Mindfulness is the process of simply being in the present moment. It is often seen as the first step to finding inner peace.
Mindfulness is a particularly important skill for children as they are just beginning to learn how to relate to themselves, others, and the world around them.
The following exercises are inspired by Buddha Bear's Enlightenment Coloring Book. They are designed to help you to connect with your child’s inner world, and build greater emotional & spiritual awareness, self confidence and gratitude together!
We've broken this guide into 3 parts. In part 1 you'll find 7 activities you can do with your kids to increase spiritual awareness. Part 2 deals with fear and confidence. Finally, part 3 is all about gratitude and how simple exercises of gratitude can translate into greater inner contentment.
May this guide serve as medium towards greater contentment & love for you and your kids.
*If there's an exercise you feel we should add to this guide, please let us know in the comments below!
Part 1: Emotional & Spiritual Awareness For Kids
1) I Am Present Meditation
Have your child sit down with eyes closed, and prompt them to notice the feel of the room; Is it hot or cold? Can you feel a breeze? What kinds of sounds can you hear? Is it noisy or quiet? Is there anything you can smell?
After a minute or two, ask them to shift their focus to how they are breathing. Is your breath short or is it longer? Can you feel your chest or belly move as you breathe in and out?
Now, ask them to try to notice both the sensations happening outside and inside at the same time. Have them hold this awareness for several minutes.
2) Become A Backyard Detective!
Find an outdoor space to explore such as the backyard. Ask your child to walk slowly, and try to notice things about this space they never knew before using ALL the senses. Like a detective, they should literally leave no leaf unturned. Ask your child to keep track in a notebook or in their head of three things they saw, smelled, felt and heard that surprised them. Have them share their surprising findings at the end.
3) Nature Yoga Inventor
For this activity, your child will create their own yoga poses based on things they find in nature. (i.e. “bush pose”, “spider pose”, “frog pose” etc). Have them explore outside for 15 minutes and come up with 3-5 yoga postures based on things they see. In the end, ask them to teach you their postures so you can do them all together. Over time, they can string the poses together to make their own custom yoga routine. The possibilities are endless!
4) When Your Kids Feel Nervous: Breath Counting
Have your child sit crisscross with their palms facing down. As they inhale, have them count to 5, lifting a finger up as they do (i.e. 1. lift both thumbs up, 2. index fingers, and so on). When they reach five, have them countdown with their exhale, placing the fingers down in reverse (5. Pinkies down, 4. Ring finger, and so on). Have them do this three times with their eyes closed while you count and then once on their own.
5) When Your Kids Feel Angry: The Lion's breath.
Lion’s breath is used in yoga to release heat and stimulate circulation in the body.
Have your child take a deep breath in and hold their breath while they scrunch up their face as tight as they can. You can tell them to imagine that they just ate the sourest lemon or candy. Have them hold this for a few moments and then tell them to stick out their tongue, open their eyes wide and exhale out their mouth with one BIG sigh (or roar!). HAHHHHHHHH!!
6) When Your Kids Feel Sad: 4 Part Heart & Belly Breath
This can be done seated or lying down. Have your child spend a few moments just noticing their normal breath. Ask them to notice if they are breathing more with their belly or their chest. Then ask them to place their right hand over their heart and left hand on their belly, just underneath the belly button. Have them take a normal exhale and begin:
- Inhale into the belly and feel the belly pressed against your left hand.
- Take that same inhale up into the chest, feel the chest rise up into your right hand.
- Exhale slowly from the chest, feel the chest fall away from the right hand.
- Exhale slowly from the belly, feel the belly fall away from the left hand.
Guide them through this 3-5 times with your words, and then have them do it 1 more time on their own.
7) Just for fun: Rainbow breathing
From seated, have your child bring both arms over to one side, with hands touching the floor. As they inhale, have them reach their arms up overhead in a sweeping motion, and exhale the hands over onto the other side, creating an arch. If it helps, ask them to visualize painting a rainbow with their hands in the sky above them.
Part 2: Confidence Building Exercises For Your Kids!
1) The “I DID IT!” Dance
The dance is simple and can be done standing, seated or lying down (this is my favorite!). Have your kid spread their arms and legs wide, like a starfish. Then have your child bend their right elbow and right knee towards one another as they yell “I DID IT!”. Have them straighten out and repeat on the left side. Do this three times on each side. This can be used as a cheer any time your child tries something new!
2) Build-Your-Own Affirmations
Together with your child, come up with some affirmations that they would like to use. Some examples include: “I am safe”. “I love myself”, and “I can be all that I want to be”. Remember that affirmations are most powerful when they are in the present tense (“I am” vs “I will”) and centered on the individual (“I am loved” vs “people love me”).
Have your child say each one out-loud, as many times over as they can for a full minute. Repeat for each affirmation. This can be made part of a morning or bedtime ritual as well as used in times of need.
3) The Positivity Bank
With your child, create a list of positive things. You can use affirmations, compliments, jokes, song lyrics, things you are grateful for, or any other tidbits that inspire happiness. Write each one down on a small slip of paper then fold each paper and place it into a spare jar or box. Have your child decorate their container with positivity; positive colors, positive pictures, positive ribbons. Once complete, they can pull a positivity ‘fortune” from their Positivity Bank any time they like! They can also make ‘deposits’ of positivity for future ‘withdrawals’!
4) The Friendship Smile
Have your child sit down in a comfortable position and close their eyes. Ask your child to think of someone they love, someone who easily brings them joy and happiness. Ask them to imagine this person smiling at them. Tell them to imagine this person’s smile growing bigger and bigger until it is the biggest, widest smile ever. They might begin to feel a smile appear on their own face. Tell them to let their own smile get bigger and bigger until they too are smiling the biggest, widest smile that they can.
