“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When Mindfulness embraces those we love, they will blow like flowers.” Thich Nhat Hanh
The most effective way to teach your kids about Mindfulness is to be Mindful with them. That is why I named this article “Mindfulness With Kids”, and not “for Kids”. To do so, you need to practice yourself. If you, as parent, know how to be Mindful, then your kids will learn best from you. You will be able to connect and resonate with them in a much more efficient way, understanding how they react to the experiences they go through.
Your way of resonating with them, greatly influences the development of their brain, and it does so most rapidly doing childhood and adolescence. As parent, you want to shape your children to develop as independent people, with empathy, compassion, self-confidence, because you know that life often puts you in difficult confrontations. To inspire children from an early age to develop awareness about their body, mind and feelings in the present, Here and Now, without judgment, to deal with problems gently, to recognize thoughts, emotions and sensations, is your form as parent, to give them the most valuable gift of love.
The Mindfulness it is learned through practice, and not theory, so if you use Mindfulness practice with your kiddos every day, they will learn very easily what it is about, and they will love to use it as much as possible. The idea is to be short, funny, and creative!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- 1 IS NEVER TOO EARLY!
- 2 KEEP THEM HAPPY AND PRESENT!
- 3 TIPS FOR MINDFULNESS PRACTICE
- 4 FINAL THOUGHTS
IS NEVER TOO EARLY!
Many times I have been asked by parents at what age children could start with Mindfulness. Considering that Mindfulness means to pay attention to the present, is never too early. There are countless specialized programs for pregnant mothers, who after giving birth, are tough how to create mindful moments with the baby, how to bathe him mindful, or how to walk and calm him at night if he cries and cannot sleep. But babies grow up and turn into children, and is good to keep their interest about Mindfulness, before society influences them and changes the way they perceive things.
KEEP THEM HAPPY AND PRESENT!
That is why, I come in your help with some simple activities and tips that you can use with your kids, to introduce them in the world of Mindfulness.
THE SNOW GLOBE
The best and easiest example to make them understand about Mindfulness, is the concept of “The snow globe”. Our agitated mind, when we are upset and we cannot think clearly, can be compared to the moment we shake the globe, and we can not see the figurines inside. If the kids wait calmly, patiently for the snow to settle down, making a few slow inhales and exhales with you, they will be able to see again clearly the figurines inside the glob.
CONNECTING WITH THE BREATH
As for adults this technique is the most versatile in being aware of Mindfulness, as well for your kids it will be the source to understand how its works. You can make them pay attention to their breathing by putting a plush doll on their belly, and notice how the doll move slowly, up and down. Another examples might be blowing in a balloon, or a dandelion.
You can explain to the older children and teenagers to pay attention to the air coming in and out of their nostrils, or they can place one hand on their abdomen and pay attention how it rises and fall. Encourage them to observe the changes that take place, the rhythm of breathing, different sensations of the body, the change of attention, and to reflect on their experience.
The activity which you also can use while practicing Mindfulness with kids, is to make them lie down on a large sheet of paper, and while drawing their body outline with a pencil, lead their attention to each part next to which you drew the line. Ask them how they felt, if they tickled, or had tingling, and the fact that they described the sensation, made these sensations aware in their mind, without telling you.
It is a beautiful experience, with laughter and giggles, thus leading to a relaxation on both sides. If it deviates from the proposed goal, gently return their attention to the body.
You can do also the body scanning before bedtime. Standing in bed with the eyes closed, you can gently touch and made them to pay attention to every part of their body, starting with the toes and ending with the top of the head. Be creative, and induce relaxation with each toe, with the sole of the foot, with the ankles and so on.
CONNECTING WITH THE SENSES
4.1 Discovering Nature
“Looking at the beauty in the world, is the first step of purifying the mind.” Arint Ray. What could be more wonderful than perceiving in the present everything around us, to enjoy every sense we have been endowed with, to enrich our world, and brings it colors. You can draw your kid’s attention to: sight (the colors encountered in nature from trees, flowers, sky, sun, clouds, earth); hearing (the sounds made by the songs of the birds, waves, river, animals); touch (the sensations when they feel the wind and sun’s rays on their face, when they step barefoot on the grass, earth, water, warm sand, or stones); smell (of the rain, the breeze of a sea, the scent of flowers, the fresh smell of cut grass); taste (of fruits and vegetables).
I am sure you understood the idea. It is a stimulating, funny, and most importantly Mindfulness activity which improves concentration, focus, and nurture the calm, good mood, and happiness.
