Mindfulness with children By Sonia Mainstone-Cotton
4th May 2017
Mindfulness is about being in the moment, noticing, being present to what is around us and what is going on in our heads and inside our bodies, noticing the breath as we breathe in and breathe out.
Young children can have strong feelings, they can feel anxious and stressed. If we can help children to notice these feelings, to be aware of their emotions and teach them skills to help them with these strong feelings, then we are giving them vital skills they can take through life. Mindfulness can help with this. Young children are brilliant at noticing and being present in the moment. They have a natural curiosity and interest. Taking a walk with a young child can take ages as they stop to notice each stick, flower and snail. Mindfulness practice with young children pulls on this noticing and curiosity, this natural ability to be in the moment.
Mindfulness can help to:
- Relieve stress and tension
- Help with attention
- Expands imagination and creativity
- Regulate emotions
Tips on using Mindfulness with 2-4yrs
- Keep it short- around 2- 5 mins ( if using breathing activities)
- Make it fun and enjoyable
- Do the activities and exercises with the children, so they can see you practicing as well.
- Use emotion language, talk about how it feels inside the body- is your body feeling fizzy or jumpy or is it feeling restful and calm.
- Turn off distractions e.g music/ TV/ games
Children’s mindfulness practice can include
- Noticing the breath and how we breath
- Being in touch with the senses
- Noticing what is around us
Mindful exercises to try:
Mindful walking nature pictures- (see image)
A piece of card with strips of double sided sticky tape all across it
This exercise draws on children’s natural interest and curiosity, it is about noticing, being in the moment.
Go for a walk around the garden/ park or a street. Get the child to notice what is around them and pick things that they are attracted to and put it onto their card. e.g petals, leaves, grass.
As the child chooses items for the picture to talk about how the items feel, how they smell, the textures, the colours. help them to notice their breathing, is it slow and gentle or fast.
Take as long as the child wants, this exercise is about stopping and noticing not rushing.
Rocking stuffed toys with our breath
Get each child to lie on their back on the floor with arms and legs stretched out Place a stuffed toy on the child’s tummy
Tell each child they are going to rock the toy to sleep through slowly breathing in and breathing out. They need to take a deep breath in and breathe out a long breath. Taken from Susan Kaiser-Greenland (2010) The Mindful Child
For more ideas see Sonia’s book ‘Promoting Young Children’s Emotional Health and Well-being’ published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.