You’ve probably heard the term mindfulness—the concept dates back to centuries-old Buddhist teachings, and it goes hand-in-hand with popular practices like mindfulness meditation and yoga. But what exactly is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is all about bringing your awareness to the present moment. To wit, mindfulness for kids can help with self-control, anxiety, stress, acting out, and other challenging feelings and behaviors.
Teaching your child to be mindful might sound like a big job. After all, we adults struggle to accomplish it ourselves. But mindfulness is a simple idea at heart, and kids can pick it up quickly with a little practice. So take a deep breath, feel yourself here in the present moment, and let’s delve into everything you need to know about bringing mindfulness into your family life.
What is Mindfulness for Kids?
Mindfulness means building awareness and acceptance both of the world around us and of our own feelings and thoughts, enhancing social emotional learning. Practicing mindfulness encourages us to focus our attention on the present instead of past regrets or future worries. It’s often combined with breathwork to give the mind a sensation to focus on that’s rooted in the here and now.
Mindfulness exercises for kids can help them:
- Self-regulate when they’re in the middle of big feelings
- Greet emotions with curiosity instead of judgment
- Choose how to respond to feelings instead of simply reacting
Kids can learn mindfulness through simple practices like focusing on the breath and tuning in to the sounds, smells, and sensations they’re experiencing.
Why is it Important to Teach Kids Mindfulness?
Have you ever had a moment where you can’t get through to your child, no matter what you say or do? Maybe they’re angry, crying, or running around like the Tasmanian Devil. Whatever the situation or feeling, you’ve probably seen your child in a mood that’s just too big to rein in.
Teaching your child mindfulness and redirection techniques presents a gentle, effective way to notice those big feelings and sooth them.
And the benefits of mindfulness practice extend far beyond childhood. Studies have found mindful kids enjoy a better quality of life in a range of areas, including:,
- Improved focus
- Improved self-esteem
- Reduced stress, rumination, self-blame, and catastrophizing
- Enhanced self-regulation
- Better academic performance
Mindfulness Exercises and Activities for Kids
Ready to gain some of those benefits through practice? Here are three starter mindfulness exercises and emotional regulation activities for kids and adults alike.
#1 Mindful Breathing
One of the easiest ways to learn mindfulness is through breathing exercises. After all, our breath is one sensation that’s always with us, no matter where we are or how we feel.
- Have your child lay down with a stuffed animal or their hands on their belly
- Have them observe how taking a deep breath lifts their hands or the stuffie up and down
- Encourage them to try deep breathing anytime they feel worried, mad, or upset
- Teach them the science of how breathing helps calm our brains and bodies by getting more oxygen to think better
#2 Mindful Storytelling
Mindfulness stories encourage children to close their eyes, focus on your voice, and imagine all the sights, sounds, and feelings you describe as the story unfolds in their mind’s eye.
Here are some tips for mindful storytelling:
- Tell a story that encourages your child to imagine sensations like sounds, sights, and smells
- Choose a familiar setting, like their walk to school, feeding ducks at the park, driving to Grandma’s house, etc.
- Choose books with lots of rich sensory details like Yeti Focuses on Her Senses or Yeti Greets the World
#3 Gratitude Practices
Practicing gratitude has an enormous positive effect on mental health and well-being. It can help people better "notice" their feelings and things to appreciate. Being present and identifying your emotions is part of mindfulness practice as well.
Gratitude exercises a natural fit with mindfulness. Here are some easy suggestions:
Get moving – People often think mindfulness is sitting quietly and meditating, but mindfulness can incorporate movement as well. Kids are often naturally active, so instead of trying to force them to sit still, you can encourage them to bring intention and mindfulness to their movement. Yoga and dance can be good examples of this. Or even just asking them to notice what type of movement their bodies want.
Our board game has great examples of how mindfulness can be built into play, games and movement.
- Daily affirmations – Start the day on a positive note with a morning affirmation before school. Yeti’s Affirmation fits perfectly with mindfulness, helping kids remember that they can take a beat and calm themselves any time they choose.
- Dinnertime gratitude – Go around the dinner table and have everyone share a good thing that happened in their day.
- Three things at bedtime – After your bedtime breathing exercise, take turns with your child sharing three things you’re grateful for or three things that made you happy that day.
Expert Tips on Teaching Mindfulness to Kids
The goal for teaching mindfulness is to listen more to what your body needs – and that can include movement. The expectations aren’t meant for a child to sit still and quiet. Instead, we encourage caregivers to teach mindfulness through play, games, stories, movement, and play. Additionally, when teaching emotions and mindfulness:
- Be patient – Mindfulness is a habit that’s built over time. Don’t expect to see a change in behavior overnight since part of the progress surrounds child development stages.
- Make it fun – Mindfulness can be incorporated into activities like nature walks, coloring, eating, stretching, and more. Try our free collection of mindfulness activity and coloring pages for a wealth of fun and engaging activities to use anytime.
- Use guided meditation – Guided meditation practice empowers your child to practice mindfulness anytime they choose. Our pack of mini-meditations for the Yoto Player or Yoto app lets your child try deep breathing with Narwhal, go on an undersea journey with Jellyfish, and more.
Slumberkins' Mindfulness Collection: Nurturing Young Minds
Learning mindfulness techniques early can help children develop a deep and lasting sense of self-reliance and resilience. Knowing where to start teaching can feel like a big ask when your parenting plate is already overloaded.
We have a wealth of resources designed to help kids center themselves, slow down, and be present. From creative play with Kinspiration kits to peaceful storytime with books and snugglers, Slumberkins can help you bring mindfulness into your child’s life every day.
- Schache, Kiralee et al. “Gratitude - more than just a platitude? The science behind gratitude and health.” British journal of health psychology vol. 24,1 (2019): 1-9. doi:10.1111/bjhp.12348
- Amundsen, R et al. “Mindfulness in primary school children as a route to enhanced life satisfaction, positive outlook and effective emotion regulation.” BMC psychology vol. 8,1 71. 8 Jul. 2020, doi:10.1186/s40359-020-00428-y
- Barton, Jo, and Mike Rogerson. “The importance of greenspace for mental health.” BJPsych international vol. 14,4 79-81. 1 Nov. 2017, doi:10.1192/s2056474000002051
- Hartley, Matthew et al. “Mindfulness for Children and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Their Caregivers: A Meta-analysis.” Journal of autism and developmental disorders vol. 49,10 (2019): 4306-4319. doi:10.1007/s10803-019-04145-3
- Dunning, Darren L et al. “Research Review: The effects of mindfulness-based interventions on cognition and mental health in children and adolescents - a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines vol. 60,3 (2019): 244-258. doi:10.1111/jcpp.12980
- Weare, Katherine. "Developing mindfulness with children and young people: a review of the evidence and policy context." Journal of Children’s Services. 14 June, 2013. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/JCS-12-2012-0014/full/html
- Journal of Child and Family Studies. The Effectiveness of Mindfulness Training for Children with ADHD and Mindful Parenting for their Parents. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10826-011-9457-0