For the past three years my children and I have been working to include more mindful practices into our days. Practicing mindfulness is a lot like going to the gym. People go to the gym to exercise their muscles so that they will be strong and ready when they need them. Just like exercising your muscles, it is important to exercise deep breathing and being mindful. When you do this, you will better be able to deal with the stress and anxiety that comes your way.
Today I want to share with you a few of our favorite ways to practice mindfulness. We do not do all of these things daily but try to pick one or two each day to help us to center and focus. Practicing mindfulness daily has made such a big difference in our lives and I hope that it will help you and your kids too!
1. Mindful Jars
Mindful Jars are not only fun to make but they are a wonderful tool for children (and adults) to use when they are agitated and upset. We have a few Mindful Jars around the house and they are great for those moments when you just need to calm down. Give them a good shake and sit and watch the glitter settle to the bottom. Click Here to learn how to make your own Mindful Jars.
2. Breathing Exercises
Over the past few years we have learned a lot of deep breathing techniques. Many of our favorites were learned through the book by Kira Willey called, Breathe Like a Bear. We put our favorites breaths on slips of paper and put them in our breathing jar. At breakfast or dinner, we will take turns choosing one slip of paper and practice that days breath. Lion’s Breath and Candle breath are two of our favorites. Our daily breaths usually leave us in giggles but learning deep breathing techniques has greatly helped us in moments of stress.
3. Gratitude Journals
When my children were small we kept a Family Gratitude Journal. Each day we would record the things we were grateful for in the family journal. Now that they are older, we each have our own gratitude journals to mark the things we are blessed with. Focusing on gratitude forces you to live in the moment, be more present and research shows that gratitude leads to greater feelings of happiness.
4. Mindfulness Apps
There are so many mindfulness apps and programs that can help kids and parents to learn to breath deeply and self-regulate. Many of the apps offer guided meditations for both kids and adults. Our favorite apps are Mindful Powers, the Mightier Program and Headspace. Check out this post from Parenting Chaos for more apps that will help your children with practicing mindfulness.
5. Blowing Bubbles
When my kids were small, blowing bubbles was a regular activity. When energy levels were high or moods were cranky, I’d grab our bottle of bubbles and we’d head outside (or to the garage if the weather was not favorable). Watching bubbles is a fun way to practice being mindful. Bubbles are mesmerizing and kids can’t help but be present as they follow and try to catch them.
6. Body Scans
This is one of our favorite ways to practice mindfulness. Have your kids lie down and allow their bodies to sink heavy into the floor. Have them take a few deep breaths and encourage them to make their body feel heavy. Next have them squeeze all of their muscles tight. Have them squeeze their hands, their feet, their face, their toes…and squeeze and squeeze. Then after a few seconds have them release EVERYTHING and feel heavy. Ask them to pay attention to their body, how do they feel? Have them scan each body part and see how it feels. You can repeat this a few times or have them isolate muscles to squeeze from head to toe. It is such a great way to relax and help them learn to pay attention to the signals of their body. There are many guided meditations that will take you through a detailed body scan if you want to do it along with them.
7. Gratitude Walk
Take a quiet walk as a family and as you walk encourage each person to think of things that they are grateful for. Have them use their 5 senses to explore their surroundings as they walk and observe things in nature to be grateful for. Spend a few minutes in quiet and then take a break (maybe with a snack) to share all of the gratitude that was felt and everything that they noticed.
8. Coloring or Painting
My kids love to listen to audio books or classical music and color in coloring books or paint. There is something so relaxing about this process and it is a great way to encourage your children to be present. Children who struggle to stop moving to listen to a story or music, may enjoy the act of coloring, drawing or painting to help them focus on the what they are listening to. There is something about art that allows children to truly listen to the book or music that is being played for them.
9. Finding Your Heart Beat
Teach your children how to find their pulse (either in their neck or on their wrist). Have them count the beats in 10 seconds. Put on music and have them dance around for a minute or two. Have them check their pulse again. How much faster is their heart beating? Now take 5 deep breaths in and out and have them check their pulse again. How long does it take to return to a calm heartbeat? Explain how powerful breathing can be for our bodies.
10. Solo Sits
Have your children spread out around the house or yard and sit quietly for 30-60 seconds. You can add time on to the solo-sit each time they practice this activity. I love to do this on a hike in the woods and have the kids sit for 3-5 minutes. While they are sitting quietly, have them pay attention to the noises around them. Ask them these questions when they return. What sounds did you hear? Did you struggle to focus on listening for sounds? What were some loud sounds? What were some quiet sounds? How did you feel as you sat there silently?