Positive Parenting + Growth Mindset

How to Teach Mindfulness to Kids – At Any Age

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Inside: A basic introduction to mindfulness, and how to teach mindfulness to kids (at each age group) including free exercises, printables, and lots of recommended resources, books, and videos.

Mindfulness is like a superpower.

Practicing mindfulness will equip you with life-long skills to minimize stress and anxiety, increase energy and happiness, improve focus and concentration, and equip you with practical coping strategies when life gets tough.

But when you can teach these skills to your kids?

Mindfulness Guide for Kids

That’s when you can slap an “S” on your chest…

….because you and your kids will be unstoppable.

And today I have something that will make you feel like you have parenting superpowers:

The ultimate guide to teaching your kids mindfulness (at any age) and you can start right now.

Look:

Most people think mindfulness is all about meditation or yoga.

But in my experience, mindfulness is about tuning into your life every day. In a happy, positive, calm, sensible way.

And what could be a better gift than teaching your kids these skills?

Yes, please!

If you want to learn everything there is to know about mindfulness for kids check out Mindfulmazing’s ultimate guide here.

What Exactly is Mindfulness for Kids?

Imagine being fully engaged in a task, aware of your thoughts and feelings, but not obsessed or controlled by them.

You’re focused on the present, not obsessing about the past or worrying about the future.

Your attitude is positive, curious, and non-judgmental.

That’s mindfulness.

I recently wrote an article on why it’s so important we teach mindfulness to our kids and you can read it here.

But to sum it up, Coles notes style:

Kids are stressed out these days.

The world today is much different than when we grew up. Kids have big pressures at school, they are busy with after-school activities, and keeping up with technology and social media, well that’s an entirely different can of worms.

Kids can’t just “be.” And the sad reality is that many kids are now suffering from mental health issues. The statistics for kids turning to drugs and suicide are staggering. 70 percent of mental health cases are reported to begin during childhood.

Benefits of Mindfulness for Kids

It’s important we teach our kids how to slow down. Mindfulness helps kids in the following area’s:

  • Teaches children to focus on the present moment
  • Equips kids with skills to regulate their emotions
  • Improves concentration
  • Increases compassion and kindness
  • Teaches kids how to manage stress and life challenges
  • Enhances relationships

[su_note note_color=”#fdff66″ radius=”0″]And in the real world, this translates to better performance on tests and in sports, enhanced relationships, better decision making, and more compassion. We have the opportunity to teach our kids healthy ways to manage stress and ensure they have a healthy balance not just right now, but for the rest of their lives.[/su_note]

Do you see how huge this is?

From the moment we are born to the moment we die, mindfulness can keep anxiety under control and promote a happy life.

Early Habits

Children are exceptionally susceptible to mindfulness as habits form early in life (under 5) and these habits will carry forward into adulthood. What a gift we can give our children, a gift of peace, kindness, and acceptance.

So yes, I’d say mindfulness is important. (And the good news, it’s free.)

You might be thinking:

Well, this is all great, but how do I even begin to teach my kids about mindfulness?

Practicing mindfulness can help kids learn to focus, manage stress, calm down, and nurture kindness and compassion. Here's how to teach Mindfulness to kids - at any age! #mindfulnessforkids

How to Teach Mindfulness to Kids (The Basics)

Before we can really begin teaching mindfulness to our kids, we need to do a few things first:

1. Practice mindfulness yourself

The best way to teach mindfulness to kids is to model the behavior yourself.

That’s why it’s important that you learn the basics. Maybe you feel like mindfulness is too “big” picture and unattainable.

[su_note note_color=”#fdff66″ radius=”0″]But if you start by changing one small habit every day, mindfulness just happens.[/su_note]

You can download my FREE eBook, 7 Days to a Mindful Life which will walk you through 7 days, 7 easy steps to begin a mindfulness practice. And this guide is just for you mom! #Self-love!

Free Mindful Life Guide

Mindfulness is important for parents on many levels…..

…..aside from modeling the behavior (which is necessary), it teaches us how to parent in a calm place where we can choose our reactions and engage more fully with our children.

And what a wonderful feeling to engage with your kids.

The bottom line?

You NEED to learn the basics of mindfulness yourself.

How? Grab our free mindfulness guide. Period.

2. Don’t force it.

If your kids aren’t interested in a lesson or activity you are trying to show them, drop it.

Let go of your control issues.

This is a good time for you to practice mindfulness.

