Mindfulness is a word we hear a lot these days in connection with children and wellbeing. But what exactly does it mean, how can we do it and what are the benefits? We take a look at mindfulness in terms of everyday life and offer some fun and practical ideas for families to try.
Sunflower practitioner Sheree McGregor explains the idea behind mindfulness activities: “Our lives are so busy and children can be very easily over stimulated with sound, colour, activity, screens. This interferes with the more subtle brain activities that encourage calmness, healing, relaxation and rejuvenation of the body, mind and brain.”
Mindfulness is a word to describe slowing down and paying close attention to the moment you are in – using all of your senses. Mindfulness exercises you can do with your children involve focusing in on your thoughts, feelings and the environment around you.
Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, explains on the NHS website: “An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.”
Here are some ideas for mindfulness activities you can try with your child:
Close your eyes and no peeking!
Encourage your children to tune in to all their other senses by challenging them to identify objects without sight. Ideas include:
- Guessing objects using bare feet
- Identifying foods by smell
- Tasting games – level of difficulty can depend on the child’s age. For example older children could try to name different yoghurts or cubes of cheese while younger children could try to tell the difference between a cube of pear and a cube of apple.
- Guess objects by sound – flick the bristles of a washing up brush or play with an elastic band, for example
The outdoor world is bursting with mindfulness activities and of course, we all know just a bit of fresh air and natural daylight does wonders for our wellbeing. Ideas for outdoor mindfulness activities include:
- Nature hunt competition – see who can find the biggest leaf in the park or the most unusual stone. Hunt for signs of animals or insects on the ground or see how many different colours you can see.
- Smells – encourage your child to concentrate on smells outside by sniffing some plants or flowers.
- Listen for animals – stand still and focus on what nature you can hear – birds, crickets, bees… Did you know squirrels have a variety of different calls for things like danger, anger, and hunger mating calls? See if you can hear any of them.
- Lie on the ground and look for different pictures in the clouds.
Connect with the body
Mindfulness aims to encourage us to reconnect with our bodies. Try to make time for a daily stretching session with your child. Reach up to the ceiling, out to the side, down to the floor. Co-ordination exercises are also good – marching and tapping the opposite knee, moving your eyes without moving your head, walking heel to toe without wobbling or standing on one leg with your eyes shut for one minute.
Encourage your child to concentrate on their breathing. Here’s Sunflower’s daily breathing exercise:
- Lie in a comfortable position on your back with a small cushion under your head and place both hands on your tummy.
- First master the breathing technique: breathe in to fill up your lower abdomen, pushing your hands upwards, then fill the middle part of your chest, followed by the top area of your lungs.
- Next, as you breathe in, push the fronts of both feet upwards towards your head, making sure your legs stay flat on the surface. As you breathe out, push your feet as far away as you can. Carry out this process for 15 breaths for three times a day if possible.
Other mindfulness activities include colouring, listening to music and trying to work out what instruments you can hear, yoga.
If you would like to learn more about mindfulness and child wellbeing, or you feel your child needs support, contact the Sunflower Programme: 01483 531498. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org