“Take a deep breath.” “It’s not that big of a deal.” “Try to calm down”. “Let’s move on to something else.” These are all phrases, as an adult, I have said to children (especially my own!). They were also spoken to me as a child by adults. Dismissing, distracting or downplaying during an emotionally turbulent moment for a child often leads to embarrassment, frustration and low self-esteem for that child (as well-intended as we often are in our efforts!)
I began using mindfulness in my classroom (and at home with my children) in an effort to help manage difficult moments in my interactions with my students and children. What I didn’t realize was that soon, these young children would thrive from mindfulness practices and begin managing themselves and their big emotions. The best part is that they have fun with it and often implement it with each other after they have become familiar with various mindfulness strategies!
Mindfulness gives young children many tools that they can use during times that their emotions may challenge them, leading to dealing with emotional adversity in a productive and healthy way. When children can manage their emotions, they also develop stronger self-esteem as they begin to accept themselves as they are - tough emotions and all!
Singing Bowls, Chimes or Bells can be used in the beginning of a mindfulness session to open a pathway of inner-focus which is important for the work that you will do during mindfulness!
Breathwork has many benefits for children (and adults!) and often helps with physical and emotional balance, as well as fostering appropriate energy levels. Some of our favorite resources for breathwork include My Magic Breath by Nick Ortnor, Alison Taylor and Michelle Polizzi and Breathe Like a Bear by Kira Willey and Anni Betts.
Meditation builds emotional resilience, improves attention span, reduces stress and increases self-awareness. Meditation can be self-guided or guided by a teacher, parent or peer. As children build their mindfulness toolbox, they may choose to incorporate meditation into their day in a self-led manner - or they may continue to seek out an adult for guidance. Our most used meditation/mindfulness activity guides include Peaceful Like a Panda by Kira Willey and Anni Betts, Mindful Games for Kids by Kristina Marcelli-Sargent and Kelsey Buzzell, Mindful Kids: 50 Mindfulness Activities for Kindness, Focus and Calm by Whitney Stewart and Mina Braum.
Social and emotional learning and working to develop vocabulary to describe feelings in a variety of different situations is an important part of practicing mindfulness, especially for young children! We are using two “mini curriculums” centered around social/emotional learning in our classroom are The 7 Habits of Happy Kids created by Sean Covey and A Little Spot of Emotion created by Diane Alber.
We also practice yoga in our classroom - we love encouraging our students to come up with different yoga poses that we can all copy! There is no “right” or “wrong” way to practice yoga (other than being safe) - young children love getting onto a yoga mat and letting their imaginations fully engage along with their bodies. Yoga is a great mind-body connection activity!
I will leave you with one of our favorite mindfulness/meditation activities - the “Mind Castle”...
Find a comfortable spot to sit or lie down and take three deep, mindful breaths
Close your eyes
Imagine you are walking towards a castle. The castle can be big, small, stone, brick... it’s your own castle to build as you’d like!
Slowly approach the castle. Is there a drawbridge? A moat? Are there animals in the moat? Do you see knights? A princess? Flowers? Is it sunny outside or raining? Pay attention to all the details as they spring from your imagination.
Walk into the castle. Is it dark inside? Are the lights on? Are there big windows letting light in from outside? Look around. What do you see? Build the rooms of your mind castle however you want to.
What do you smell? Are there cookies baking? Can you feel anything? Reach out and touch something inside of your castle.
Spend as much time inside of your castle as you want to.
Take three deep, mindful breaths.
Open your eyes.
Tell a friend about your Mind Castle!