July 19, 2022

How to Teach Mindfulness to Toddlers?

young mother teaching her little toddler son

young mother assisting her little toddler son

 

Mindfulness activities can help children learn how to be present and aware of their surroundings, which can, in turn, help them regulate their emotions and become more focused in life, both at home and at school. But how do you teach mindfulness to toddlers?

We’ve put together the following guide to help you get started with some fun, easy ways to practice mindfulness for toddlers that they can do on their own whenever they want.

What is mindfulness for toddlers?

Teaching mindfulness is not as hard as it sounds. Here are some mindfulness activities you can do with your toddler that will help them learn to be mindful in their everyday lives.

The best thing about mindful awareness practices for toddlers is that it requires no special skills and no complicated techniques – just your presence and some time for your little one.

You’ll be surprised at how easily your baby or toddler will pick up on these simple lessons.

Remember, always go slow and take things at a pace comfortable for you both; we’re building foundations, not knocking down walls! (That comes later…)

two little girls practicing mindful activities

3 Activities To Practice Mindfulness for babies

Below you’ll find my favorite mindfulness exercises and activities for children; they work perfectly well with little ones, so why don’t you start here?

(Hey, before I get started on my list of activities, I want to mention that although most of my examples here refer specifically to toddlers, all of these ideas also work great with children aged 3-8 years old!)

1. Feed your baby while you’re eating.

Babies do a great job of sitting with mindfulness. They don’t fidget or move around much, making for a pretty easy mealtime practice.

While you eat, allow your baby to sit up at the table with you and feed them dinner while you eat dinner yourself.

This is not just fun for your baby, but also good bonding time between parent and child.

Toddler eating healthy kid food at kitchen interior

2. Participate in cleanup games.

From an early age, children can start learning how to clean up after themselves and put their toys away when they are done playing with them.

This is a great way to teach mindfulness and give your child a little bit of responsibility for their actions.

However, a parent or older sibling will need to be actively engaged in these activities with your toddler.

When participating, try to observe your toddler during these interactions; what goes through their minds as they clean up?

What part of it don’t they understand yet?

3. Color meditation time!

It sounds silly, but coloring helps promote mindfulness practice because you have to concentrate on following along with the lines you are coloring in and make sure that everything is uniform.

Young children tend to like coloring more than adults do because there are so many colors at their fingertips that make them really want to pick up a crayon or marker.

Tips for Teaching Mindfulness to preschoolers

The goal of teaching mindfulness to toddlers is for them to learn how and why we take a mindful moment and teach them techniques that allow them to do so.

Here are some tips and techniques for parents who want to encourage their child’s mindfulness skills:

Any activity can be used to practice mindfulness, but having fun will increase your child’s eagerness to participate.

Choose one exercise from each category:

  • Watchful eyes-paying attention
  • All About Me-self regulation
  • Sharing Time-present moment
  • Music & Movement.

We suggest you practice all four at home before sharing or attending an elementary school children program.

Over time, add in some exercises of your own that have special meaning for you and your family (in fact, it’s great if every family member has their own collection of special time activities and challenging moments).

Moving Mindfully—Ways to Move Your Body Through Mindfulness (Activity #1)

When you play with children in mindful ways, they develop mindfulness skills and have lots of fun.

Here are some simple movements parents can do with their children at home or preschool:

  1. Be mindful when you walk
  2. Feel your feet on the ground
  3. Notice where your body is leaning
  4. Try taking a big step then a small step as if your feet are walking all by themselves. –
  5. Be mindful when you sit on a chair.
  6. Let yourself fall back onto it; lean forward, stand up, and then lean back again.

Recommended readings for practicing mindfulness

Here are 2 books to read when you are about to practice mindfulness training in toddlers.

  1. The Magic of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh
  2. Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Start a mindfulness reading activity for your child – or toddler. Then don’t do anything else except concentrate on what you are doing with your child.

For example, if you are drawing together with your little one, just do that and nothing else – draw! Close your eyes and focus on each stroke you make with a crayon or pencil.

Do not think about the past or future but only about now.

When you finish your drawing, don’t look at it immediately; close your eyes again and try to feel all feelings surrounding you at that moment in time: happiness from making something beautiful together with your child, gratitude for having such wonderful moments in life, etc.

At what age should you start mindfulness?

Children develop a sense of self around age 2. So that’s a good time to start because then it becomes a relationship of trust. That’s important because it will serve them in later years when they need it more.

Toddlers are resilient and want their parents to be present with them. So if you can do [this] from an early age, you lay down those neural pathways that allow for calmness.

