We use the word Mindfulness at lot at Challenge to Change. While there are many different ways to interpret what Mindfulness means, a very fundamental explanation is that it is being aware of your present surroundings without wishing to be somewhere else.
There are many ways to practice Mindfulness, and these practices often look different for adults than they do for children. When we ask children to engage in activities that promote Mindfulness, one of the things we are encouraging them to do is slow down and use their senses to become more aware of their surroundings and how it feels to be there.
Common mindful activities for children include doing yoga poses, practicing different breathing techniques, and listening to guided meditation stories. You can find videos for all of these activities on our Challenge to Change website, Challenge to Change – Online Resources and our YouTube Channel, or teaching tools you can use at home from our Online Store. Many of you have been utilizing these videos, and we are so glad that you have! If you haven’t visited our site yet, we hope you will soon and that your children enjoy these activities.
We also want to offer some suggestions for other Mindfulness practices that you can do with your children to help engage and calm your families during this unusual time. Below is a list of some additional activities to help your children use their senses to connect with their physical and emotional selves in the present moment.
Do some coloring with scented markers.
Coloring has become a popular mindful activity because it requires focus and concentration on a singular task. There are coloring books for all ages that feature positive messages and/or intricate patterns that promote the use of fine motor skills. Encourage your child to color a page, and add to the experience by providing scented markers for him to use. As your child changes colors, have him stop to smell each marker and describe its scent. Have him decide which scent he likes the most and which he likes the least with reasons why. You’ve combined art and aromatherapy!
Take a nature walk with a sensory scavenger hunt.
Taking a walk is always a great Mindfulness practice. Being immersed in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature automatically brings a sense of peace and well-being to many. Add a mindful element to your next family walk by including a scavenger hunt. Either encourage your children to find items on their walk that connect with their five senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell), or have them gather items from each color of the rainbow. An empty egg carton makes a great traveling storage unit for your children to carry and collect with. There are many art projects you can do back at home with the items they collect. Here is a link to a visual of some projects they can do:
Use lavender essential oil for sensory learning.
We suggest lavender for its relaxing qualities, but any scented oil will do. Any activity that incorporates the senses in a calming manner is a practice in Mindfulness. We found a website with directions to make lavender scented Play-Dough, which your children can create with or use as a type of stress ball, and a website on how to make a lavender scented salt tray. A salt tray can be used to draw images or to practice spelling words. Here are the links:
Lavender Play-Dough: https://www.paintedteacup.com/essential-oil-play-dough/
Lavender Salt Tray: https://www.theartkitblog.com/calming-lavender-salt-tray-writing-activity/
Use bubbles to practice deep breathing.
Give your child a small container of bubbles with a bubble wand to take outside and practice blowing. Guide your child in finding the best way to blow a “perfect” bubble. She will learn that she must exhale deeply and slowly in order to prevent the bubble from bursting before it takes shape. Practice taking deep inhales and long, slow exhales when blowing bubbles in order to have the most success. Once your child has mastered the best way to blow bubbles, you can practice healthy “bubble breathing” with or without a container of bubbles present!
Use a guided visualization to combine art and memory recall.
At Challenge to Change, we often use guided mindfulness stories to help children relax their minds and bodies when taking a Yoga Nap. A guided mindfulness story leads children on a journey in their minds while requiring them to visualize specific images or described settings. Enjoy free guided children’s meditations created by Challenge to Change through SoundCloud.
Read a guided mindfulness story, or guided visualization as they are sometimes called, out loud to your child, and then ask him to draw a picture of the image(s) he had in his head. You can read the passage out loud more than once to help him with specific recall. This is a great way to help your child relax, and it promotes the use of imagination and working memory. When your child is done, hang his picture in his room or somewhere for the whole family to see.
Build a tabletop Zen Garden.
Zen Gardens originated in early Japan by Buddhist monks as a place to meditate for tranquility and inner peace. The Zen Garden’s minimalist make-up of rocks and sand reflected the monks’ belief in simplicity being the path to harmony. The rocks in the garden could be arranged into peaceful shapes and patterns, and the sand could be raked to mimic the motion of waves on the sea.
Help your children create a desktop Zen Garden at home using sand, rocks, and a fork. Your children can find focused relaxation in tending to their garden, and can use their imaginations to arrange its contents into the daily patterns of their choice. Here is a link on how you can help your children make a Zen Garden of their very own: https://www.sunnydayfamily.com/2017/05/zen-garden-for-kids.html.
Eat a snack in slow motion.
Share a snack with your child and see how s-l-o-w-l-y you can eat. Be very thoughtful in moving your food from your plate to your mouth, and chew your food thoroughly before swallowing—perhaps even agree on a set number of time you each have to chew your food before you can swallow. Describe the taste and texture of your snack in as much detail as possible. Finally, try to describe how that particular food made you feel after eating it; maybe you feel more energized, soothed, or thirsty from what you ate. A great follow-up activity to slow motion eating is researching where your snack originated in the world, and thinking about how many people may have been a part of getting that food onto your table.
Make a Moody Cow Jar
Making a Moody Cow jar is another great activity you can do with your child to promote Mindfulness. This is simply a jar filled with glitter, glycerin, soap, and water that your child can use to help calm her mind and emotions. Whenever your child has excess energy or is feeling agitated, she can shake the jar and focus on watching the glitter swirl and then settle on the bottom. These jars are often used as an analogy for how we feel inside when we experience strong emotions, and what happens to these emotions when we use our breath to calm down. Miss Rachel created a video on our website with instructions on how to make a Moody Cow Jar at home. Click HERE!
In this unprecedented era of social distancing and isolation, we are being encouraged to use this time to breathe and reconnect with ourselves and our families. We hope you find some of these Mindfulness practices as inspiring ways to help your children find peace and tranquility in the days ahead.