Five ways to incorporate mindfulness into your child’s day
The term ‘mindfulness’ may conjure up images of trying to sit still and quietly meditate, this could be described as ‘formal meditation’. However, there are also ways mindfulness can be brought into everyday life with a more ‘informal practice’.
The essence of mindfulness is to bring the mind into ‘the present moment’ and notice what is going on in the world around us – both internally and externally. Our minds can wander often, so it can be really beneficial to practise bringing your mind to the present moment. One way we can try this is by exploring different activities (like the ones in this article). It can help us to be really present in our day, not getting caught up in the past or worrying about the future.
It’s really normal for your mind to wander to other things when we try these activities. The important part is to gently and kindly bring your mind back to the present moment. The more you practise, the easier it will become. The top tips below are perfect for children and adults alike! Why not have a go together?
1. Yoga and tai chi
It’s been proven that exercise can help us feel mentally refreshed. Moving the body can be a perfect way of bringing the mind into the present. The gentle movements in tai chi and yoga require particular special care. Why not encourage your child to have a go at poses like ‘tree pose’? Focusing on a spot in front of them will help them to balance, and the concentration required will likely leave little time to think of other things except balancing the body – perfect diversion tactics! Both tai chi and yoga incorporate a focus on the breath, which is a key anchor to the present moment; notice the way the breath enters and leaves the body and which parts of the body expand as you breathe.
You needn’t attend a class, you could follow an online tutorial or book at home. Focus on any moves that your child finds particularly tricky and note how you both progress over time. Why not dedicate ten minutes each day to your practice? If you practise at the same time each day, it will be easier to make it part of your routine.
The concept of mindfulness can also apply to other forms of exercise including swimming; notice the sensation of the water around you and how it feels to float, for example.
Spending time in nature is one of the best ways of appreciating the world around us. Whilst it might not be the time of year for gardening, green fingers can also get to work indoors. Why not tend or set up an indoor herb garden? Or, if you have any indoor plants, check to see if they need repotting (the roots may have become matted at the bottom of the pot, which shows that the plant is straining for more space). Children can also help to water plants.
Alternatively, why not pick flowers or ferns from the garden, if you have one? Make use of any leaves or flowers you have picked by either prepping them to go in a vase or pressing them – put them between two pieces of plain paper and sandwich between two big books and leave for a few days. Encourage your child to notice the colours and textures of each flower and stem as you prepare them. What can you notice about these plants and flowers that you may have never seen before?
3. Card making
Getting creative is a perfect mindful activity. You may have heard of mindful colouring, but why not take it one step further and create something of your own from scratch? You could turn the pressed flowers mentioned above into homemade cards or even a picture for the wall, taking special care to place them without spoiling them. Adding some stencilling to your card can really embellish a look, and also requires concentration and care – a very mindful activity.
Alternatively, why not try and paint a landscape? As it’s likely to be too chilly outside, encourage your child to find a picture they like from a previous holiday or a landscape in a magazine – can they recreate the colours and lighting with some child’s paints? Once you have the finished result, put it somewhere where you can appreciate it every day.
The challenge here is not to get too focused on the end result, but rather to bring your mind to noticing the process of creating something.
4. Mindful walking
Despite the chilly temperatures at this time of year, it’s still important to get outdoors for a walk. However, rather than simply going from A to B, there are lots of ways to make it interesting and focus the mind on the world around – an essential part of mindfulness.
Why not encourage your child to pick a particular type of wildlife and see how many you spot – e.g. how many worms can you spot on a woodland walk or how many birds can you hear? How many things can you see that are brown? You may have heard that a good way to help feel calmer if you ever feel anxious can be to acknowledge five things you can see around you, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two you can smell and one you can taste – this same concept can be used on any day to bring your child’s attention to the present moment.
5. Doing a jigsaw
Doing a jigsaw is just one of many activities you could do to keep cosy at home in winter, whilst bringing about an element of mindfulness. Is there time to focus on anything but the present when you are on the hunt for a missing corner piece?
It is also an activity that doesn’t require the use of any screens or devices. So, why not put devices away, or switch off notifications to avoid distraction and encourage the whole family to take part? Other similarly mindful activities you could try include solving a crossword, word search, 3D puzzle or playing a card game, all of which you can do with your child too.