Modern education in the U.S. is finally picking up on the importance of mindfulness for kids.
More schools are introducing fun mindfulness activities for younger students to not only boost their moods but also improve their focus, empathy, and cooperation.
More teachers and parents are learning the benefits of teaching mindfulness to children in school and at home.
So, what can they do for your children — or for your students?
And how can you introduce mindfulness in a way that will encourage them to make a habit of it?
- Mindfulness Benefits for Kids
- 11 Fun Mindfulness Activities for Kids
- 1. Listen to the mindfulness bell.
- 2. Squeeze and relax.
- 3. Watch yourself breathing.
- 4. Name that smell or touch and tell.
- 5. Go on a mindfulness walk (or safari).
- 6. Get your heartbeat up and breathe.
- 7. What are you feeling?
- 8. Do a Guided Body Scan Meditation
- 9. Color Mandalas
- 10. Make Mala Bead Necklaces
- 11. Talk About Mindfulness
- Mindfulness Games for Kids
- How To Make Mindfulness Fun for Kids
Mindfulness Benefits for Kids
Aside from the obvious benefit of learning how to relax and to pay attention to their senses, mindfulness exercises have also helped kids in the following ways:
- Increased optimism and happiness
- Enhanced focus and concentration
- Improved coping skills and stress-management
- Increased empathy and compassion
- Decreased aggression and bullying
- Improved self-confidence
- Improved self-control and decision making
Given these life-changing benefits, it only makes sense to make mindfulness exercises part of the daily routine at school and at home.
Would you prefer an audio version that features a shortlist of mindfulness activities for kids?
The sooner kids learn to practice mindfulness in ways uniquely helpful to them, the sooner they can learn how to manage both internal and external stressors more effectively.
And the better they are at managing stress, the more they can learn and grow.
11 Fun Mindfulness Activities for Kids
Any and all of the following mindfulness exercises for kids can help the young people in your life to live more consciously, to respond more effectively to stress, and to grow into happier and more compassionate people.
Whatever these kids do with their talents and the skills they learn, they deserve a well-rounded preparation for life beyond the classroom. They also deserve to feel safe, capable, and valued.
A daily mindfulness habit creates the best mental environment for growth. So, education worthy of the name should help students cultivate this habit.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to introduce them to it.
1. Listen to the mindfulness bell.
To begin, lie down on your back or sit in a comfortable position, and close your eyes. Listen to the sound of a single bell chime, and quietly wait until you can no longer hear the sound of it. Raise your hand to signal when you can no longer hear the bell but remain quiet for a minute or so and listen to any other sounds in the room. Now, take a deep, quiet breath . . . and release it as you hear the sound of the bell. [Ring the bell once.]
Afterward, each student can recount the other sounds they heard, whether or not they can identify the source of each sound.
2. Squeeze and relax.
This exercise helps kids learn to be more aware of the tension in their muscles and to relax them — either all at once or one area at a time.
Use the following script, or put in your own words:
How long do they feel tense? And what helps them relax?
Since they practiced consciously tightening and relaxing their muscles, could they practice catching themselves in a tense moment and consciously relaxing those muscles to regain that feeling of calm?
3. Watch yourself breathing.
With this exercise, kids learn to pay attention to each breath they take and to how those breaths affect their bodies.
They watch their chests and abdomens rise and fall with each breath and enjoy a relaxing few minutes of just focusing on this.
Use the following script or your own variation on it.
Lie down on your back and place [something like a stuffed animal or something large enough to see] on your abdomen. Then take some deep, quiet breaths and watch the object rise with each breath you take in and fall with each breath you let out. Ready? Breathe in, 1, 2, 3, 4 . . . hold it for 1, 2, 3, and release nice and slowly for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
4. Name that smell or touch and tell.
This exercises trains kids in paying closer attention to a particular sense — in this case, either smell or touch.
Encourage your kids to find a comfortable place to sit and to close their eyes.
Give them something to smell or to touch with their hands, and give them time to get acquainted using only that sense.
Ask if they can identify the object by its scent or by feeling it with their hands.
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5. Go on a mindfulness walk (or safari).
If necessary, you can make it clear that if any of them bring creepy-crawlies back into the classroom to tease or frighten other students, this will be the last time they get to trade in desk-time for a walk outside.
The purpose is to be more conscious of other living creatures, while also being respectful toward them and toward each other.
Remind them to pay attention to the details of their environment, so they can talk about them or make a list after you go back inside.
