Mindfulness refers to the practice of being aware in the present moment and focusing on it entirely, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. There are various benefits of mindfulness, including better resilience, relationships and connection to yourself. You can practice mindfulness through your breathing and everyday activities such as drinking chai and walking!
However, there is a big myth relating to mindfulness. The myth being that mindfulness is an intense activity and can only be done by adults and “grown-ups.” That is strictly not true and mindfulness can be practiced by children and adults alike. All you need to do it is introduce mindfulness to kids is a simple and small way, rather than how you’d approach it as an adult. Please note, the age group this is meant for is between the ages of 8-16 years old children, who are still growing and in their early childhood or adolescence.
How to explain mindfulness to a 5 year old?
Mindfulness in simpler words means to be aware of your surroundings and noticing the changes in yourself according to the changes in the environment. For a 5-year-old, complex nuances might be a little hard to grasp but we can start with the basics like helping them notice the change in their facial expressions when they see a cute baby or a pet and making them realise the experience they are going through. Here we are setting the foundation for complex exercises such as noting feelings, sensations that the child can easily understand when they grow up.
Benefits of Mindfulness for Kids
- Mindful children are often more in control and in-touch with their emotions when growing up
- Kids that practise mindfulness can pay better attention since they are used to concentrating on the changes when practising mindfulness
- One of the most essential benefits of teaching mindfulness to kids is it helps them slow down and take cognizance of the activity and not rush through things which kids usually do
- Other benefits including becoming more patient and able to listen to others
How to introduce mindfulness to children
Practice deep breathing. From an early age, ask your children to spend 5 minutes focusing on their breathing. They need not close their eyes, but just breathe and focus on the inhale and exhale movement. Ask them to do that and notice how they feel while they are doing it. If you can instill this habit from an early age, it will help them a lot while growing it. It’s a simple way to introduce mindfulness to children!
Play object games. Ask your child to close their eyes and hand them a couple of objects. One by one, they hold the object in front of them and study it with their eyes closed. Then, they can silently reflect on how the object felt. From the temperature, texture, shape to smell, ask them to reflect on each of these for 15-20 seconds. Tell them the aim is not to identify the object, but to understand how you felt holding the object. This is a great way to engage their time during covid and lockdown, and introduce mindfulness to children!
Use their non-dominant hand. A simple way to introduce mindfulness to children! Ask them to write something down with their non-dominant hand. It can be anything and you won’t read it either. All they must do is write things in total silence and full concentration. This task will engage them so much, they will be unable to think about anything but end up staying in the present moment, with their non-preferred hand. They will be totally in the moment and immersed in the activity! Another advantage, this can help their self-control and self-awareness too!
Write down their feelings. Another simple writing activity that can serve as an introduction for mindfulness to children. At the end of the day, ask the child to write down their feelings and experiences of the day on a piece of paper. Give them total privacy and tell them to be honest. Ensure they won’t get into any trouble and they should write down whatever they felt, good or bad. This will help them reflect on their day, stay in the moment with their thoughts and balance their mind. It will also help them connect with their body and mind and make journaling a habit.
Soft toy breathing. A very engaging and unique way of introducing mindfulness to children is soft toy breathing. Place a soft toy on their belly and ask them to breathe normally. As they breathe, ask them to count how many times the toy on their stomach goes up and down. Ask them to do this for a few minutes and focus on it. It will be a fun activity for them and they’ll be willing to give it a go without getting distracted. As a result of this, they will end up focusing on their breathing and stay in the moment for the duration of the game! It’s a simple and effective way to add mindfulness to their lives.
Making Mindfulness Fun for Kids
The main goal for a parent would be to make the activities fun for the kids and ensure it does not feel like a burden like studying feels to many kids at a young age does. If the child thoroughly enjoys and looks forwards to the practice then the results will be visible a lot more quickly. More importantly, it would require a tremendous amount of patience at your end as a parent to ensure things are light-hearted yet interesting and the child keenly practices these exercises. Start with simpler exercises such as mindful eating or even just helping them understand when their stomach is full.
As a child, they may not need more than 2-5 minutes of mindfulness during their day. It’s a good starting step and can have many benefits as they grow up. In fact, 5 minutes of mindfulness is all the time needed by an adult as well, to stay in check of their emotional well-being! These are simple ways you can introduce mindfulness to children, and if you like it, you can try it too! There are various meditation techniques to practice mindfulness you can try as well!
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Jash is an expert on mindfulness.