As I explained in my blog How Practicing Mindfulness at Home Can Help Your Child Struggle Less in School, mindfulness helps kids calm down when they're sad, angry, or frustrated.
Mindfulness also helps them deal with tough emotions and improves their over-all level of happiness. It can also help make learning easier by improving focus so the school doesn't seem so hard and boring.
The best part is, it doesn't need to take a lot of time. While forming the habit of remembering to be mindful can be a bit challenging, the actual practice can be done in as little as 2 minutes a day.
Try these four daily mindfulness techniques for kids and see which ones work best for your family.
Finger Breathing (2 minutes)
This technique is taken from my Mindfulness Tool Box for Kids and Families downloadable eBook. It's one of my favorites because it is so simple, fast, and remarkably effective at helping kids (and adults!) come back to the center.
This is a fun and easy exercise to ease tension or upset and helps kids calm their nerves. Concentrating on breathing helps to focus their attention and regulate their emotions.
How to Finger Breathe
1. Place your pointer finger at the base of your thumb on the opposite hand (where your hand meets your wrist).
2. Close your eyes and breathe out all your air through your nose.
3. Slowly start to move your pointer finger up the outside of your thumb, and as you do this, start breathing in.
4. When your finger reaches the top of your thumb begin breathing out slowly as you slide your finger down the inside of your thumb.
5. At the bottom of your thumb, start to breathe in again as you move your thumb up the side of your index finger.
6. Slowly move your thumb up and down along all 5 of your fingers, breathing in each time you are moving up and out each time you are moving your finger back down.
Practice finger breathing just once to settle your mind, or repeat it as many times as needed. The more they finger breath, the more Zen your kids will feel.
Shark Fin (2 minutes)
This is a great exercise I found on Teachstarter. Shark Fin is a fantastic tool that you can use during any quick moment in your day. It's good for parents with multiple kids who need to calm the troops. It's adapted from the book Master of Mindfulness: How to Be Your Own Superhero in Times of Stress.
Place the side of your hand on your forehead, with your palm facing out to the side.
Close your eyes.
Slide your hand down your face, in front of your nose.
Say "shhh" as you slide your hand down your face
If you are sitting down, you do the 5 S's while you move your hand: Sit up straight, sit still, sit silently, soft breathing, shut eyes.
If you are standing do the same but you are standing straight, still, silently, using soft breathing, and shut your eyes while you move your hand down your face.
Mindful Eating (3-5 minutes)
We eat every day, so this is a great one for integrating into your everyday routine. You can get your kids to practice mindful eating as a stand-alone activity with something small like a square of chocolate, a piece of cheese, or a few grapes, or you can practice it for the first few minutes of snack or mealtime.
Connecting this with the food that fuels our bodies helps children to recognize feelings of hunger and fullness, slow down when eating, better digest, and fully enjoy snacks or meals! It also helps them create a new relationship to food and create healthy habits for life.
Encourage your kids to use all five senses and practice small "mindful bites". This only needs to be done for a few minutes, as attention spans are short and you want it to be something fun, not frustrating for a hungry belly. Here are some prompts from Action for Healthy Kids for each of the senses to draw from that your kids can explore while they eat mindfully:
See: What do you notice? What color is it? What shape is it? What stands out?
Feel: When you hold it in your hand, what does it feel like? Is it soft or hard? Squishy or rough?
Hear: Does it make any sounds? What about if you squeeze it between your fingers? (You can also revisit sound during taste)
Smell. How would you describe the smell?
Invite children to close their eyes as they explore taste.
Taste: Put the food in your mouth. Before you chew, what is the first thing you taste? Is sweet or salty? Sour or savory? As you start to chew, chew slowly and before you swallow, think about the change in flavor, texture, and sounds. Does it change the longer you chew?
Remember to keep this short and fun. Perhaps one or two prompts per day when sitting down for dinner. You can even go around the table and each talk about what you noticed as a way to keep it engaging.
Body Scan (5-10 minutes)
This is a great exercise to do at bedtime when your child is in their bed ready for sleep. It's especially helpful for anxious sleepers or kids who 'aren't tired' and have trouble falling asleep. It takes a bit more time than the other daily ideas I've given, but it's a wonderful calming practice to end your child's day.
If you read with your child at bedtime, do the body scan after you have finished that. Once they are laying down in bed with their eyes closed, encourage them to pay attention to their feet for 5 or 10 seconds.
You then ask them a few questions that they think about in their mind:
How does your [body part] feel?
Is it cold or warm?
Does it feel tight or relaxed?
What is touching that body part? Sheets? Clothing? How does that feel?
You then move on to the ankles, shins, knees all the way up to their head. They may fall asleep before you finish – and that's ok! This means mindfulness has done its job of calming them down and allowing their brain to switch into rest mode. It's also a beautiful way for them to fall asleep hearing your voice.
Practice – not perfection.
Many parents wonder how they are going to fit in even one more thing to their busy schedules, and that's understandable.
But practicing daily mindfulness techniques is one way you can help your kids, and yourself, take a break from the chaos, recover from a bad day, and learn to live in a way that promotes a healthier state of wellbeing.
For more mindfulness ideas and activities, download my free eBook Mindfulness Tool Box for Kids and Families.