Are you looking for some activities to help your kids become more mindful? The practice of mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular with both adults and children, but it can be hard to find materials that are engaging enough to keep younger kids’ attention while still effectively teaching them the principles of mindfulness.
Educational experts agree that mindfulness practices in early childhood can help children with everything from learning how to focus their attention to better managing stress and anxiety.
In this article, we’ll look at five games, worksheets, and activities that will help your kids become more mindful and reap the benefits that come with such an approach to everyday life.
A Mindfulness Definition For Kids
Definition for Kids Mindfulness can be expressed as, “Any routine activity can become a mindfulness practice if you pay attention, but these games are perfect for cultivating mindfulness.”
Before you can teach children how to be mindful, it’s important that they understand what mindfulness is. A great way to do that is by having them create their own mindfulness definition.
Start with a word or phrase that describes what mindfulness means in general. The awareness of your thoughts and feelings is a good place to start.
Then ask kids to think about examples from their lives when they’ve been aware of their thoughts or feelings – like last time they were late for school or when someone made them angry at school or when they felt sad watching a sad movie on TV.
Have kids list each example individually on an index card (or type it out) and then share it out with one another so everyone knows what other people have come up with!
What Are Mindfulness Activities?
Most mindfulness activities involve focusing your attention on one thing at a time—usually mindful breathing. These activities can have a powerful calming effect because they help train you to focus your mind on what’s happening right now.
As such, these mindfulness activities can be great tools for parents who want to develop their children’s minds as well as improve their mental health.
5 Exercises for Teaching Mindfulness to Toddlers and Preschoolers
Introducing mindfulness to kids is one of those parenting chores that might sound like work but turn out to be a lot of fun. To help you on your way, here are five activities you can try with your toddler or preschooler. The bonus? These exercises will help them learn important life skills too!
Mindfulness Activity 1 for Toddlers and Preschoolers
The Teddy Bear Hug (2-5-year-olds) :
Have a toddler or preschooler? They’re probably often emotional little beings, easily upset by a minor change in their routine. This mindfulness activity can help soothe those emotions when a child is having trouble calming down.
Get your child a teddy bear or other stuffed animal that is important to them—it should be something they sleep with at night or carry around with them during their waking hours.
Place it on your lap and give it a big hug together; talk about how much you love each other while you cuddle up. Then, ask your child if they’d like to try hugging their teddy bear by themselves.
Tell them that when they feel upset, they can remember how you both felt as they were cuddling, and bring that same feeling back with them as they hold their teddy bear close—it will help them calm down and make them feel safe again.
Mindfulness Activity 2 for Toddlers and Preschoolers
A Child’s Garden of Memories :
Let’s take a look at a mindfulness activity for toddlers called “A Child’s Garden of Memories”. This activity focuses on helping young children develop concentration skills. Here’s how it works: First, you’ll need to gather some materials (you can also use your own little garden in a pot as long as it is safe and away from busy streets).
Next, tell your child that you’re going to be making a special memory garden with tiny treasures. Bring out a tray filled with small pebbles or rocks (or any other object that can safely hold memories) and show them to your toddler.
Let them pick out four objects that they find interesting or meaningful. Now, place all four pebbles/rocks into a jar.
At first your little one might not understand what’s happening; just have them sit still while you focus entirely on filling up their memory jar. Then set it aside for another day; don’t open it until your child really wants to remember something about their past.
When you do open it together, see if there are specific details that come back to mind! If so, write those down – chances are your child will want to do an entirely new memory jar soon enough!
Once they’ve run through all of their stones/pebbles/rocks, start over again and let each new group represent even more memories than before.
Mindfulness Activity 3 for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Have your child color in a big box with crayons or colored pencils. Make it into a fun game by placing obstacles inside that he has to color around—this helps children learn to make decisions and set goals for themselves.
For example, you could cut holes into pieces of construction paper and tell your child he has to drive his car through each hole. Or you could draw shapes on small pieces of paper (like stars) and ask him to pick up one piece of paper at a time without dropping any; help him remember what order they go in by turning them all over so only their backs are showing.
Once all the pieces are gathered, then you can help him arrange them back correctly so they form a picture again.
Mindfulness Activity 4 for Toddlers and Preschoolers
With My Little Eye. This activity is perfect to practice mindfulness when you’re out with your little ones. It works especially well if you are at a park with lots of different items to look at. Give each person in your group a turn looking at something different in nature: trees, bushes, grasses, animals, flowers. Have everyone else close their eyes while they describe what they’re seeing.
Mindfulness Activity 5 for Toddlers and Preschoolers
This mindfulness activity for preschoolers works great as a group exercise. Before bringing all of your children together to play or even as an individual exercise, consider how you want to explain what mindfulness is—this may depend on your child’s age.
