Mindfulness and Kids
Mindfulness is a popular term these days, but what does it really mean? Simply put- it means staying fully present in each moment, judgments aside. Mindfulness meditation is the practice of present moment focus using various meditative techniques. It involves observing thoughts, feelings, and sensations, and paying attention to what is actually occurring in the moment. When fully immersed in the moment, one is aware of internal sensations, such as breathing, and external sensations, such as the sights, sounds, and smells. In other words, one learns to get out of their head and pay attention to life, exactly as it is occurring in the moment. This form of meditation has been shown to reduce stress and symptoms of mental conditions in adults. Research is also demonstrating a benefit in children as well (see citations below).
Although young children are naturally in the moment, studies show that teaching meditation at an early age supports the development of attention, regulation of emotions, and positive coping skills. As an example, improvements in self-esteem and behavior were observed in kindergartners who participated in a 12 week mindfulness meditation intervention. Although teaching meditation may not be easy, children benefit when it is incorporated into their routine in a positive and playful way. In other words, it can be done!
Founder Natalia Silva, of Sol Y Luna Nature School in Mission Viejo, offers the following tips on teaching mindfulness to children:
"I think that providing mindfulness exercises that incorporate various senses are helpful, and you can introduce mindfulness using sensory input that most interest your child. Here are some examples: 1. Auditory- Have your child get comfortable and place all attention on a sound, this can include listening to a rainstick, a bell or a gong. 2. Visual-The mindfulness jar is great way to support young children. Here is a link with a video that helps explain how it works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNmMH6tqiMc. Other options include looking at a sand-timer or liquid motion bubbler. 3. Taste- Mindfulness eating is a great strategy and can be done easily at the beginning of family dinner. This video is a great resource: https://www.mindfulschools.org/video/how-to-eat-more-mindfully/ 4. Tactile: Have your child close their eyes, if they are comfortable with it you can use a blindfold. Have them touch items in a sensory bucket and focus on how they feel. Items can include feathers, silk scarfs, silly puddy, water beads, leaves etc. 5. Smell: A spray bottle with an essential oil can help children focus on what they smell. 6. Kinesthetic: Have children balance on one leg for as long as possible, while focused on a steady point in front of them. I think it is important to start with short exercises and build the length of time as children build their capabilities to sustain focus. Instead of one 10 minute mindfulness exercise you can do 3 exercises through out the day for 2-3 minutes at a time."
Co-Founder of Sol y Luna Natura School, Felissa Silva, offers the following recommendations to introduce mindfulness to children:
1. Breathe, breathe, breathe 2. Yoga 3. Making time for quiet or aloud reflection. Observing... Its easy to breeze over problems when there is somewhere to run too or somewhere to go. Reflecting is key to creating mindfulness I think. Children can do this by reflecting on their day, how they felt…etc
Please note that there are myriad resources out there for bringing mindfulness to your children. We particularly love the card deck Mindful Kids by Little Renegades (www.littlerenegades.com).