Cultivating mindfulness in children is fast becoming an absolute necessity in todays world. Children (and adults alike) are constantly connected 24/7 in what is ultimately a disconnected world.
External stimuli is ever present in their daily lives through social media, computer games and TV. Children rarely get the chance to connect to the real Truth of their lives – yes I use the capital T consciously.
Asking children to understand their Truth, to connect to ‘what is’ is very ambiguous and difficult to explain – therefore, I have found, as a teacher, that the easiest way encourage children to connect with their Truth and Self is to be Mindful.
Enabling mindfulness in children, as well as connecting themselves to the Self and ultimately their Truth, is also paramount to their mental, physical and emotional health. It quietens the mind, encourages brain focus, concentration skills and induces the production of calming and happy chemicals such as Dopamine. By learning mindfulness skills, we are empowering children with tools for life. They become more optimistic, less angry, frustrated and can cultivate healthier relationships with each other. As children get older, during moments of mental quiet, answers to more difficult questions crop up, giving them the wisdom to navigate their way through puberty, adolescence and beyond.
To assist in creating a mindful generation here are 7 easy practices to help.
1. Mandala Coloring
Quiet, focused coloring is a lovely way to encourage a quiet atmosphere and mind and also allow the creative side in a child to be expressed. Mandalas are beautiful spiritual patterns which have no beginning or end, and no societal rules as which colors are to be used, therefore the mandala will always be unique.
I always ensure that the room is quiet when we are coloring and no chatting so that we can focus on our inner world and the colors and shapes that are forming in front of us. Some soft music may be played if total silence feels a little unsettling. Mandalas can easily be downloaded at www.colormandala.com and printed.
Trataka is a spiritual practice which means ‘focused gazing’ and can be practiced with any object. I have used candles, crystals, feathers but you can use anything appropriate with which the child can focus their attention.
Begin by sitting in easy pose, tall spine with the object in front of the child and their hands on knees or Gyan Mudra. Focus the gaze at the object with relaxed eyes for a couple of minutes, then close the eyes and focus on the ‘minds eye’ image of the object. Open the eyes again and focus on one particular spot of the object again for a couple of minutes and then close the eyes once more. To end, cover the eyes with the hands and open the eyes, removing the hands from the eyes slowly.
3. Celestial Communication (chanting with hand movements)
Think of all the nursery rhymes we sing with actions which encourage brain development in pre schoolers!! This is a fabulous way to teach mindfulness as we use mantra and hand gestures. Children love this and by repetition and movement they are able to quieten the mind and go into active meditation.
The other beauty of celestial communication is that there are no rules. You can use any mantra that is appropriate for your child on that given day and make up your own movements. So long as the mantra is positive and uplifting then go for it – here is an example.
Use the mantra ‘I Shine Bright’. On ‘I’ have the hands in prayer position at the heart centre, ‘Shine’ move hand out towards the sides half way, palms facing out, ‘Bright’ extend arms fully out to the sides palms facing out – and then back to prayer to begin again – ‘I Shine Bright, I Shine Bright’.
Continue the chant and the hand movements for at least a minute, it opens the heart and calms the mind and reminds children the importance of their inner voice.
There is no greater mindfulness then concentrating on the breath. To be honest, a deep belly breath is all that is needed to bring the body and mind instantly together, however focused breathing can occasionally be tough for children.
A brilliant pranayama practice for children is the 5:3 breath. This connects the mind, body and breath (spirit) to work together in harmony, stimulating calming brain chemicals and releasing tensions and anxieties. The mind is quiet and focused on the present moment.
* Sitting in easy pose, tall spine, hand on knees.
* Inhale for the count of 5
* Hold the breath in for a count of 3
* Exhale for the count of 5
* Hold the breath out for a count of 3
* repeat for a couple of minutes.
For other ideas on pranayama for children go to (yogi approved link )
5. Pass the Chime
For this you will need a metal chime on a wooden frame and a beater. This is great fun, although particularly challenging for 4yrs and under. It encourages listening skills as well as dexterity and a sense of community. The idea is that the chime is rung and passed around the circle, or between yourself and your child if you are not in a group setting. If the actual metal of the chime is touched it will go silent, so the aim is to keep the chime going as it is passed around, touching the wooden frame only.
The chime and beater are to be passed carefully around, each in turn giving it a tap so as to the keep the chime going while it is passed to the next person – carefully – it must keep ringing. I have done this mindfulness practice many a time in nursery settings and even the nursery workers are super excited if we can get the chime all around the circle without it going silent.
6. Bell Walking
Another brilliant mindfulness exercise for younger children of 5 and under.
Whilst holding a bell with both hands the child must walk a set distance without the bell ringing! Such a fun exercise and they really are able to calm their breathing, body and energy to complete the exercise. It encourages children to walk steadily, listen actively, consider foot placement and develop mental focus.
7. Bell/gong/chime listening
Sitting in easy pose with their hands either up in the air or resting on their knees, eyes closed, a chime is struck and they must listen actively and hear the vibrations of the sound. Once they cannot hear the chime any longer they their move their hands to the pre determined position, either in their lap or down on to knees and continue to listen to the other sound in the room. After a minute or so ask them what other sounds they could hear.
Thankfully, mindfulness in children is spreading its way into schools and is vital in allowing them to have the best opportunities both at school and further into their professional careers and lives, but there is still a long way to go. Talking to them and encouraging them to realize and express feelings deepens their attachment to themselves. Teaching them to understand that an emotional response is ‘OK’, we don’t have to be numb.
These fun little practices will help the child to connect with their mind and body so please have a go and do comment below to let me know how it goes – I love hearing other peoples experiences.