Updated: Oct 22, 2021
When it comes to mindfulness, it is so easy to get bogged down in the vast array of information and resources out there and to wonder where on earth to start, especially when it comes to imparting some of that knowledge and practice to your child. You could spend hours trawling the internet for ideas, or sifting through the multitude of books on the topic. You could commit to 6 months of formal daily practice or immerse yourself in a silent retreat, feeling duty bound to be completely at one with yourself for fear of not practicing what you preach.
Or you could just keep it simple.
Whether you meditate every day or whether you are wondering what this whole mindfulness thing is that everyone keeps talking about, it nevertheless becomes a slightly different kettle of fish when we are passing it on to our children and as parents we naturally want to get it right for our kids.
But it needn't be a daunting task.
So yes. The golden rule will always be to keep it simple. Your child doesn't need to understand the science behind mindfulness or how the brain works or has evolved over time. If you want to, you can of course explain the benefits of what you're doing together but what you really want from all this is for your child to actually reap those benefits. To actually feel calmer, be more focused and less prone to emotional overwhelm.
It is also important to keep it age-appropriate. Little Billy isn't about to quieten his busy mind by spending hours sitting in silence with you at the top of a mountain, so think about how you can adapt any existing practices or activities you want to share with your child so that they will be enjoyable for both of you.
Having established how you're going to share activities with you child, let's take a look at exactly what you could do together. There are several different areas to explore within mindfulness practice and I have suggested one simple activity for each of these areas below.
I'm pretty sure you know already, but it is impossible to breathe anywhere but here and now! This is why breath work is crucial to mindfulness practice; it keeps us in the present moment. A lovely activity to do with your child is teddy breathing. Lying down, your child places their teddy on their chest and breathes slowly. They can experiment to see what happens to their teddy when they breathe more deeply or hold their breath for example. The rhythm of their breath is exaggerated by the movement of the teddy and offers your child a focus whilst they make the connection between their breath and the movement of their teddy.
Engaging the senses
Since mindfulness is essentially about focusing on one thing at a time, stimulating and honing in on one sense is a great way to begin training little minds to do just that. One idea is to challenge them to identify a range of different scents (pun absolutely intended). Whilst blindfolded, see if they can work out what they are smelling. Herbs and fruits are very aromatic and easy to get hold of. By eliminating their sight, you are encouraging your child to focus their attention purely on their sense of smell.
That's right, you don't always have to be sitting still and meditating! Our bodies are the storage container for our unprocessed feelings and as such, need plenty of opportunities to free themselves of emotional waste. How much more of an excuse do you need to have a disco in your kitchen today? Give yourself and your child the chance to let go of all your inhibitions, whack your favourite songs on and literally dance like nobody's watching. Besides having loads of fun, you'll both be moving your bodies and releasing loads of pent up energy and emotions.
Getting lost in nature
Being outdoors is, for me, one of the easiest ways to be mindful. Far away from screens, toys and other distractions, the process of slowing down and absorbing what is around you becomes automatic. And right now, autumn is giving us a gift that's just waiting to be made use of. So why not break up your next walk with a stop to rake and pile some fallen leaves? Perhaps you can turn them into leaf kebabs by skewering them on a stick, or bring a selection home to paint. Or maybe you'll spend an hour making the biggest pile of leaves ever, just so that you can jump in them and flatten the heap in a matter of seconds!
Thoughts and feelings
When it comes to understanding and managing those big old emotions, one of the best mindfulness activities I have witnessed children engaging in is making their own mindfulness jar. You don't need much, just a jar or other clear container that your child can fill with water before adding glitter, food colouring and other small objects if they wish. Just make sure it's tightly sealed. Shaking and swirling the jar, it becomes an empowering visual representation of what can go on inside yourself when your thoughts and feelings take over. Watching everything settle and become still demonstrates beautifully the power of mindfulness to your child with absolutely no explanation needed.
I really hope you feel moved to try one or more of these activities with your child and that you both enjoy and feel the benefit of your shared experiences.
Have a wonderful week x
For more support in developing mindfulness skills with your children, our mindfulness mentor Marie can show you how in our Mindfulness Classes every half term at Ledbury Children’s Centre. For more information and to book click here