Introduction: What is Mindfulness and Why is it Important for Kids?
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.
It is not just about being still and quiet. You can practice mindfulness while doing almost anything: eating, walking, talking with someone else – even while washing the dishes or taking out the garbage.
Kids are all about the future, so it’s hard for them to enjoy the moment. They’re often worrying about what will happen next or regretting something that happened in the past. Mindfulness can help kids stay in the present by slowing down their thoughts and helping them focus on what they’re doing now. It is a way for children to better understand their emotions, thoughts, and actions.
In recent years, mindfulness has been gaining popularity as a way to improve health and wellbeing for children with ADHD or autism spectrum disorder (ASD).Many studies have found that mindfulness can help kids with ADHD or ASD improve their focus and attention span. In addition, these children show improvement in their ability to regulate their emotions and behaviors.
The benefits of mindfulness are not only limited to kids with ADHD or other mental health disorders. It can also help kids who are struggling with anxiety or stress.
There are various ways for parents to introduce mindfulness in their child’s life without it seeming like an extra burden on the child’s plate.
How to Teach Kids Mindfulness in a Way That They Will Enjoy and Stay Engaged
Whether you are a teacher or parent you can follow our 5 part series of Lesson Plans on Mindfulness for kids to instill the powerful habit of mindfulness meditation in kids at a young age. In this series, each lesson plan focuses on a specific aspect of mindfulness and includes activities and worksheets to practice the concept of the lesson. This is a progressive series on how to teach mindfulness to kids and we recommend you to follow the series in order as each lesson lays the foundation for the next lesson. The first lesson in the series establishes 5 senses as anchor points which is a key foundational step to Mindfulness.
Lesson 1: My 5 Senses
Students will learn the basics of mindfulness practices. They will understand how to use their five senses as an “anchor” for mindfulness practice and will try out a few different mindfulness exercises together.
Prior to this lesson, you should prepare a variety of materials for students to explore with their five senses. You can get creative with the things you have around the house—you’ll be surprised how many things can work for this activity!
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Taste: chocolates (milk & dark), sour candies, pretzels, peanut butter, potato chips, berries, etc.
Touch: fabrics with different textures (velvet, cotton, silk, denim…), stuffed animals, Velcro, paper, etc.
Smell: essential oils, candles, herbs & spices, fruit/vanilla extract, flowers, and plants, etc.
Sound: musical instruments, bells, paper or plastic (for crumpling sounds), instrumental music recordings, wind chimes, seashells, etc.
Sight: printed artwork, kaleidoscopes, abstract animations, images of plants & nature, patterns on fabric and clothing, etc.
- Begin the lesson by asking students whether they are familiar with mindfulness. Allow students to share their prior knowledge of the topic, if they choose.
- Explain to students that sometimes it’s easy to get distracted by all of our thoughts and feelings—so much so that we might not always be aware of what we are actually doing! (You may choose to ask if students have ever felt this way before). Tell students that “mindfulness” is the practice of becoming aware of the present moment instead of letting our minds wander away.
- Remind students that even though it might sound easy, practicing mindfulness can be hard work! To help us stay aware, we can use something called an “anchor” to focus our minds when we start to feel them drifting away. (You may ask students to describe what a real anchor does for a boat, and explain how mindfulness anchors work for us in a similar way).
- Tell students that today, they will practice mindfulness using their five senses as an anchor. Briefly review the five senses (taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound) and have students give some examples of each.
- For this exercise, students will practice using each of the five senses with the assorted materials you prepared in advance. Remind them that it’s okay if their mind starts to wander—but when they notice the wandering, they can gently direct their thoughts back to their anchor.
- Go through each of the five senses, having students experience each one fully using the materials that you brought. For example: If students are tasting chocolate, prompt them to let it melt over their tongue instead of swallowing it right away. Guide them to think about the texture, the richness of the flavor, how it feels in different parts of their mouth, and so on. Repeat with several examples of each of the five senses, as time allows.
- After the activity, have students reflect on what it was like to be mindful of their five senses. What was it like to focus all of their attention on how something tastes, smells, or sounds?
Questions for Further Discussion:
- Did you notice your mind wandering during the activity? How did you bring it back to the exercise?
- Do you think you are aware of every single thing you see, hear, smell, touch, or taste throughout the day? Why or why not?
- Why do you think it’s so difficult to practice mindfulness? Do you think it will get easier with more practice?
Next in the series of “How to teach Mindfulness to Kids”