Stop trying to control every outcome. Let go of attachment to specific outcomes. 😉

Now:

Pick it up again tomorrow. Try a different approach, activity or time of day.

And — bada bing, bada boom — you just might have success.

3. Keep your expectations in check

Remember these are children not master monks.

So what’s the bottom line?

Keep your expectations in line with reality.

There will be days your kids might love to practice, and there will be other days they are definitely not interested.

How to EXPLAIN mindfulness to your children (plus activity examples)

This section is broken down into three parts:

  1. How to teach mindfulness to toddlers
  2. How to teach mindfulness to elementary school kids
  3. And finally how to teach mindfulness to middle school kids and teenagers.

Recommended: Get our eBook, Mighty Mindful Kids, a must-have tool to empower children to build empathy and manage everyday emotions.

How to Teach Mindfulness to Kids

How to Teach Mindfulness to Kids Ages 3 to 5

If your child is 3 – 5, this paragraph is for you.

Rule#1 – Keep it really, really simple.

Even the youngest of children can sense distraction.

So the bottom line:

Work on being present yourself.

Here is where it’s crucial we model mindfulness ourselves. Smartphones can be pretty addicting, but try to put down the phone and engage with your kids.

Don’t underestimate the power of eye-contact, get down on the floor, and smile.

Stay Calm

When toddlers become upset (which can be quite often), try not to get agitated yourself. (It’s difficult, I know, my son Liam is what they call “spirited,” I know all too well the mood swings of a toddler.)

But getting upset can trigger an unhelpful energy cycle where you and your child are feeding off each other’s agitation.

When You Are Feeling Frustrated:

For parents who are in a stressful or upsetting situation with their toddler, a popular mindfulness exercise known as S.T.O.P published in N.Y. Times mindfulness for children guide is a great tool.

Stop.  Just take a momentary pause, no matter what you’re doing.
Take a breath.  Feel the sensation of your own breathing, which brings you back to the present moment.
Observe.    Acknowledge what is happening, for good or bad, inside you or out. Just note it.
Proceed.   Having briefly checked in with the present moment, continue with whatever it was you were doing.

If you would like a free poster of S.T.O.P to hang on your fridge, download it here (it’s included with the guide above) and print it out! This will be a great reminder not only for your mindfulness practice but a useful mantra to calm down in those hectic moments.

Explaining mindfulness to a toddler

Now that we’ve looked at a few modeling behaviors we need to explain to our toddler what mindfulness even is, we need to use simple exercises to do so.

Jumping into a lot of verbiage or theory is not the approach we should take with a young child.

Below is the exact script I used with my three-year-old in the car this week:

“Have you ever heard of the word mindfulness?” and he replied, “What’s just that?” (in his cute little three-year-old voice.)

“Well,” I, said, “It’s really, really cool.” His little eyes lit up, “When you look around, you’ll see things, like the cars driving by, and the trees, and grass. You can also smell things, like flowers. And taste things too, like your animal crackers. These are all examples of mindfulness. Things around you.”

Then I asked him, “Tell me five things you can see right now.”

To my surprise, he answered immediately, “I see green trees, and cars, and buildings.” He rhymed off about ten different sights. I was amazed at how observant he really is.

Then we moved on to smell.

He loved this game. And I learned a whole new side of him.

After playing for a couple of minutes I explained to him, “There’s more, mindfulness also means noticing your mind.” Point to your brain, “Your mind, it thinks right? All sorts of thoughts. It tells you how you feel — sometimes you are happy, sometimes sad, and sometimes even angry. We can pay attention to what our mind is doing? Maybe if we did, we could help ourselves when we are sad, angry, frustrated.”

Then I asked, “How are you feeling right now?”

He told me he was happy and this was wonderful because when your toddler isn’t happy, the whole world knows about it. But to my surprise later that evening he told me he was feeling sad because he couldn’t have ice cream for dessert. I know, the problems of a three-year-old, but I was incredibly proud of him for noticing and expressing his feelings.

It’s really as simple as that.

Two simple mindfulness exercises to practice with your 3 to 5-year-old.

1. Senses stroll.

My son and I love to go for walks after dinner and on weekends, and we play a little game we like to call a “watchful walk.”

This game consists of strolling through the neighborhood (or often walking a trail) and simply taking notice of things sights, sounds and smells around us.

