We all have heard about the benefits of mindfulness exercises as part of adult therapeutic practice. But, we aren’t quite aware that mindfulness practices are highly effective with children as well! A child-friendly explanation of mindfulness would be- paying attention to what is happening in the present moment. Studies have shown that integrating mindfulness or meditation exercises into a child’s routine can prove to have copious benefits.
First and foremost, children can use mindfulness to deal with the stressors of their life. (Yes, children most definitely experience stressors in their lives, although they may be different than adult stressors). Along with this, they learn important skills such as being present in the moment, self-compassion and openness. Practicing mindfulness also leads to improved concentration and self-control.
As children learn primarily by observation, parents and caregivers are a significant source for modeling these practices to children! These activities need not necessarily be something lengthy or fancy. It can be as simple as taking a walk, having a calming uninterrupted playtime with the child or reading/ drawing together. Remember that the purpose of the exercise is to be fully present in the current moment!
A simple mindfulness activity for children is a body scan. Ask the child to lie down in a comfortable position. Introduce deep breathing and then ask the child to pay attention to different parts of the body from their head to their toes. Ask them to notice all the sensations they experience including temperature, texture and weight. This exercise helps children be more mindful of what’s happening in their physical bodies.
Lastly, another simple activity is the 4 square breathing exercise. Ask the child to sit in a comfortable position. Ask the child to imagine a square in front of them. Now trace along the height of the square while taking a deep breath through your nose for 4 seconds. Now, trace along the width of the square while holding the breath for another 4 seconds. Exhale through the mouth as your trace along the height of the square and then hold the breath for 4 seconds as you complete the square. Repeat this deep inhalation, hold, exhalation and hold for four or five more times. This helps the child practice deep breathing to calm their mind and body.