4.2 Eating Mindful
Another game you can play with kids and they will love it, is to discover the secrets of the food. You can choose to do it with any food, or easier to start, is to use an apple in different colors, or any colored fruit, on which with the help of the senses, its secrets are revealed. Normally both adults and kids do not pay too much attention to food, or maybe at all. By proposing to your kids a new way to eat, you will arouse their curiosity, and they will see it as a new adventure.
- they need to describe the colors they see;
- depending on the case, they need to pay attention to its shape, size, and texture;
- to smell and taste it, describing whether it is sweet, bitter, sour, dry or juicy.
The exercise can take between 2-4 minutes.
Suggesting to pay attention to every slow step they take, to the way the sole touches the ground, to the bending of the knees as they walk, and to the balance of the arms.
If they are too small, you can do this walk while you count each step done. The count will keep their attention, and they will know that when you say a number, they have to take a step.
YOGA & MINDFULNESS MEDITATION
6.1 Practicing Yoga with the younger toddlers will give them strength, agility, the ability to adapt, it will make them much calmer, and more present. To make them to stay engaged, the practice should incorporate animal poses and storytelling. There are different yoga programs specially designed for children of all ages, to come in your help.
6.2 Mindfulness Meditation can be done with the eyes closed, in a sitting position or lying on a BUDDHA BEAR’S YOGA MAT. You can use a bell or a singing bowl. The idea is your kids to sit quietly, relax, and to listen for a minute the sound produced by the instruments.
Meditation and Yoga practiced from an early age, positively influences the development of children’s brains.
CONNECTING WITH EMOTIONS AND THOUGHTS
Being aware of our thoughts and emotions, is a difficult concept even for us, as adults. When we learn to be aware of them, to know how to observe them, we will be able to understand the power it has over us.
The simple example of explaining to the kids how the mind works, is to make them understand that their thoughts are like wild, restless monkeys, that do not sit in one place at all, but jump from tree to tree, telling stories that they are not true.
Instead, in terms of emotions, kids experience pleasant or unpleasant sensations, just like you. You can make them understand that their feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. They are not there forever. If you manage to connect them to emotions by explaining them as sensations of the body, they will understand them better, both pleasant or unpleasant ones.
You can give them an example, how they felt when someone behaved nicely or badly with them, and especially how they felt when they behaved nicely or badly with someone else. In this way, they will learn to be aware of their own emotions and thoughts in every experience they live in.
DRAWING, PAINTING, AND COLORING BOOKS
Taught your kids to enjoy the pleasure of drawing and coloring because it is an activity through which they can express ideas, thoughts, feelings, relating according to what they draw and the colors used. My son, for example, was attracted to coloring and drawing, only if we did this activity together. If your kids are the same, enjoy this Mindful moment with them, because this activity improves their ability to pay attention, stimulates their creativity, and gives them a state of calm and relaxation.
A beautiful coloring book which encourage kids to be Mindfulness, is Buddha Bear, a combination of art and storytelling, following the trip and adventures of the little Buddha Bear, the friends he makes, and the most important values he learns: Compassion, Gratitude, Discipline. An exciting coloring book that will immediately capture the attention of your kids.
Practicing Gratitude, is a form of Mindfulness. The fact that you thank the Universe for what you have in your life, in the present, makes you pay special attention to people, moments, events who are valuable or bring value to you.
Taught your kids what Gratitude means, inspired them to appreciate the people who are part of their life, who love them, and take care of them. Make them appreciate that they are healthy, that they have what to eat and what to wear, where to sleep and where to study. Taught them the true values of Gratitude, to not take anything for granted, and they will know the compassion, kindness and serenity.
“Be Kind whenever possible. It is always possible!” Dalai Lama.
TIPS FOR MINDFULNESS PRACTICE
1. Mindfulness is not difficult, you just need to remember to do it.
2. Always listen Mindful to your kids.
3. Create short practices appropriate to their age, through which to attract their attention and curiosity.
4. Start gradually and patiently to make them open up and show interest.
5. Everything have to be short, funny, and creative.
6. Enjoy the moments with your kiddos, simply by being present with them and for them. Those moments you will never bring them back.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article, and I would love, you to share with us your Mindfulness experience with your kids, if you have one, or if you consider getting more involved in living present with them and for them.
Till next time…
Be Mindful And Not Mind Full!
~ Diana D. ~
Founder of dareandbe.com/