Mindfulness with children
The positive benefits for children of practising mindfulness have been proven across a number of studies. A five or ten-minute regular mindfulness exercises can help children reduce stress and anxiety, increase concentration, sleep better, improve social and problem-solving skills. There are many activities children can do connected with focusing on their breathing, and also with the use of objects. In this blog I will focus on mindfulness exercises using the senses, although breathing meditations are very important and helpful for children also.
Children can use a favourite cuddly toy to help them focus on the present moment, through exploring how it feels and smells, and what it looks like. By focusing on an object they know very well, children can discover how much else might be seen when they investigate with fresh eyes. Children can also lie on their backs with the toy on their tummies and notice how it might move up and down as they breathe. This breathing meditation can help children calm down when they are upset or anxious, or simply help them practise resting in the present moment.
This is an excellent practice for all ages and something children can get a lot out of. It is good to select something simple like a raisin, a grape, or a piece of chocolate. There is plenty to notice before children might put the item in their mouth, and you might like to use the following words as a guide. Children can either answers the questions out loud or silently to themselves, and then talk about the experience afterwards.
“Start by placing the object in your hand. Maybe close your eyes for a moment and take a few breaths. (Pause).
What does it feel like in the hand? (Pause).
Opening the eyes and having a really good look at it. What shape and texture is it? Look at it as if you have never seen this object before, which indeed you haven’t. How does it look different if you hold it sideways? (Pause).
What does it smell like? (Pause).
When you do put it in your mouth, see if you can resist the urge to bite or swallow, and take a few moments to notice the texture as you move the food round your mouth. (Pause).
How does the texture change? Are there any sensations of taste just by having it in your mouth? (Pause).
And what is the experience when you do take a bite? Does the taste change? (Pause).
What does it feel like as you swallow? (Pause).
After a few moments, notice how you are feeling now.”
Afterwards, you could discuss how this experience is different to how we normally eat. Most people are unlikely to eat mindfully all the time, but it can be good for all everyone to slow down and explore our present experience with curiosity and a beginner’s mind.