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Mindfulness for Kids: Ten Mindfulness Exercises for Kids

Words by
Morgan Wilcock

MAY 14, 2024

Mindfulness for Kids: Ten Mindfulness Exercises for Kids

Ferris Bueler became a 1980s pop cultural icon for a lot of reasons. But he might not get enough credit for being way ahead of the curve relative to today’s mindfulness movement.

His famous line, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” is pretty much mindfulness in a nutshell. 

Truancy, auto theft, and fraud don’t serve as an ideal model for our kids today, but Ferris Bueler’s nugget of wisdom is one aspect of the movie worth applying in real life. Increased mindfulness can be beneficial for kids today who are feeling an incredible amount of stress and anxiety. 

In fact, about a third of adolescents in the United States will suffer from anxiety in their lifetime. Between school and extracurricular activities, mental health challenges connected to social media, and the ever-elusive need for sleep, it’s no wonder teens feel overwhelmed. 

Parents might consider this simple tool as a way to help.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of actively paying attention to the world around you. This means analyzing one’s state in the present moment and practicing intentional, mindful awareness — something that can take some practice in our face-paced world.

Practicing mindfulness often includes a body scan, which is actively noticing one’s bodily and emotional sensations without judgment and without attempting to change those sensations. It simply means taking deep breaths and noticing.

Benefits of Mindfulness

Adults who practice mindfulness tend to experience less emotional burnout and emotional exhaustion. Mindfulness has also been shown to decrease habitual worrying by promoting an attitude of acceptance toward unexpected experiences. 

teen girl with her smiling face toward the sun

Research on mindfulness for children suggests the practice can be beneficial in developing self-regulation skills and problem-solving skills. Kids who are mindful tend to be less emotionally reactive and more reflective.

What is Mindfulness for Kids?

The approach to mindfulness for kids differs from adults. Understandably, mindfulness exercises for kids are often much shorter than those for adults, and they will typically be more beneficial when they involve movements, like yoga and rocking. 

Mindfulness training for kids may also involve tangible objects that kids can pay attention to that ground them in a moment.

10 Mindfulness Exercises for Kids

When parents teach mindfulness to kids, they’ll want to use kid-friendly exercises. Below is a list of 10 mindfulness activities for kids.

Feel free to put on a zen music or white noise playlist. (For Gabb Music users, we’ve got some great options available in the app.)

  1. Drawing your Breathing: Have kids sit with a piece of paper and pencil in front of them. Then ask them to draw a line without lifting the pencil. Ask them to draw what their breath might look like, then talk about what they drew. Was their breath in loops? Was it like a roller coaster? Ask what their breathing might look like when they’re feeling mad or sad. Help them see how they could bring their breath back to calm in an emotional moment.
  2. Object Examination: Give the child something to hold, preferably an object they don’t interact with often. Have them interact with and stare at it for a few minutes. Then, take it away and have them list off everything they can remember about the object — the material it was made of, the color, smell, texture, or anything else they can recall.
  3. Bunny Breath: Have the child take three quick breaths in, and one slow breath out as many times as they need.
  4. Tense and Release: Starting at the feet, have your child tense just the muscles in their feet for 5 seconds, then release. Move up to the calves and do the same. Then up to the thighs, the abdomen, the shoulders, the arms, and finally the neck. 
  5. The Five Senses Exercise: Have kids notice five things they can see, four things they can feel, three things they can hear, two things they can smell, and one thing they can taste.
  6. Hula Hoop Body Scan: Have the child stand in the middle of a hula hoop, then move it up their body slowly. Have them imagine that the hula hoop is scanning their bodies like a grocery scanner or x-ray machine. Have them pay attention to each part of their body as the hula hoop rises. 
  7. Snake Breath: Have the child take a deep breath in and then breathe out, making a hissing sound like a snake as they do. Make a game of how long their exhale takes!
  8. Glitter Jar: Parents can use a clear jar or water bottle to fill with water and glitter. Use three different colors of glitter: one for thoughts, one for feelings, and one for behaviors or urges. Next, shake up the jar and ask the child whether they can see through the jar — if you’ve used enough glitter, the answer is no! From there, explain how it’s difficult for us to see clearly and solve problems when our mind is full of distracting thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In order to see clearly, we have to be still. Have them watch the jar until they can see through it.
  9. Deep Belly Breath: Have the child place one hand on their belly and one hand on their chest. Then have them take in deep breaths, noticing how their belly and chest swell up and deflate.
  10. Heartbeat exercise: Have your child stand up and do jumping jacks or high knees for one minute. Then have them put their hand over their heart and feel their heartbeat. 

Parenting Mindfully

Children are learning how to adapt to challenging situations, and parents can help them build confidence in their ability to regulate their emotions. A common coping mechanism in our world is technology, which helps to distract us from difficult emotions and experiences but does not equip us with the tools to deal with those emotions. 

two girls doing yoga poses

Technology can be beneficial in connecting us to our children but it must help and not hurt. Kid-safe tech is a great place to start with mindfulness because it provides the connection needed while allowing kids stay in the present moment without being distracted by things like social media and mobile games.

What do you think? Have you tried any of these exercises with your children? How did it go? Let us know in the comments!

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