We will point out the trees, the grass, if the sky is clear or cloudy, look for ants, dandelions or butterflies and pay attention to noises and even the temperature.

Mighty Mindful Kids PDF (ages 2-10)

Give your child the gift of life-long coping skills with our best-selling Mindfulness activity guide for kids — Mighty Mindful Kids. This guide includes 40 fun and engaging mindfulness exercises to help children improve focus, calm down, and foster relationships!

LEARN MORE

At our usual park turn around point, we designate one minute where we fall completely silent, no talking aloud. I’ll set an alarm to make it fun for my son (he is 3-years-old after all) and we listen for lawnmowers, birds, and the wind.

The theory of mindfulness is never discussed. We don’t even call it mindfulness, but that’s what it is.

It’s fun for him (and for me too) and great for habit building.

Spiderman meditation

My 3-year-old son loves superheroes, and this Spider-Man meditation is a real treat for him.

This game teaches kids to learn to activate their super powers to tune into your senses, just like Spider-Man. They learn to focus on what they can smell, taste and hear in the present moment. I love this one.

From Mighty Mindful Kids

2. How to Teach Mindfulness to a 5 to 9-year-old

If your child is 5 to 9, this paragraph is yours.

Rule # 1 – Keep is really simple

As children start to grow mindfulness is super beneficial as they progress through school. Their world becomes larger and their problems a little bigger. Mindfulness in school is becoming more mainstream. Read here.

Just like with a toddler, we as parents, still need to be mindful of our energies. Kids have such highs and lows and if we aren’t careful, we can mimic these highs and lows.

From NY Times, an exercise well known as R.A.I.N helps parents to stay in the present moment and not allow other’s emotions to affect ours. (Get your free fridge printable R.A.I.N here)

R: Recognize.  Acknowledge what is happening, just noting it in a calm and accepting manner.
A: Accept.  Allow life to be just as it is, without trying to change it right away, and without wishing it were different somehow.
I: Investigate. See how it feels, whether it is making you upset or happy, giving you pleasure or pain, just note it.
N: Non-Identification. Realize that the sensations you are feeling make for a fleeting experience, one that will soon pass. It isn’t who you are.

Get both the R.A.I.N and S.T.O.P printables for your fridge here.

Practicing mindfulness can help kids learn to focus, manage stress, calm down, and nurture kindness and compassion. Here's how to teach Mindfulness to kids - at any age! #mindfulnessforkids

Now:

Even though your child is growing and more cognitively aware, just like a toddler, we want to explain mindfulness very simply.

We want to teach our child that they can tune into their feelings and senses. They can start to recognize what they feel, how they think, what they see, and more importantly — how they react.

And the best part?

Older kids are still curious and love new concepts and ideas, so most kids are super receptive to learning. And to be honest, even though our kids are growing, they still crave attention from mom and dad and incorporating mindfulness exercises is a great way to connect with your kids.

Really connect.

Exercises to teach your 5-to-9-year-old mindfulness

Make a Mind Jar or Watch a Snow Globe.

A mind jar is a bit like a snow globe – shake it up and watch the flurry of activity, but then sit quietly and watch the dust settle!

Here’s what to do next:

Explain that our minds work the same, if we sit and breathe, soon any disturbance in our minds settle as well.

Read here instructions on how to make a calm down jar.

Check your personal weather report.

In the wildly popular kid’s mindfulness book, Sitting Still Like a Frog, Eline Snel encourages children to “summon the weather report that best describes [their] feelings at the moment.”

Ask your little one how they are feeling? Blue skies, windy, stormy, cloudy, sunny, clear and calm.

This is actually one of my favorites. It allows children to observe their feelings in a fun way and just like the weather sometimes we can’t help how we feel. But what we can do is change how we relate to the weather (and our feelings.)

Practice with a breathing buddy.

For young children, teaching them breathing exercises is incredibly powerful. In this video, Daniel Goleman describes a 2nd-grade classroom that does a “breathing buddy” exercise: The kids pick a stuffed animal, lie on their backs and put their “breathing buddy” on their bellies.

Then they are instructed to focus their attention on the rise and fall of the stuffed animal as they breathe. You can try this exercise easily at home and be sure to put a stuffy on your belly as well.

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scqFHGI_nZE” height=”460″ responsive=”no”]

3. How To Teach Mindfulness to An Older Child

If your child is 9 and above, it’s your turn.

Ahhhhh…Teenagers

Rule #1 Keep it simple.

