Mindfulness for Kids: 15 of the Best Mindfulness Activities for Kids in 2024
Mindfulness can be “cultivated” through practices that feel like games and activities
February 5, 2024
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a state of mind in which one is focused on the present moment, acknowledging and appreciating thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment. Often practiced through meditation, its aim is to foster clarity, composure, and a non-reactive approach to life's experiences.
Practicing mindfulness involves directing attention to the current moment. This can be our breath, the things we can touch and feel, our thoughts, emotions, and simple daily activities such as walking or eating. This heightened awareness empowers us to react with greater skill and adaptability to the stressors and needs of the present moment. and adaptability to the stressors and needs of the present moment.
Research shows mindfulness practices reduce anxiety in both the short and long term. Sustained mindfulness practice can rewire the brain, increasing neural connections in areas of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress. The majority of research on mindfulness has been on practicing adults. The effects of mindfulness on developing minds is currently an increased topic of research. The early findings show positive results in children, similar to that of adults. Mindfulness improves mental, emotional, social, and physical health and well-being.
Mindfulness is associated with greater executive function skills. Executive functions are cognitive processes necessary for the control of behavior. Executive function includes the control of emotions and impulses, flexible thinking that can help adjust to unexpected changes, self-awareness of the moment, and planning, organizing, prioritizing, and initiating tasks. This part of the brain is the last to develop and continues to grow until about age 25. So, it’s natural and expected that not all kids excel in these skills. Mindfulness practices aid in developing these skills as the brain develops in a growing child (and young adult). These qualities make mindfulness practices especially beneficial for individuals with symptoms of ADHD.
Benefits of mindfulness include:
- Better understanding of feelings and emotions
- Reduced anxiety
- Increase in the time between feeling an emotion and reacting to it
- Greater awareness of surroundings
- Greater awareness of others
- Reduced symptoms of ADHD
- A calmer, more relaxed mind
How can I be mindful?
Mindfulness is a skill that must be practiced, much like math, language, or sports. The more kids (and adults) practice it, the more proficient they become. Mindfulness can be “cultivated” through practices that feel like games and activities.
Here are 15 mindfulness activities for kids (and they work for adults, too).
- Power pose. Stand big and tall with legs shoulder width apart, hands on your hips, chest up, and chin up. Hold this pose for 20 seconds as you breathe deeply in and out through your nose. This powerful pose can give kids a boost of confidence. It engages the arms and legs and makes the body feel strong. Kids can pretend they are posing as a superhero.
- Super Stretch. Stand tall and wide and stretch your arms up as far out and high up as you can. Extend your energy from your belly down through your legs, ankles, feet, and out through your toes. Extend your energy from your spine up your back, into your shoulders, through your arms, and out of your fingertips. Wiggle your fingers, wrists, arms, ankles, legs, toes, and back to stretch out every muscle you can.
This encourages awareness of the whole body, its ability to extend and move, and our control over it. And who doesn’t love a good stretch?
- Box Breathing. Practice breathing in a square. This breath has four parts: breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 3 seconds, breathe out for 3 seconds, and hold for 3 seconds. Repeat for 3 breaths, or 10 breaths, or 30 seconds, or any amount of time. Breathing like this will be hard at first, but it gets easier with practice. As you get more skilled at slowing your breath, you can increase the amount of time you hold each side of the breathing square.
Meditation apps like Headspace and Calm have guided breathing exercises. Online, The Mindfulness Teacher has quick videos for 30-second breathing exercises.
- Touch and Feel. Touch is often an underdeveloped sense in our visual and auditory world. This exercise helps kids develop greater body and sensory awareness.
Take notice of what you can feel. Do you feel the ground under your feet? Your shoes around your ankles? The t-shirt on your back? Your hair on your neck? Touch things around you and notice their texture and feel. Feel the weight of things you pick up.
Think about the way you interact with everyday objects. For example, think about the click of a pen, the movement of opening and closing scissors, or the amount of force required to plug in a USB cable.
- Observe your Surroundings. Choose an object in the room and have the kids describe it using as many adjectives as they can. This observation game increases awareness of your surroundings, which can make you more present in the moment. And as a bonus, it expands vocabulary and is great practice for sentence-building skills.
- Walk a Labyrinth. Draw a chalk labyrinth and have the kids walk it, staring at the outside and taking slow deliberate steps along the path to the center. Breathe slowly and deeply, without talking. A similar effect can also be done by tracing a labyrinth on a piece of paper. My kids’ pre-k teacher had a labyrinth made of tape on the floor in the kids' classroom, and they loved to walk it as part of their pre-nap routine.
- Eat With Five Senses. Have the kids experience their food by using all five senses. Take a strawberry for example. Look closely and notice the shininess of the red fruit, the fuzziness of the green leaves, and the teardrop shape of the seeds. Notice its shape and size. Feel the weight of it in your hand. Describe the smell. Is the smell the same before and after the first bite? As they bite into it, have them listen for a crunch. Move it around your mouth and feel the texture. Is it cold? Is the cold different on the tongue, teeth, or roof of the mouth? Describe the taste- is it sweet or sour?
This cartoon for elementary-age kids is a fun guide to mindful eating.
- Guided Meditation. Guided meditation practices are especially good for mindfulness. This one is a listening exercise. There are also countless books about mindfulness for kids, many with guided meditation exercises. Meditation apps like Headspace and Calm have guided meditation exercises of all lengths and styles. Try different ones with the kids to see what they like.