For example, if you want to bring all of your children together in a large group but not explain anything about what it means to be mindful yet—that is okay! Some toddlers and preschoolers will pick up on these moments of intentional silence quickly.
If you feel comfortable explaining mindfulness beforehand, do so. If not, then try just teaching them that sometimes we need to stop and think (in their case by sitting silently).
When you are ready to begin: Sit down in front of your toddler or preschooler and invite them to sit next to you with some space between you two. Explain to them that you would like to try something new; without saying too much, let them know it is simply about trying new things in order to help grow their minds.
Explain that when they hear a loud sound, they should first close their eyes (if possible) and take three deep breaths before opening back up. Then say ready and introduce another loud sound after one minute has passed by in silence.
5 Games to Teach Mindfulness to Kids
While mindfulness is associated with adults, it’s also useful for children. When children learn how to pay attention to their thoughts, feelings, and actions in a nonjudgmental way they can benefit from greater mental clarity and emotional health. Mindfulness activities for kids are a fun way to teach children about living mindfully.
These five games are great ways to begin teaching your child how to be present through everyday activities. The goal is to help kids become more self-aware, focused, and engaged. Here are 5 games that will get you started on setting an example of mindfulness for your child.
1. Balancing on One Foot
You may have played this game as a child (or you can try it now if you’re feeling brave). Stand on one foot with your eyes closed or blindfolded. See how long you can balance without losing your balance. When thoughts of other things creep in to distract you from being present in that moment, gently acknowledge them and let them go without judgment—this is part of developing mindfulness skills. After a few minutes, switch feet.
2. Minute to Win It
If you want to up the challenge, play the minute game instead of just standing on one foot for sixty seconds. Set an alarm clock for sixty seconds and pick an activity like hopping around in place or jumping jacks—no sitting down allowed!
When your time is up, stop whatever you’re doing, reset your timer and start again. You can make it harder by counting backwards from 60 with each round (50-45-40…). Work as quickly as possible so that each round lasts only a few seconds long before switching back to normal speed (60). How many rounds can you do? Can you beat last week’s score?
3. Find Your Happy Place
Pick something in your home to represent your happy place, such as a special pillow or blanket that makes you feel good when you hold it. Have some children sit on chairs close together while others lie down facing each other on their backs. Give one child something familiar to hold while another places his hands behind his head, mimicking being asleep.
The object of this game is to get from where you’re sitting to where everyone else is lying down without waking anyone up. If someone notices you passing by, gently remind them that they’re supposed to be sleeping and encourage them not to move so they don’t spoil your fun. Once everyone has reached their goal, go back around and see if they can do it again—this time with fewer distractions!
As an alternative to watching TV or playing video games, turn off all screens and play I-Spy instead. Pick something in your house that you can use as a starting point—maybe it’s a pillow or toy on your floor, a lamp on your table, or anything else that isn’t obviously related to what you’re looking for. Let everyone know they have one minute to look around with their eyes closed before trying to guess what item you picked based on its shape and general location.
The first person to come up with a correct answer gets another chance to pick an object while everyone else stays blindfolded. Make sure kids are being careful not to bump into each other while searching!
5. Treasure Hunt
This game is basically just like hide-and-seek, but you get more out of it by adding clues along the way. As your child hides in one room, tell her a few details about where he’s going to be (maybe he’s hiding behind that lamp or under that blanket). Once everyone else has found their hiding place, someone needs to count down while everyone takes turns looking around until they find their partner—who gets extra points if they guessed right!
5 Games to Teach Mindfulness to Teens
Developing self-awareness is a skill that kids learn best through games. These five mindfulness games are designed to help teens discover their true selves. The mindfulness games require pen and paper but can be played without any additional materials. This means they can be played on your own or with friends in class, after school, or during downtime at home.
Although each of these activities is geared toward teens, adults can also use them to learn more about themselves too! Here’s how you play:
1. Journal Prompts –
First is a set of journal prompts designed to prompt discussions around mindfulness topics like identity, emotions, goals, relationships, passions, hopes and dreams.
2. Listen Better Game –
This game focuses specifically on improving listening skills by encouraging players to complete different tasks while mindful listening (or pretending to listen) to music they don’t like or have never heard before in an effort to understand what it must feel like when people aren’t engaged during conversations we think they should be interested in.
3. Emotions Wheel –
Next up is an activity called Wheel o’ Emotions where players roll dice and do whatever action pops up for 10 minutes straight.
4. Daily Gratitude Journaling –
This journal prompt encourages you to focus on one thing you feel thankful for each day in your life.
5. Mental Check-in Game –
This game encourages participants to be more mindful about their mental state throughout the day by asking questions like what am I feeling. How am I doing today? And what can I do to help myself?