And that helps even beyond childhood: When we feel safe, our bodies release hormones like oxytocin and dopamine that help us learn—and remember what we learn over a lifetime.

close-up view of happy baby's face learning to walk

How do I teach my toddler mindfulness?

Mindfulness for little ones is both fun and beneficial.

When you incorporate games, tricks, and other mindfulness activities for toddlers into your daily routine, you help your child learn how his brain works.

Children familiar with mindfulness become better able to control their emotions and behavior. So if you’re trying to teach mindfulness to toddlers in a playful way, consider these ideas.

What do toddlers like? Fun!

What does mindfulness have to do with having fun? Well, everything! And don’t worry; mindfulness isn’t all that difficult.

Here are five ways to teach mindfulness to toddlers: First, Play at bedtime. While it might be tempting to plop down on the couch after a long day at work and check out—don’t! Instead, try playing with your toddler before bed.

During bath time, tickle her feet or sing silly songs. If she wants to watch TV in her bedroom, let her pick what she wants to watch—but ask her to give you one minute of silence as a reward for watching together.

father teaches toddler paper cutting crafting

Can a baby meditate?

Yes, babies can learn meditation!

In fact, learning how to meditate at a young age is a great way for your baby or toddler to learn self-awareness and gain control over their emotions.

Here are some tips for getting started:

1. Breathe deeply
2. Make sure they’re sitting comfortably
3. Tell them you’re going to practice taking slow deep breaths
4. Let them know that when they breathe in, it feels good
5. Have them breathe in for five seconds
6. Then have them hold their breath for another five seconds
7. Then ask them to exhale slowly
8. Ask them what they felt

If they don’t respond, move on to another step. You may feel silly doing all of these exercises with your child… but trust us, there’s value here!

Since mindful breathing exercises help with relaxation and stress relief (in adults), teaching children about mindfulness will give them tools for dealing with stressful situations.

asian mom teach toddler girl paint ceramic pot

Mindfulness Exercises for Toddlers

Your toddler is constantly learning and growing, so it’s important to include activities that promote mindfulness in their daily routine.

Although it may seem impossible right now, teaching your children self-awareness will help them develop problem-solving skills and improve their focus.

Here are five ways you can incorporate mindfulness into your toddler’s daily schedule.

Best ways to incorporate mindfulness into your toddler’s daily schedule

Here is an easy way to incorporate mindful thinking into your toddler’s daily schedule

The Be Game:

This game is incredibly simple; all you need is a pencil and paper (or something similar). It involves two players—you and your toddler—and each round lasts about 10 minutes.

At random intervals throughout the day, pick up whatever you’re doing (reading a book, watching TV) and challenge yourself to pause for one minute.

Children as young as three months old can begin practicing mindfulness!

Some people consider being mindful simply means paying attention to what’s happening in each(present) moment, whether it be emotions or sensations throughout your body.

Mindfulness is just being in the present moment.

We achieve a heightened sense of awareness by focusing on what we have in front of us, rather than on thoughts of past or future actions.

toddler child bathes a toddler doll in a basin

Mindfulness Meditation Activities for Toddlers

Here are a few fun and easy mindful activities for toddlers. These activities can be done by a parent or other caregiver and should take about five minutes or less.

Please note that some of these activities require specialized props (an adult-sized chair or silk flowers).

Also, no two children learn in exactly the same way; if you need more inspiration for mindfulness practices with your toddlers.

Try exploring books like ;

  1. The Mindful Child
  2. How to Help Your Child Manage Stress and Become Happier
  3. Kinder
  4. More Compassionate, by Susan Kaiser Greenland. Y

Remember: there’s no wrong way to do mindfulness with a toddler.

teaching son to stack toy blocks

Infant-friendly Mindfulness techniques

Perhaps you don’t think tiny babies could understand a big concept like mindfulness.

While babies can’t express their feelings with anything but crying, they can recognize their parents’ voices and smells as young as 6 to 8 weeks old. You can use mindfulness at this age to focus on those developing senses.

Honestly, though, it might be mostly about you becoming more mindful as a parent at this point. This will enable you to be better able to help your child learn it as they grow.

One way to start a mindfulness practice with your baby is to give them daily massages. After your baby feeds, wait about 45 minutes so they don’t spit up milk. Listen to your baby – see if they’re calm and alert or fussy.

Massage your child with gentle pressure. Try starting on the stomach and moving onto the head, neck, shoulders, and other parts of the body for a minute each – between five and ten total. Pay attention to how your little one reacts to your gaze and touch.

