According to Jon Kabat-Zinn (21st century mindfulness guru), “Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” In other words, mindfulness is the practice of intentionally focusing on your current moment and not worrying about the past or anticipating the future. It is the action of being in the here and now and accepting it.
Mindfulness is very popular right now—and for good reason! Mindfulness has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety and to lower blood pressure and heart rate. It also increases happiness, contentment, wellbeing, and gratitude. When adults and children alike implement mindfulness into their everyday lives, we enrich our unique experiences and become more fully engaged and aware in the present moment.
How to Practice Mindfulness with Children
Choose a food that is naturally complex and not artificially processed (tip: raisins are a great choice for this exercise). Set a timer for three to five minutes and prepare your child to slowly, methodically, and purposefully experience the raisin. First, let them observe the raisin visually. Next, invite them to smell the raisin, engaging the olfactory sense. Then, they can put the raisin in their mouth, but can’t chew or swallow yet! They’re just experiencing the raisin as it without anticipating the next step. Finally, allow your child to chew and swallow the raisin. Ask if they noticed changes in the texture, scents and taste during the experience. Then, have your child describe (as non-judgmentally as possible) the sensations they experienced before, during, and after their interaction with the raisin.
A family favorite is “I’m going on a picnic, and I’m going to bring…” In this game, go around one at a time choosing what you’ll “bring” on your picnic. The first person names something with the letter A, then the second person names something with the letter B but also has to name the previous A object. This continues through the rest of the alphabet. The object is to remember what everyone else is bringing on the picnic, encourageing sustained attention and focused concentration on the task at hand.
Multimedia Relaxation Exercises
There are many resources out there that help engage your child in practicing mindfulness. While every family has their own media standards, in our family, we approve specific apps, clips, and shows. One of my favorites is called Cosmic Kids. It’s hosted by an adorable Australian woman in a onesie. Each episode is 10 to 20 minutes of engagement and interactive breath and body work aimed to encourage kids age three and up to pay attention to the present moment. If you are looking for a podcast, try Peace Out. Some other media resources include Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame Street, Headspace, Stop, Breathe, Think, and Breathing Bubbles., all available on iTunes.
How to Practice Mindfulness as a Parent
Children learn from what they see in action. Be sure to practice mindfulness in your own life. Children imitate what you do, for better or worse. So, put down your phone, power off the laptop, and turn the radio way down. Sit in silence. Embrace the quiet (and the occasional awkward silence) that only happens when we make the conscious choice to disengage from devices and reconnect with ourselves.
Is mindfulness an important practice in your life?
How do you encourage your kids to implement mindfulness?