It doesn’t have to be long. Here is an animated 2-minute guided meditation.
- Root to Rise Meditation. This meditation is good for very young kids, and a great way to start the day. Stand strong with your feet firmly planted and your arms out with palms wide open. Breathe deeply, and raise your shoulders up high, stretching up through your arms as far as you can until your palms touch. Breathe in deep, and as you breathe out, sweep your arms down toward the ground and bend or squat down until your palms are touching the ground. Take a few breaths with your palms and feet on the ground, and feel your connection to the earth. On another big breath, raise your arms and body until you are standing tall again, with your arms relaxed by your side.
Mindfulness in the classroom
Practicing mindfulness in the classroom is a benefit to both the students and educators. The Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP) is a teacher-led provider of mindfulness training, curriculum, and materials created for schools. Their research shows that mindfulness in the classroom supports students by increasing their concentration and patience, and helping them cope better with difficulty.
Find free resources from MiSP at their website: Mindfulness in Schools - Free Resources.
- Visualization Meditation. This is great for fostering kids’ imaginations. Give them a prompt and have them imagine what it would be like. For example, say, imagine you can fly, and have the kid imagine what it would feel like to fly. Is it cold or windy up there? What does it smell like? Does the wind make a wooshing sound as it goes by? What parts of your body are you using to fly? What does the room look like from above? This is a great chance to get creative while thinking about the things you can experience in a moment, real or imaginary.
- Listen Carefully. Sit still and quiet with your eyes closed. Observe what sounds you can hear, without listening to them, but allowing them to arrive in your ears. Do the sounds come and go? Is there space between them? Think about what you can hear that is the farthest away. Then allow your attention to shift to the nearest sounds, maybe even sounds within your body. This excellent guided meditation can be found at Mindfulness Practices from MISP.
- Mindfulness Jar: This craft helps demonstrate why it helps to calm down when emotions are high. Fill a jar with water, a big squeeze of clear craft glue and a lot of glitter, and secure the lid.
Explain that the glitter represents thoughts. Have the kids shake up the bottle so that the glitter swirls around. When we are angry or upset, the glitter (our thoughts) clouds the water until we can no longer see through the jar. As you watch and wait, the glitter will again settle to the bottom of the jar, and you can see through it again. With time, the swirling glitter thoughts in your mind will also settle. By taking a few minutes to react to something that shakes your jar, you will be able to respond with greater patience and calmness.
Once the jar has been made, it can be played with anytime as a reminder to allow your thoughts to settle before reacting. Teachers can use these jars in class as a timer. Find detailed instructions here: How to Make a Glitter Jar for Mindfulness.
Mindfulness at bedtime
Bedtime can be a great time to practice mindfulness. It is a time when kids feel safe and, on a parent’s luckiest days, they feel calm and tired.
- Bedtime Stories. There are many great bedtime stories written with mindfulness-driven content to promote the thoughtfulness and awareness. See this website for great bedtime stories for kids: Mindfulness Stories from Story Berries.
- Body Scan: Wiggle, and then relax your toes, feet, ankles, legs, knees, and body. Stretch your shoulders, and down your arms; move and then rest your elbows, wrists, and fingers until you have paid attention to and purposefully rested each part of your body.
- Thank Yourself. At the end of the day, have your kids think of 3 positive, productive things they did that day. They don’t have to be big: “I cleaned my dishes. I helped Dad with the laundry. I did some of my algebra homework.” By closing the day with positive thoughts about themselves and their accomplishments, they become kinder to themselves.
(And just like the rest, this one works for adults, too.)
Avoid engaging in mindfulness exercises when the kids are energetic and inclined to run around. Opt for a more tranquil moment, such as after a meal or before bedtime. In my experience, pre-nap time worked well for my kids during their pre-kindergarten days, but with older elementary-age kids, before bedtime was more effective. My teenage nephews meditate best when their minds wander off during class.
Encourage patience with the practice when first starting out. Not every activity will bring about great change in your life or mind, but the practices add up to a cumulative impact. When they have practiced a way of processing their thoughts logically and without judgment, they will be more able and likely to go to those practiced behaviors in a time of emotional distress or stress. Ultimately these mindful behavioral practices will contribute to their emotional intelligence throughout their lives.
Mindfulness for kids can be fun, calming, educational, and relaxing. It helps kids have less stress, better moods, and better skills related to executive function. It helps kids and adults have better behavioral and mental health.
SafeTube - A safe and focused video player
The video links in this blog were provided by SafeTube by Astro. SafeTube is a free video player that creates a webpage of a YouTube video without ads, comments, recommended videos, or autoplay function. It helps keep kids safe online by not showing ads or comments that may be inappropriate for them to read, and not showing recommended videos that can lead to rabbit holes that may not be appropriate for kids.
It’s not just for kids. Removing those functions reduces distractions for anyone. When I am researching a topic with a video on YouTube, I can see thumbnails for 10 other videos! They are all about things relevant to my previous views and interests. It’s hard to not get distracted from work with all those recommended videos. SafeTube helps me focus on just the video I am watching at the moment.
It can also be used in the school as a tool to allow teachers to share content on YouTube in an internet setup that blocks the YouTube site. This allows educators to choose what their students are focusing on and what they are allowed to browse in the classroom. See the website to learn more about how this tool can be used in the classroom and at home.
Or try it yourself. It’s free to use and doesn’t require an account. All you have to do is copy and paste the video url. SafeTube Website. SafeTube works with YouTube and Vimeo videos.
Let us know what you think about our new product on Product Hunt.