I was recently asked the question, “Do you have any mindfulness exercises for kids”? Well, personally, I am not a fan of forcing kids to participate in sitting meditation; breathing exercises, mind training, visualisation, etc. In my experience kids are already in a great place to access mindfulness without attending group meditation, retreats or trying to meditate alone. My advice is to invent “fun” games that promote mindfulness and encourage kids to see the beauty of life through their lens, rather than trying to adapt texts/teachings that we have learned.
Use games that don’t have any meditation buzz words attached to them, you know, like the ones we always use; “being present”, “reaching a higher state of awareness” etc. This won’t mean anything to kids, moreover it sounds too much like a lesson, which doesn’t equate to fun time with mum or dad or both. Instead try these mindfulness exercises for kids I came up with, and then innovate on the ideas and develop your own.
Stroking The Dog (or Cat)
Provided you have a safe, furry pet that doesn’t mind being touched, this is a winner. Tell your child to stroke the animal, first with his/her eyes open for a minute, and then with eyes shut for a minute. Instruct your child to stroke slowly and gently. Ask what the fur feels like in each situation. With eyes open it is likely the fur just feels like the fur of the animal, with eyes shut, the imagination hones in on the texture, perhaps interpreting it as wool, carpet, a bath mat and all kinds of other things kids imagine.. This game is fun because it promotes affection toward nature, stimulates the imagination, and teaches the child to appreciate the beauty of connecting with animals. This will teach a child to be gentle with animals and mindful of their feelings.
Roaring In The Wind
Next time it is windy in the garden, or if you are on a windy beach by the sea, stand facing the wind with your child. Spread your arms out and ask your child to do the same; you can hold hands or link arms if you like. Open your mouth and let out a primal roar into the wind. Tell your child to do the same. Let the wind smoother your face and wildly blow your hair. This is so fun, and kids love the freedom of being able to roar and challenge the might of the wind. This is a great way to safely and naturally let loose with your child in a primal-like game. It makes for an exhilarating moment where your child really gets to feel the interconnection humans have with nature.
Ants are amazing, yet most humans don’t know it because we are too busy killing them and sweeping them out of our homes. Find some ants under a rock, near some food or on a tree. If possible give the ants some breadcrumbs. Now take a magnifying glass and let your child observe how amazing these creatures are. Watch them work as a team, carrying the crumbs back and forward, assisting each other with the heavy load. There is absolute efficiency and amazing organisation in the way ants work and navigate difficult obstacles. Your child will revel in amazement, believe me. Appreciating nature in this way, and recognizing that ants, like humans, have a rightful, important place in the world, is a great mindfulness exercise for kids. I often say to people that the ultimate realisation of the nature mind is understanding that humans are no more important than ants.
Here’s a link to a short video interview I did with Marianne Clyde from Mommy-Zen.com about how we can teach mindfulness to kids: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYUwxtK4jEw