6. Get your heartbeat up and breathe.
Encourage your kids to talk about everything they feel — not just their racing heartbeat and faster breathing but any other bodily sensations, as well as how they feel mentally and emotionally.
Remind them that if they feel unwell, you want to know, so you can respect what their bodies are telling them and give them a chance to recover.
If any of your students have asthma that flares up with physical exertion, let them know they have the option of simply lying or sitting with closed eyes and paying attention to their heartbeats and their breathing.
7. What are you feeling?
- What are you feeling right now?
- Where do you feel those feelings most?
- If yes, why do you feel ashamed or embarrassed?
- Do you ever wish you could just turn off your feelings?
- What do those feelings make you want to do?
- What do you usually do when you feel this way?
- What else could you do?
8. Do a Guided Body Scan Meditation
Some kids can sit for traditional meditations. Others cannot, and that’s okay. Wherever your child falls, body scan sessions — an undercover form of meditation — can be a fun exercise.
You can make it a body-part learning game when guiding children through a body scan meditation. Put on some fun music to make the atmosphere more kid-friendly. If the weather is cooperating, do it outside.
9. Color Mandalas
If your child gravitates toward crafts and creative things, coloring mandalas is a fun mindfulness activity for all ages. Make sure the pattern you pick for your child matches their coloring ability. (Yes, there are mandala coloring books for all levels.)
Don’t worry about balance and symmetry. Let your child choose whatever colors they want. Quietly coloring patterns is more than enough mindfulness for a little person’s brain.
10. Make Mala Bead Necklaces
Mala beads are a mantra meditation tool. Traditional strands are made with rudraksha, sandalwood, and other natural stones and minerals. However, plastic, glass, and popcorn are fine for mindfulness-craft hours with your kids.
Proper mala beads have 108 meditation beads and one guru bead, and some parents sneak an undercover arithmetic lesson into mala-mindfulness time. If your child is a bit older, you can introduce the idea of saying something positive with each bead added to the string.
11. Talk About Mindfulness
Kids are like sponges; the sooner you familiarize them with an idea, the better they’ll incorporate the concept into their lives. So feel free to begin teaching mindfulness concepts early on. It can’t hurt your child.
Daily affirmations are a simple introduction to the practice. Kids think it’s fun to “cheer” aloud, and using affirmations is a great way to discuss mindfulness in a way your children can understand.
Mindfulness Games for Kids
The following three games are among the most popular and effective for introducing kids of all ages to the practice of mindfulness.
1. PlayTherapySupply’s Mindfulness Matters (Ages 9-18)
A therapist developed this mindfulness card game to help kids manage stress and anger, worry less, and improve their focus. The cards teach kids strategies for using mindfulness in their daily lives — not just as an occasional relaxing break from their usual routine.
2. Mindfulness Therapy Games (Ages 8 and up)
This game is used by counselors and therapists to teach mindfulness for kids, teens and adults. Designed by educators and child psychologists.
Overcome boredom and teach mindful meditation by stimulating and engaging the imagination.
3. Eline Snel’s Sitting Still Like a Frog (Ages 5-12)
The simple mindfulness exercises cope with anxiety, improve their concentration, fall asleep more easily, handle difficult emotions, and become more patient and aware. The included audio CD has guided meditations read by Myla Kabat-Zinn.
The simple mindfulness exercises in this game help kids cope with anxiety, improve their concentration, fall asleep more easily, handle difficult emotions, and become more patient and aware. The included audio CD has guided meditations read by Myla Kabat-Zinn.
How To Make Mindfulness Fun for Kids
- Mind Their Interests: Incorporating mindfulness into things your child likes is the best way to introduce and teach the concept. Moreover, marrying mindfulness with something your child enjoys will build a positive psychological association between mindfulness and feeling good.
- Don’t Force It: Avoid making mindfulness a chore. It should be enjoyable. Furthermore, if you propose a mindfulness activity and they say, “no thanks,” respect their wishes.
- Let Them Choose: Instead of captaining the ship, let your kids decide which activities they want to do on a given day. Building a sense of ownership and autonomy around mindfulness encourages adoption.
- Show Your Excitement: Kids take their cues from adults. So when you’re excited about mindfulness time, they will be too. No need to go overboard, though. Kids can sniff out phony behavior just as well as the rest of us — maybe even better.
Mindfulness is for everyone.
They may not feel inclined toward the same mindfulness exercises you practice, so do what you can to expose them to a variety of ways to practice mindfulness.
May your awareness and compassion influence everything you do today.