4 fun and easy ways to practice mindfulness with your kids

If you want to raise a kind, self-aware, and resilient kid, encouraging them to practice mindfulness is a good place to start. Mindfulness may sound way too advanced or conceptual to teach your little toddler or rambunctious elementary schoolers, but that’s not the case at all. There’s an endless suite of fun, accessible, and completely organic ways, both formal and informal, to bring mindfulness into the fold of your child’s (and the entire family’s) daily routine. And they have nothing to do with forcing your five-year-old twins to meditate in a dark room for two hours. Mindfulness-based activities and games gradually teach youngsters to perceive and relate to the world in a specific way that will benefit them throughout their entire life. Here are several fun and easy mindfulness-based tools, games, and activities to try with young kids. (And you just might get something out of them yourself).

The mind as a sky analogy

To introduce and simplify complex, abstract mindfulness concepts like awareness and metacognition (awareness of our own thoughts), use analogies and pleasant imagery with kids. One of our favourites is comparing the mind to the sky. Like the sky, awareness is with us all day, everyday, whether or not we notice it. But we have the ability to stop and observe it.

Even if little kids don’t fully grasp the full metaphor, the simple idea that how, like the sky, our minds can look different everyday – and that we can objectively notice changes like clouds and weather – lays a foundation for understanding basic mindfulness principles they’ll grow to appreciate more over time. Plus, it’s always fun to cloud gaze with the kids. You can even have them draw a picture, asking: If your mind was a sky today, what would it look like?

Smelling a flower, blowing out a candle

It’s never too early to approach mindfulness with your kids, and you can start by teaching toddlers simple, fun breathing activities. Of course, it’s hard to expect three and four year olds to sit still and pay attention to their breath when asked. Instead, tap into their natural powers of imagination.

Kids can practice breathing on purpose by imagining their pointer finger is a flower that they’re smelling by taking a deep breath in through their nose. Then have them imagine their pointer finger is now a candle they’re blowing out with a long exhale. Eventually this becomes an effective way to encourage your child to breathe deeply to calm down when upset or frustrated.

Ice cube meditation

This brilliant mindfulness meditation introduces youngsters to a pretty complex concept: How our experience of something can change drastically based on the attitude we bring to it. Place an ice cube in the palm of their hand and let it sit there and melt, resisting the urge to remove it. As it melts, observe what it feels like. The ice doesn't hurt much at first, but the longer it sits there, the less pleasant the experience. The discomfort is more manageable, though, if you relax your arm and hand while holding the ice. And then the experience changes again.

After the exercise you can tie it back to real life. If something unpleasant or irritating is going on, we can’t always get rid of the unpleasant thing itself; but can we learn to alter the way we approach it and react to it? Kids will learn that experiences can be easier or harder to deal with, depending on how they relate to them.

“Still I feel lucky…”

This is a lifelong activity, but particularly helpful for kids struggling uncertainty and confusion. Have your kids name something that’s bugging them or worrying them, followed by the phrase, “but still I feel lucky because…” adding one thing they are grateful for or excited about.

This helps broaden their perspective. They’ll learn both to acknowledge negative thoughts – which are normal, natural, and valid – and then balance them with optimistic ones, which can be harder to cultivate. Overtime, they’ll be organically conditioned to remember there is always something to be grateful for, despite the inevitable negative stuff.