All kids benefit from practicing mindfulness. Who wouldn’t love the kids and young adults we work with to become more focused, calm, in control, and self-aware? Mindfulness is a technique that can help teach and strengthen those abilities over time. By practicing mindfulness, people can learn to become more aware of their own thoughts, feeling, sensations, and the environment around us. It helps us to refocus and recenter on the present, rather than the past or the future.
If you’ve heard of mindfulness but aren’t sure exactly how to implement it with your learners, I’ve put together a few simple strategies you can try. Whether you are a regular education teacher, special education teacher, counselor, or parent, know that you have the power to teach mindfulness practices. You don’t need to be an expert. In fact, no one ever really “masters” mindfulness. Instead, we are all improving our practice the more we do it. Give the techniques a try and see what works for you! If you want to get started right away, consider these Mindfulness Activities or Mindfulness Activities for Little Learners.
Here are six simple strategies for practicing mindfulness with kids and young adults:
1. Mindful Coloring. You can use any coloring pages for this activity. I love to gather assorted coloring books with different themes and levels. Let kids choose their own coloring page, whether it is a page with dragons, cats, or just patterns. Give access to the coloring materials that best suit your needs. Colored pencils, flair pens, and gel pens are some of my favorites. Encourage kids to quietly color on their own. Tell them that if they’ve made a mistake, just to breathe and move on. Mindfulness is about just letting the experiences pass us by without making judgements about them.
2. Connect with Nature. Take a ten minute nature walk to help kids breathe in fresh air and experience the outdoors for a change. While you are out there, encourage kids to look around and take in the environment with their senses.
3. Dragon Breathing. A huge component of mindfulness is learning how to control our own breathing. A way to get younger kids to buy in to this is making it fun. With dragon breathing, kids will sit up straight, breathe in, stick their tongue out, and breathe out like a dragon. It might feel super silly at first, but it helps to bring the idea of deep breathing down to their level! This is a great activity to do before tests or after recess.
4. Smell the Flowers Breathing Activity. This activity combines mindful coloring and deep breathing. Introduce scented markers and explain that this is a special activity you can only do with those markers. This is an important point so that students don’t smell other markers that aren’t safe. Have students color and breathe in through their noses to smell as they go.
5. Practice Yoga. Spend ten minutes practicing some simple yoga postures, like tree, warrior, and half moon pose. If you’re not sure about how to teach the postures, you can always search for a video and play it while you practice together. I always love to end yoga practice with a relaxing pose of laying on our backs. It’s a great way to incorporate meditation, too!
6. Mindfulness 5-4-3-2-1. Use this technique to ground kids and young adults. This is an especially great activity to help kids manage anxiety or anger. Have students look around their current surroundings and find five things they can see, four things they can tough, three things they can hear, two things they can smell, and one thing they can taste. By the time they get through listing all of those, they will be more present and calm.
7. Recite Positive Affirmations. I’m a huge advocate for teaching kids and young adults positive self-talk. Not only is it uplifting, but it provides a sense of calm when students read their positive affirmations to themselves. You can use this free list of positive affirmations to have students read from.
8. Practice Guided Meditations. Have kids find a spot on a rug or yoga mat and lie down. Have them close they eyes and just breathe in and out. Read a guided meditation to help kids visualize a soothing beach or a calm walk through the forest. You can find one online or make up your own! Within a few minutes, kids will find themselves more calm and relaxed.
9. Use Breathing Visuals. Some kids and young adults need a more concrete and visual method for practicing breathing. A “breathe board” is just a set of shapes or lines that kids can follow with their fingers as they breathe in and out. Different shapes will work differently for different kids, so it’s helpful to try a few!
10. Listen to music. Play your choice of nature sounds, classical, or any acoustic music. You can play the music while kids are doing something independently or allow kids to just sit down and relax while mindfully listening to the music.
I hope you are as excited about practicing mindfulness with kids and young adults as I am! It’s a quick and simple activity you can add to your routine to help kids improve focus, develop self-control, become more self-aware, and just feel better about themselves. I have developed these activities and several more to practice mindfulness with kids and young adults. If you are interested, consider checking out my Mindfulness and Coping Strategies Mega Bundle filled with mindfulness and coping strategies resources for all ages. Feel free to share what other ways you practice mindfulness with your learners!