There’s been research on the benefits of infant massage, including enhanced bonds between parents and babies, better sleep/relaxation, and a boost of hormones that keep stress at bay.

There are a few more ways to connect with your baby mindfully, according to the nonprofit organization Zero to Three:

  • Focus on your baby. You don’t have to neglect yourself. When you’re talking to your baby, pay attention to the environment, their mood, their physical state, and any other clues they’re giving you about their feelings.
  • Take it from their perspective. Don’t ignore their cries and frustration – treat them like you’d like to be treated if you were crying!
  • Accept your parenting feelings. Feeling drained from sleepless nights is okay. You can’t judge yourself for feeling underwhelmed about being so tired. Additionally, try to remember and accept the fact that your baby isn’t staying up all night to aggravate you.

Mindfulness Techniques for toddlers and preschoolers

Can you meditate with a 3-year-old? Probably not. At this age, children are all about gaining independence and testing limits. Children and parents are going to have tantrums and tough times. I’m sure you’ve heard of the “terrible twos.”

The best mindfulness strategies for children are about the senses and how to recognize what they’re feeling on the inside before acting out in a negative way.

toddler plays on the floor

Show children what mindfulness is.

You’re the best person to start this journey. Children learn from their environment and especially from their caregivers. Model non-judgment and awareness, and will have a big impact on your child.

Think of an activity you do every day, like bathing your child. Imagine the warmth of the water and the smooth soap under your fingers. Enjoy the smell of bath bombs and the sound of your child splashing around. Dry off your child with a towel and watch the motions.

Take just 5 minutes each day to close your eyes and focus on your breath. Whenever your mind wanders, try to focus on your inhales and exhales only.

Provide language

Children at this age have trouble expressing their feelings verbally. They can share what they’re feeling in a way that you can both understand by giving them words. It helps young children pay attention to and honor their feelings.

As your child gets older, you might be able to help them express their feelings, or at least help them recognize and cope with them.

You don’t need to label your 3-year-old’s behavior as bad if he throws a block across the room. Even better: don’t label the child as bad.

It would be better to say, “I see you’re very energetic right now.”. Since we can’t throw things in the house, let’s think of something else.

By doing this, you help children see that their actions aren’t always bad. Then they can recognize when they’re feeling extra energetic in the future and make sure they’re getting their energy out.

Let’s use senses!

Young children may not know all the brain’s activities associated with mindfulness, but they can still benefit from hands-on learning. Try focusing on the senses instead of presenting mindfulness as an abstract concept.

Listening to ocean waves crashing against the shoreline is soothing for your child, but they may not realize it at first.

Do something outdoors with your children. Have them listen to the wind blowing the leaves. Let them feel the warm sun on their faces. Watch birds chirp in the distance.

This will help your child feel connected to their environment. It makes them aware of being in the moment.

Help with body/mind awareness.

If you ask a young child how they’re feeling, they’ll probably just say “good.”. You can teach them this by having them do a “body scan,” where they focus on one area and then move on to the next, noting the sensations or feelings as they go along.

Try to get your little one to think about how they’re feeling from head to toe. It’s a great way to start the day or just something you do when you think your child needs to center.

Whenever you’re feeling tense, return your child to body scanning. Have they got a tense feeling in their shoulders or an anxious feeling in their stomach? Work on relaxation techniques like deep breathing after talking about these things.

Benefits of Mindfulness activities for toddlers

Training your toddler—with help from you—in mindfulness doesn’t have to be difficult: being aware is half the battle! Following are the benefits of mindful activities for toddlers.

  • Increases awareness of self and others’ emotions.
  • It helps a child respond thoughtfully rather than emotionally or impulsively.
  • Prepares a child for school.
  • Reduces stress and symptoms of depression in children.
  • Helps children handle anxiety, anger, and sadness more effectively.
  • Improves academic performance.
  • Enables young people to accept uncertainty, evaluate their own thoughts, cope with adversity, and feel compassion toward themselves and others.

As a result, children will learn valuable skills that they can use throughout their lives,e but parents will have an easier time dealing with day-to-day challenges.

Now that your child has mindfulness practice, how do you get them in mindful breathing?

Find new ways to connect and stay in the present moment with your little one.

A few good places to start are snuggling up together at bedtime and going on walks in nature when it’s available.

Taryn Crimi

Taryn Crimi

Taryn is an international intuitive, focused on helping to empower you manifest your best life!

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