These four simple exercises will introduce even the busiest of brains to the endless benefits of mindfulness – alleviating worries, sparking joy, and sharpening attention spans.
This bell exercise encourages children to fully immerse themselves in their environment, sharing their perceptions with one another.
- Ring a bell.
- Ask each child to listen closely to its vibrations as they bend and break across the room. They should remain silent and close their eyes, raising their hands (silently!) when they can no longer hear the ripples.
- Next, challenge the group to remain silent for a whole extra minute, tuning in to any other sounds they can still pick up on once the ringing has stopped.
- Are there any other subtle sounds erupting within the room? How about the tiny noises coming from their own bodies? Does their breath make a sound? Are any feet creaking and squeaking? Are any tummies rumbling and grumbling?
- After the minute has passed, go around the circle and ask each child to describe all of the sounds they noticed. Did they each pick up on the same noises? Did different children notice different things? Encourage them to share their thoughts with the group.
Smell and tell
Scent can be a powerful tool for anxiety relief. Citrus wakes up receptors in the brain, sparking energy, creativity, and hopefulness. Pine centres and grounds, pulling the nerves back to earth. Chamomile sends busy brains to sleep. Use this simple ‘smell and tell’ method to help children stimulate their noses and relax their minds.
- Pass something fragrant out to each child, such as a piece of fresh orange peel, a sprig of rosemary, or a bar of soap.
- Ask them to close their eyes and breathe in the scent, focusing all of their attention on the sensations in their nose.
- Ask them to describe what they smelt and felt.
By using cuddly toys as visual aids, you can make meditation far friendlier and more accessible to children, and show them that an activity doesn’t need to be boisterous to be fun.
- Hand out a cuddly toy to each child.
- Ask the children lie down on the floor, placing the cuddly toys on their tummies.
- Get them to just lie there and breathe in silence for one whole minute, focusing on the weight of their breathing buddy. Have they noticed the way their breathing buddy moves up and down as they inhale and exhale? It’s as if they are one!
- If they struggle to focus, ask them to imagine that every thought that comes into their minds during this quiet time will turn into a big bubble and float away.
‘When the dog bites, when the bees stings, when I’m feeling sad… I simply remember my favourite things, and then I don’t feel so bad!’ – Julie Andrews
Gratitude is no cure-all, but it is a hugely under-utilized tool for improving life-satisfaction and happiness. By teaching kids to see the abundance in their lives – instead of focusing on all the new toys and goodies that they crave – we can help them to grow stronger and happier.
- Start small by just trying to have a conversation with your child about the things they are thankful for in their lives. Here are a few prompts to get you started: ‘I’m grateful for…’, ‘Thank you for…’, ‘I appreciate…’, ‘I really like…’
- Kids might only be able to name one or two things to start with, and they might be materialistic in their choices. This is ok. The more they practice, the deeper their thought processing will become.
- Share your own thoughts too. This will give your child a frame of reference, and bring you both together. The examples you give can be as simple or as profound as you like.
- Once you’ve had that initial conversation, try to make it a regular habit for the two of you. Check in regularly over dinner, at bedtime, or during your daily walk. Before you know it, your child will have gathered a whole stockpile of happy thoughts to delve into on drearier days.