In many of our posts, we recommend doing mindfulness exercises with your children or class. But what mindfulness exercises are you supposed to do? Today we’re going to discuss 4 mindfulness exercises you can practice with your child or class to help them learn to stay grounded even during the strongest emotions. In addition to practicing these exercises on a daily basis, you can also read Kelly Caleb’s Now Cow books on mindfulness with your child to help them understand key concepts of mindfulness. Let’s get into it!
Balloon Belly Breathing
This is a good way to get your child to focus on their breathing. Have them lay flat on their back and pick a toy animal or action figure to put on their tummy. Then have them imagine that there is a balloon in their belly. As they breathe in, imagine that the balloon slowly inflates. As they breathe out, picture the balloon effortlessly deflating. Their toy friend goes for a calming ride as they breathe in and out. You can count in for 7, hold for 4, and out for 5 if it helps your child focus on their breathing.
This is a good mindfulness exercise to help fuel your child’s curiosity. Snuggle down with them in a safe, comfortable location and both of you close your eyes. Listen to the sounds all around you. What can you hear? To start with, quietly speak the sounds you each year. Coffee cups clinking? Birds chirping? After you have done this exercise a few times, change from speaking the sounds to simply noticing them without speaking. This helps you and your child stay in the moment and focus on the now. Now Cow would be proud!
Work with your child on creating mind gardens made of your thoughts. Each good, positive thought is a seed for beautiful plants and flowers that you love. Worries or nasty thoughts plant the seeds for weeds. Every garden has weeds, so don’t worry about eliminating unhappy thoughts. But you can learn to choose where to direct the sun and water in your mind garden by nurturing the thoughts that make you feel good. It’s all about where you choose to place your attention. Focusing on positive thoughts will help you and your child grow beautiful mind gardens. Practicing this regularly will help your child learn to focus on the positive, even when negative thoughts threaten to choke out the positive.
Visualize Your Safe Place
Encourage your child to pick a couple of places, perhaps in nature, where they feel safe, soothed, and grounded. This may be a beach they’ve been to with the sun shining on their face, a forest with crisp leaves all around, or even in their backyard with the dog playing fetch with them. Then have them give a verbal description of their journey to their safe place. Once they have done so verbally, teach them how to sit still, close their eyes, and travel to their safe place in their mind. Have them breathe slowly and evenly while they imagine the entire journey, which can be as elaborate as they want it to be.
When they arrive, have them sit and enjoy the sun, the wind, the scents, and the feelings they have when they are in their safe place. Each time they do this exercise, they should try to stay in their safe place a little longer. When the exercise is over, have them gently return from their safe place to where you are physically, so as not to jolt them out of their meditation.
Practicing Mindfulness Exercises for Children
Children can use mindfulness exercises to deal with stressful situations, but only if they are ingrained habits. That means practicing mindfulness exercises when children are in a receptive mood. The best way to make mindfulness a regular habit is to practice these exercises and others like them at least once a day, every day, at about the same time each day.
Choose a time of day when your child is open and curious. If bedtime is a madhouse each night, don’t choose that for your mindfulness practice time. However, once mindfulness becomes a habit, you can use it to improve bedtime hassles. Another way to calm down at bedtime is to snuggle up and read Kelly Caleb’s Now Cow books about mindfulness for children before bed. This will keep your child’s mind on mindfulness practices and give you time to bond just before they sleep for the night.
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