Mindfulness is a practice that has gained worldwide popularity in recent years, due to its amazing benefits for both mental and physical wellness. The technique is widely recognized to relieve stress, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, as well as help treat a number of mental health issues, in adults.
But research has also shown that mindfulness activities for kids and toddlers can have positive impacts on their cognitive performance, memory, ability to handle stress, to name just a few. Studies have shown that when toddlers engage in mindfulness activities for just a few minutes a day, it led to a reduction in anxiety, improved attention and decreased behavioral problems.
The practice of mindfulness involves using all five senses to devote 100% of your energy and attention to any activity you are doing. Basically, any activity can be mindful - if done properly. Children have endless amounts of energy, and it can be difficult to get them to take time to focus. So to help you help them, here are our favorite mindfulness activities for kids and toddlers, to keep them engaged and support their overall well-being.
Listen to the heart
Toddlers are always on the move. Whether it’s running around outside, jumping, dancing, or climbing on furniture, taking time to slow down is so beneficial. After vigorous physical activity, have your child sit down and stay still for a few moments. During this time, encourage them to listen and feel their own heartbeat. Ask them questions like: how fast is it beating? How hard is it beating? How else is your body feeling right now? Encouraging this reflection helps them become aware of their body’s sensations.
Being grateful is something we could all do more of, and learning this skill early is extremely beneficial for toddlers. Set aside a few moments each day for your little one to sit down and think about things they are grateful for. This could be anything from their favorite snack, meeting a new friend at the park, or spending time with their family. You can even create a special notebook where they can draw or practice writing down what they are grateful for.
When little ones eat, it’s likely that they aren’t sitting still and taking their time. Many of us are guilty ourselves of rushing through meals, but slowing down and focusing attention on the act of eating has both mental and physical benefits. At mealtime, have your toddler describe the taste, smell, and texture of the food they are eating. This brings their attention to the food, and allows them to focus in and learn to eat mindfully - which can even help them enjoy dinnertime more!
Little ones tend to run around all day, rarely taking the time to focus on their breathing. But the simple act of taking a few focused breaths can be incredibly helpful as a mindful activity. To practice belly breathing, have them lie on their back, take deep breaths, and watch as their tummies rise and fall. For a more sensory experience, try blowing bubbles but in slow motion - taking the time to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth to make the perfect bubble!
Mindfulness is one of the best ways for young children to learn about their emotions. Stopping to identify what they are feeling will allow them to better communicate and cope with those emotions. Prepare a glitter jar by simply putting water, glue, and glitter into a jar. Shake the jar and see the glitter whirling around, which represents an upset, frustrated, or overwhelmed state of mind. Now set the jar down, and watch the glitter settle to the bottom, representing a calm mind. Talk with your toddler about their own emotions, and how these could relate to the glitter jar. Anytime they feel upset or overwhelmed, this is a useful tool to have on hand.
Taking even just five minutes per day to focus on mindfulness with your toddler can really make all the difference in helping them control their emotions, and set them up for success in the long run!
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