It’s okay to explain in a little more detail what Mindfulness is. Here is a good example from Jon Kabat Zinn.

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.Click to Tweet

Ask your child if they can notice their thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and anything around them that is happening NOW?

Older kids and teenagers have the cognitive ability to understand the theory of a mindfulness practice, much like adults, but they might show some resistance to its practice.

Practicing mindfulness can help kids learn to focus, manage stress, calm down, and nurture kindness and compassion. Here's how to teach Mindfulness to kids - at any age! #mindfulnessforkids

Exercises to teach older children mindfulness

Mindful As A Family

Teenagers have many relationships, budding romances, life-long friendships being built, teachers and parents, and coaches. So it’s essential that we focus on relationships. Mirror mindfulness by staying present, listening carefully and speaking with kindness.

One important exercise to promote mindfulness to teenagers is to have dinner together. I know it’s busy, running from soccer to hockey to dance, most days I feel more like a taxi driver than a parent. But at every opportunity, we should be sitting down as a family and checking in. No phones!

Practice taking a moment of silence before you eat, expressing gratitude and then ALL  sharing one happy moment from your day. Make it a ritual. Your kids might roll their eyes now, but years down the road, they will fondly remember these dinner times and maybe even start the ritual with their own kids.

Being a Present Parent

It’s easy to say what does it matter if I’m on my phone, my child spends every waking minute lost in his or her iPad. It does matter; we still need to model mindful behavior, even if we feel all hope is lost.

Brain break

Where kids (and we can really use this exercise at any age) take a “brain” break from their homework, chores, IPad or phone. During this break, they take a deep breath and calm themselves for five minutes of quiet time. This strategy was taken from MindUp’s website by Goldie Hawn.

Whew, that was a lot!

To recap a few of the most important parts of this article; keep it simple, model mindfulness yourself, set aside ten minutes a day, three times per week to practice and evolve your practice with your growing child.

Our kids are busy. Our kids are stressed and our kids are anxious.

Mindfulness can and will help!

Mindfulness is proven to reduce anxiety, improve focus and memory, help with sleep, improve self-esteem, generate compassion and kindness and equip our kids with lifelong skills that will benefit and help them deal with life — the good and the bad.

What an opportunity we have to provide these invaluable tools to our children.

WAIT THERE’S MORE!!!

Get your hands on the FULL VERSION of my eBook Mighty Mindful Kids which includes a whopping 40 exercises (25 mindfulness exercises (plus 15 bonus exercises), pro tips and a color-coded, organized template that you can print out and put into a binder.  Please click here.

Don’t miss out — get the colorful Ebook now and start this life-changing journey with your kids. It costs less than a couple Starbucks coffee’s, can you afford not to?

Mighty Mindful Kids PDF (ages 2-10)

Give your child the gift of life-long coping skills with our best-selling Mindfulness activity guide for kids — Mighty Mindful Kids. This guide includes 40 fun and engaging mindfulness exercises to help children improve focus, calm down, and foster relationships!

LEARN MORE

OTHER MINDFUL KIDS RESOURCES AROUND THE WEB

Below is a selection of my favorite mindfulness websites/apps/books and exercises for parents and children:

Headspace for Kids Thrive Global

Anaka Harris – Innerkids

Blissful Kids

Relaxation Scripts – Bloom Parenting

Yoga Card Deck

Mindful Games –  Personal Note: This activity card set is absolutely amazing.

The Big Life Journal 

This guided journal incorporates reading, expressive writing, and critical thinking while teaching Social and Emotional Learning and growth mindset skills.

Growth mindset activities help children recognize their ability to learn and motivates them to harness the power of their own mind.

It can help children learn to embrace challenges, to persevere, and how to grow from mistakes and failures.

This guided children’s journal is broken down into 26 weeks with each week covering a new theme or topic including:

  • Make a Difference in the World
  • Dream Big
  • Follow Your Heart
  • You Are Not What You Have
  • Believe in Yourself
  • Take Action
  • Be Persistent
  • Effort is Key
  • Love Learning
  • Be Mindful
  • Be Grateful
  • Failure is Learning
  • Be Positive

I’m in love with this journal! Check it out here.

Stay tuned for more mindfulness strategies and practices to incorporate into your daily lives with your kids. And don’t forget to read up on Why Mindfulness is So Important for Kids.

Please, I’d love to hear your biggest challenges with your kids and how you think mindfulness can help you!

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