We started practicing mindfulness with our kids last year when we moved into a 1,200 sqft condo and no longer had the outdoor space to let them run off steam. We realized after a couple of mornings of deep breathing, slow movement, and encouraging focus, how much calmer the mornings were. Now, we are by no means crushing the mindfulness game as parents! Some weeks we forget, some days we spend calm time doing anything but being calm, and on other days I’m amazed by their connection to their bodies.
We have now moved again and have a larger yard to encourage outdoor play and space for them to take breaks from each other so they can calm down when emotions are running high. Mindfulness, calm, and encouragement to refocus themselves have become something their little bodies crave, and their minds need. With the temperatures dropping and rain and snow on the way, this is a great time of year to start a mindfulness practice and teach kids how to have fun with this slower activity.
Words are power.
One of the most helpful things I learned when starting out was the use of my words.
Try to use targeting language to specially call attention to what’s happening in their bodies.
“McCarthy, I see you’re sitting very still and tall. Now I want you to see if you can close your eyes and imagine your head reaching up towards the ceiling.”
“Bennett, you’re doing such a good job slowing your breathing down. Let’s try together. Nice deep inhale through your nose, and as you exhale through your mouth, try to fill your belly up like a balloon.” (This aids in digestion and calms nerves in kids.)
“Adelaide, your crisscross apple sauce looks so great today! Can you try to extend your legs straight like two pencils and reach towards your toes with Mommy?”
Introduce breathing, movement, and attention to their bodies with the use of positive words and gentle actions. This helps them stay engaged and gives them the confidence and security to control what’s happening with their bodies.
Talk about your feelings and role play.
“Sometimes Mommy can feel nervous, frustrated, or so angry I want to cry. When I feel this way, what are some ways you think I could help to calm my body down?”
“Bennett, could you show me how to calm down using my breathing?”
“Adelaide, could you show me some movements that help you calm down?”
“McCarthy, what are some positive thoughts I could repeat to myself out loud or in my head?”
“Sometimes when Mommy is feeling anxious, she just needs to talk about it with someone she can trust. Who are some people we can talk with about our feelings?”
Once they have had some time to sit calmly and breathe, start to add some slow movements.
There are some amazing resources online for kids’ yoga movements and options that will work for your child’s body.
Front knee is stacked over ankle, back leg is straight behind you and turned to a 70–80° angle. Allow the shoulders to come down away from the ears. Nice deep inhale and raise your arms in line with your shoulders.
Press down through all four corners of the foot, then slowly raise your opposite leg to the calf.
Then slowly, like two tree branches, raise your arms toward the ceiling.
Lie on your belly, hands under shoulders, and slowly press into your mat. Slowly draw your shoulders down the back and feel like you’re opening your heart to allow the chest to open up.
Here’s to calm bodies and clear minds.
For more information on mindfulness, along with helpful resources for kids’ yoga movements, go to dailyroutinefitness.com, click on the fitness tab, and look for our children’s yoga post from November 1st.
Rachel Doell is an instructor, personal trainer, mother, and wife who loves health and fitness. Her fitness company, Daily Routine Fitness, features simple ways to fit living a healthy life into your everyday routine.
Photos by Meghan Bstard
Article was published in The Good Life magazine.