We all know how much of a challenge it can be to get a bright, bubbly and energetic child to sit still for longer than a few minutes. At certain stages of their development, the importance of ‘slowing down’ and reflecting should be emphasised. The exercises outlined below will assist you and your child in becoming more mindful of yourselves and others.
Talk to them beforehand to explain the exercises and why they are good for them. Play some quiet background music to help them focus. Don’t force your child to participate in these exercises if they don’t want to. Learning to listen to yourself is one important learning aspect of mindfulness.
Both you and your child can share your experiences after the exercises to build trust.
You don’t need to have prior experience with mindfulness to help your child with the exercises. You can learn and practice it with them as you go! The exercises are easy and short, so they can be easily incorporated into your daily routine.
Mindfulness Exercises — Breathing
The exercises are divided into 9 areas of awareness. Going through exercises in these 9 subdivisions can help you and your child be more in tune with your thoughts and emotions.
Being aware and conscious of your breathing forces you to be present in the moment. How you are breathing shows a lot about the state you’re in — tense, anxious, or relaxed. You can use your breathing in a tense or stressful situation to calm you down.
It is important to practice breathing techniques as they are the basis for all mindfulness exercises. Here is a short exercise you can do with your child to get them to be aware of their breathing before you get started:
- Get them to sit up straight and put a finger in front of their nose. If they have a cold, get them to put a finger in front of their mouth.
- Instruct them to breathe in and out gently; feeling the air brush past their finger.
- Get them to place their hands on their chests and feel what happens when they breathe in and out. Repeat with their tummy, their sides and their backs.
- Test how much air fits in their lungs. Breathe in deeply, then breathe out and let out all the air. See if they can breathe out a little more at the end without forcing their bodies.
- Make them aware of how their bodies want to take a breath.
- Breathe in and out gently a few times at their own pace. Make sure that they are aware of their breathing.
- If their mind starts wandering, acknowledge the thoughts that are there and re-center their focus back to their breathing.
Now that your child is aware of how breathing works, you can move into the following breathing exercises:
1. Breathe (2–20 mins)
Follow these steps to guide your child through this exercise:
- Sit comfortably as still as possible. (Imagine there is a cord attached to the top of your head that is pulling you upwards)
- Hold your head up, right in the middle between your shoulders. Keep your shoulders right above your hips.
- Let your shoulders hang down and relax. (If they don’t know how to, get your child to raise their shoulders then let them hang down low)
- Relax your face, your jaws, your lips… (Get them to tense their face then relax it)
- Close your eyes and sit still (Imagine you are in a really beautiful place. It can be somewhere you’ve been before or somewhere you’ve made up. You’re sitting. You’re relaxed.)
- Breathe through your nose. Breathe in. You feel your tummy or your chest, or both, sticking out a little.
- Breathe out through your nose when you’re ready. Your tummy or chest goes in a little.
- Keep breathing. Feel how your breath makes your body move. (You are in your special place. You can relax more and more)
- How does the air feel? Keep breathing in and out. Keep concentrating on how your body is moving. Take the time to sit still with your whole body, focused and breathing.
You can choose to do this exercise lying down as well. Choose a position that is most comfortable for you.
2. Buzzing bee (1–5mins)
- Sit up straight or lie down. Close your eyes (Imagine you’re a bee. You’re buzzing from one flower to another)
- Breathe in whilst keeping your jaws gently shut.
- When you breathe out, say “Hmmmm.” Make a low tone, until you want to breathe again.
- Breathe in, and on every breathe out, buzz, “Hmmmm.”
- If you need to, close your ears so you can hear better. Repeat at your own pace.
- Then open your ears and keep on breathing at your own pace.
3. Hippo (2–5mins)
This exercise can help bring your left and right brain into balance.
- Sit or lie down in a position that is comfortable.
- A hippo lives on the land and in the water. If a hippo is underwater, it can shut its nostrils and come up for air every now and then. A hippo can also shut one nostril. That’s what we’re going to practice.
- Put your index fingers together on the little bone in your nose. Your index fingers are pointing upwards. (Imagine you’re a hippo)
- Put both thumbs gently against the sides of your nose. Breathe in through both nostrils. (You are a hippo and you’re going to breathe through both nostrils in turn).
- Close your right nostril with your thumb.
- Breathe out through your left nostril. Breathe in again through the same left nostril. Breathe in and out a few times.
- Now repeat with the other nostril. And breathe in and out a few times.
- Close your eyes and change over with each breathe now.
- Breathe in through one nostril, breathe out through the other. Repeat.
- Breathe in. Breathe out. Keep breathing slowly and gently.
- The next time you breathe out, let your hands drop down.
- Breathe through both nostrils again. Bring attention back to your breathing.
- How does your breathing feel now?
4. Starfish (3–10mins)
- Sit in a position that is comfortable for you.
- How are you feeling? (Imagine that your hand is a starfish. A starfish has 5 arms. A starfish is very sensitive because he has 5 arms that can all feel very well. It wants to be stroked along all its arms.)
- Turn one of your hands so your palm is upwards. Look at your hand.
- Put the index finger of your other hand against your wrist on the thumb side.
- Breathe in and move your index finger gently up along your whole thumb, up to the top.
- Breathe out slowly and move your index finger gently down your thumb.
- Your finger is now down, between your index finger and your thumb.
- Breathe in again and go up along your index finger.
- Breathe out and go down your index finger.
- Repeat all the way until you finish with your pinky finger.
- Keep breathing slowly and take a break at the end of each breathe if you wish.
- You’ll end up at the wrist on the other side of your hand. Go back up, along all the fingers until you’re back to the other side of the wrist near your thumb.
- Repeat as often as you like. You could change hands as well.
- How are you feeling now?
Keep an eye on our blog as we’ll be posting more exercises that you can practice with your child!
1. Smegen, I. (2018). Mindful at School.