10 Benefits of Teaching Mindfulness to Kids
How does mindfulness benefit children? This is a question that many parents want to know the answer to, and if you’re one of them, you might be surprised by how many great benefits teaching mindfulness to kids can have on their mental health, self-esteem, and even their physical health!
Here are ten ways mindfulness can benefit your kids.
1) Overcoming Stress
The stress hormone cortisol can wreak havoc on a child’s growing body. But mindfulness training—when kids learn to observe their thoughts and feelings without judgment—has been shown to help.
When combined with traditional medical treatment, it may be especially beneficial for kids with serious psychological issues or chronic pain.
Additionally, mindfulness training has been shown to improve focus and academic performance in kids who struggle with inattention and hyperactivity.
2) Present Moment
It’s no secret that children are often over-scheduled. Between school, after-school activities, and extracurricular classes or lessons, many kids don’t have a lot of free time—and many don’t even have time for quiet reflection.
Learning how to be present is a valuable skill that can help kids reduce stress and anxiety while fostering social awareness and compassion. Being mindful helps kids be in the present moment.
3) Improving Memory
When we practice mindfulness, we become more focused on what’s going on around us in that moment. If a child is learning mindfulness, they can take that skill into other parts of their life—like school and remembering tasks.
Through meditation and mindful living skills, kids will improve their memory, emotional intelligence and focus.
4) Reducing Anxiety
Studies have shown that mindfulness can improve anxiety and reduce stress in children. When kids are taught how to recognize and manage their emotions, they’re less likely to become overwhelmed when faced with negative thoughts or feelings.
As a result, they’ll feel better equipped to make smart decisions under pressure. By teaching your kids how to be aware of their own thoughts and actions, you help them develop self-control, which is essential for developing healthy habits later in life.
5) Improving Performance At School or Sports
One of those more-controversial benefits is that mindfulness training can improve your performance at school or sports.
It works by helping you focus on the present moment instead of worrying about grades or the outcome of a game.
The end result is that you start thinking more clearly and perform better because you can concentrate more easily on what it is that you’re doing and not worry about anything else.
6) Increasing Self-Esteem
If you teach kids mindfulness, it builds self-esteem and body image. Many kids today struggle with issues like bullying, low self-esteem, and eating disorders.
By increasing their ability to be present in their own bodies and minds, they can begin developing a healthy relationship with themselves.
When they develop a sense of how their body feels throughout life’s stressors, it reduces their risks for eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.
7) Boosting Creativity
When kids are taught mindfulness skills, they learn how to be more receptive and accepting of new experiences. This means they’re better able to foster their own creativity.
In one study, students were given an exercise in which they were asked to draw a picture without looking at a photo or drawing previously done by someone else.
Students who practiced mindfulness beforehand performed much better than those who didn’t — suggesting that teaching children how to focus and be open-minded can help them unlock their own potential.
8) Fostering Resilience
Research shows that mindfulness exercises and techniques help children cultivate resilience, meaning they’re better able to respond and adjust when challenges come their way.
In short, mindfulness can improve kids’ ability to bounce back from negative experiences. But what does cultivating mindfulness look like?
There are a variety of ways to foster mindfulness skills in children; here are a few ideas for things you can do at home:
If you have younger kids (5-10 years old): Ask your child what their favorite part was about a recent trip, outing, or experience. Then help them describe it in detail by asking questions like What did you do next? or How did that feel?
Have an hour-long chat each weeknight after homework.
During these chats, ask open-ended questions like: What’s going on in your life right now? Are there any challenges that are keeping you up at night?
9) Encouraging Kindness
Studies show that kids who practice mindfulness are more empathetic, compassionate and accepting of themselves and others.
Teaching mindfulness can lower stress levels in students, as well as alleviate a variety of conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and insomnia.
When you teach your child how to be present with her emotions in a nonjudgmental way—the essence of mindfulness—they’ll learn to respond instead of react.
10) Improving Sleep
Our increasingly hectic lifestyles are making it harder for us to get a good night’s sleep. And while lack of sleep can have an impact on our mental health, sleeping less is also bad for our physical health.
Research shows that people who sleep fewer hours are more likely to be overweight or obese—and regular exercise won’t offset those risks. But mindfulness, at least in children, might help them improve their rest and decrease their risk for weight gain.
The results indicate that mindfulness may help kids focus on physiological cues—such as feeling tired—when deciding when they should go to bed.
When you’re helping your child become mindful, remember that consistency is key. Most mindfulness activities can be completed in a matter of minutes, so it should be easy to fit them into your daily routine.
And when children learn these techniques at an early age, they’ll likely find themselves practicing mindfulness throughout their lives—and becoming much healthier for it.