Have them hold this smile for several moments. When they’re ready to leave, let them know that they can always close their eyes and go back to ‘visit’ the friendship smile anytime they want to.
5) Superhero Power Pose!
This is a great exercise for building lasting confidence and emotional endurance for your kids!
Have your child lay down on their belly with their arms outstretched in front of them and fingers curled into fists, superhero style. Tell them that they are going on a very important mission and when you count down to one, they need to lift their arms and their legs so they can soar! Countdown 5-4-3-2-1! Have them hold the Superhero Pose for five seconds, then release. Repeat for 10 seconds and release. Last round is just five more seconds. It helps to cheer them on: “You can do it!”, “You are strong!”, “You’re a Superhero!”.
6) The Magic Mirror
Have your child take a piece of paper and trace or draw an oval shape on it. Have them close their eyes and think about three or more things that they feel happy, strong or proud doing. They might draw from sports activities, hobbies, personal strengths, friendships or other experiences. Have them write words or phrases for each around the frame of the mirror. On the inside of the mirror, have your child draw symbols or pictures of themselves doing the things that make them feel happy, strong and proud.
Explain to them that this is a magical mirror that shows their true inner power and that they can consult the mirror anytime they need a reminder of how strong they are.
7) I AM... Bookmark
Take a piece of regular 8.5 x 11 paper and cut it into four long strips, lengthwise. These strips will become your bookmarks. On each strip, have your child write their name down vertically, one letter at a time. For each letter of their name, have them think of an adjective that starts with that same letter and write that adjective next to or below each letter.
On the back, have them write the phrase “I am _______.” for each letter of their name, filling in the blanks with the adjectives that they chose. One the other three slips of paper, you can have them repeat the activity with their middle or last name(s) or have them make one for a friend.
8) Loving Kindness Meditation
This Loving Kindness Meditation is based on the Metta Prayer in Buddhism. The idea is that we can draw from the loving kindness that we so easily feel for those closest to us and learn to amplify that feeling towards others and ourselves. This is a great exercise for practicing self-love and empathy.
From a seated position, ask your child to think of someone they love, someone who easily brings them joy and happiness. Next, have your child repeat the meditation as you say each part out loud. Tell them to imagine saying the words to this person.
May you be safe
May you be happy
May you be healthy and strong
May you live with peace
- A neutral person (someone they don’t know as well)
- Themselves (replace “you” with “I” when reading)
- Someone that they have challenging/negative feelings towards
- Every being in the world
Part 3: Introducing Our Kids To Gratitude
1) Rose Thorn Bud Gardener
This practice is best implemented at the end of the day or after school. First, have your child reflect on their day by asking them to identify the rose, thorn, bud and gardener of their day.
- The rose is the best thing about their day
- The thorn is the worst part of their day
- The bud is something they are looking forward to
- The gardener is someone who helped them during the day
You can go through these questions as part of a nightly daily check-in with your child or encourage them to reflect on their own in a journal or art project. You can also encourage them to write a Warm Fuzzy thank you note to their ‘gardener’ (see below).
2) Warm Fuzzies
Each day, have your child reflect on one (or more) people they appreciate for helping them, for making them laugh, for being kind to them or for just for being themselves.
Have them write a card using the sentence, “I appreciate [ NAME ] for …. “ and sign at the bottom with their name. They can choose to deliver the Warm Fuzzy to the person or keep it as a reminder for themselves.
3) The Gratitude Tree
First, choose a place to put your Gratitude Tree, ideally a place you will pass by regularly. Have your child help you make the tree trunk and branches using cardboard, paper, paint, etc. Next, cut out pieces of paper roughly the size and shape of small leaves and stack them in an empty box near your tree. Each time that your child, or anyone in the family thinks of something they are grateful for, they can write or draw it onto a leaf and attach it to the Gratitude Tree.
At the end of a week or month, sit down and read off each leaf as you take it off the tree and then start the process anew.
4) Nature Mandala
Mandalas usually include repeated geometric shapes and are used to mark sacred space. The purpose of this mandala is to honor nature. Have your child gather things they found in nature and arrange them in a circular pattern. Ideas include using flower petals, leaves, stones, twigs, grass, etc. Allow them to take their time placing each object down, and doing so with gratitude and appreciation. This is a great activity to do together, and can also be done in silence as a personal or group meditation.
5) Gratitude Speed Spree
Often we take for granted the things we have in our own homes. Give your child stickers, yarn or ribbon (for ease of removal), to mark items that they are grateful for around the house. The only catch? They get 1 minute per room! The time constraint is designed to help highlight what we most value and hold important. Remember, there are no wrong answers. You can repeat this activity for 30 seconds, 15 seconds and even five seconds!
6) I Have Everything I Need Portrait
On a blank piece of paper, have your child draw a stick figure human. On the left arm, have them write “I have air to breathe”, on the right arm, “I have food to eat”, on the left foot, “I have water to drink”, on the right foot, “I have clothes for my body”, and above the head, “I have a shelter to live in”. Have them draw pictures or symbols for each of these basic needs. Then, together brainstorm some other common needs that they have (i.e. “I have parents who love me, I have friends who support me, I have a school I can learn in etc..). When they are finished, have them write at the top of the page: “I have everything I need” and hand the picture somewhere they can see everyday.
7) Gratitude Stone
Have your child find a medium sized stone that they can paint. This stone is going to act like a gratitude insignia so that whenever someone touches it, they will be prompted to think of one thing that they are grateful for. They can choose to paint the word gratitude into the stone and decorate it however they like. For extra fun, you can make a game of placing the Gratitude Stone somewhere different in your home each day so that whoever finds it can think of something they are grateful for in that moment and move it somewhere new for the next person to discover.