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The Power of Presence
Mindfulness Tips for Children

Not long ago many people believed that mindfulness was far too complex for children to understand. Current research shares a very different story. When children are presented with developmentally appropriate activities, they can use mindfulness to relieve some of the daily tension and stress that impacts their lives both socially and academically. Children as young as 4 years old can benefit from mindfulness-based activities.

Research demonstrates that children who participate in mindfulness-based activities with adults who practice mindfulness and guide the activities appropriately can show improvements in self-regulation and social-emotional competence. Furthermore, mindfulness-based activities can assist children with attentional focus, following directions, adapting to changing situations, waiting their turn, and emotional regulation.

As children enter school, they often need a good pilot to help them navigate the challenges of childhood. Some children can encounter stressful events at every turn without the coping skills to manage big emotions. Parents and guardians are looking for one magic solution. The unfortunate news is there is not just one solution that can guide them through the sometimes cloudy waters of growing up. Children are sometimes in need of some relief from tension and stress from daily living. 

Here are some mindfulness-based activities that can be done at home or at school with a mindful adult.

Belly Breathing

When asked to take a deep breath, many children will begin shallow breathing, which is energizing rather than calming. This activity, which works well with an adult participating, encourages the practice of deep breathing.
  1. Ask the child to lie down on the ground or sit nice and tall on the floor or a chair.
  2. Have the child place their hands on their belly.
  3. The child can close their eyes if they are comfortable doing so.
  4. Instruct the child to breathe and notice their hand moving up and down. This can also be done using a small stuffed animal on the child's belly so that when they breathe in and out, the animal moves up and down.
  5. As the adult and child breathe, the adult can count and guide the breathing using this pattern: "Breathe in one, two, three, four...breathe out one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight."

Take Five Breathing

  1. Spread out the fingers of one hand into a star shape.
  2. Bring this hand to eye level with the palm facing you.
  3. Place the index finger of the other hand on the wrist of the open hand.
  4. Breathe in slowly through the nose as the index finger gently moves up and traces the left side of the open hand.
  5. Breathe out slowly through the nose as the index finger traces down the inside right of the first finger on the left.
  6. Continue to breathe in every time the index finger moves up the side of a finger, and breathe out every time it moves down.
  7. When the index finger reaches the right side of the wrist, pause for five seconds.
  8. Breathe in as the index finger moves back up the first finger from the right.
  9. Continue to breathe in and out around the five fingers until the index finger returns to the left side of the wrist.
  10. Change hands to breathe around the fingers of the other hand.

arrow icon Adapted from The Journal of Miss H

Sit and Relax

  1. Sit comfortably and try squeezing and relaxing your body to release physical tension.
  2. Take a deep breath in.
  3. Flex your arms, clench your hands, crinkle your face, and curl each toe — squeeze every part of your body.
  4. Let a long breath out and relax.
  5. Repeat these steps three times.
arrow icon Excerpt from Yoga Journal

Mind Jar

  1. Use an empty plastic water bottle
  2. Add water and glitter
  3. Replace the lid on the plastic bottle with glue so it stays sealed (because you don't want someone to open and drink).
  4. Shake it up.
  5. The glitter swirls all over inside the bottle, which shows children how scattered our thoughts are when we aren’t mindful and then how they settle when we’re calm. This is a fantastic activity for kids, as they’re very visual.
arrow icon Adapted from Rattles and Heels

Mindful Movement (Shake Like Spaghetti)

  1. Stand up tall with arms by your side.
  2. Stand with feet apart.
  3. Your whole body is stiff like uncooked spaghetti (can demonstrate with an uncooked noodle).
  4. Now imagine your body is cooked spaghetti (can demonstrate with one cooked noodle to show difference between a cooked and uncooked noodle).
  5. Now shake your body like a cooked spaghetti noodle.
  6. This can be done to music playing and when the music stops, pretend to be uncooked spaghetti.
  7. Can alternate fast and slow music and ask the children to move fast or slowly to the music.
  8. End with three slow, deep belly breaths to bring the energy level back down.

Resources above gathered by Melanie Fitzgerald, Ed.S.
SSD Effective Practice Specialist, Early Childhood Special Education

arrow icon This is the second article in a two-part series.
Click here to read about mindfulness resources for families.

Updated November 2018

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