided meditation by Anna Kaharris
Sleep Time Meditation
Your Secret Tree House
Mindfulness doesn’t have shouldn’t be a dreadful time where you are stressed to find time to even practice it. Mindfulness isn’t something that just comes automatically, it takes practice and consistency. It’s about rewiring our brains from what we are used to, to making it a part of our daily routine. Whenever you think about being mindful, take that 5 minutes to practice it with your child.
Just remember this isn’t going to change your toddler from having tantrums or teens having mood swings. But, it will help them know how to calm themselves and think rationally. It will help them think of others and their feelings. It will bring a much calm mindset to their lives, open their minds, and bring confidence knowing they can do anything and be anything they want to be.