Mindful living is becoming something we strive towards more and more in modern life, but how can we teach children mindfulness? Mindfulness is certainly not something just reserved for adults, the art of connecting with the present moment, taking our time to do things slowly and appreciating the little things is something we should be teaching children from a young age, an invaluable life skill for so many reasons. And where better to learn such a great skill for life than at school? Here we present five easy ideas to help teachers incorporate mindfulness exercises and activities into the classroom.
1. Quick Grounding Meditation
Introduce a daily ritual of taking two minutes at the start of the class’ day and again after lunch to help yourself and the kids in your class to ground, ready to learn!
What do we mean by grounding? Grounding means connecting to our own bodies, the earth and our connection to it, getting out of your head and into the body in the present moment. Signs of being ungrounded include hyperactivity, racing thoughts, inability to sit still, inability to concentrate, sound familiar in the classroom with your students?
Begin by sitting comfortably in a chair with your feet flat on the floor hip distance apart (shoes on or off). Make sure your nice and comfortable and then become still, like a tree. Take a slow deep breath in and out, and another breath in, and out, and one more in and out. Close down your eyes. Bring your attention to your body. Focus on the weight on your body as you sit on the chair. Now bring your attention to your feet and think about your feet as being very very heavy. Can you feel the heaviness of your feet? Feel the weight pulling downwards towards the floor. Now focus on the soles of your feet. Feel the contact of your feet with the floor and the earth beneath it. Continue to focus on the soles of the feet silently feeling the connection to the earth for the remaining time.
The aim of this exercise is to get the student to focus their attention, quiet down and settle their minds ready for a successful class full of learning.
2. Mindful Eating
Mindful eating involves paying attention to the food you are eating, how it feels in your body, being grateful for the nourishment you’re giving your body and noticing when you are full or still hungry. Any opportunity for kids to practice mindfulness is a good thing, to be able to practice paying attention to the present moment and take joy from simple activities can only be positive! But mindful eating has the added bonus of helping kids to develop a healthy relationship with food, to pay attention to their bodies and not just eat mindlessly, either too much or too little.
To encourage this in the classroom, you could practice this exercise with kids a couple of times in the classroom, or simply explain the exercise, then remind and encourage them to try it when they are out in the playground. Questions they can ask themselves:
What colour is your food?
What is the texture of your food? Is it soft or hard? Light or heavy? Sticky or dry?
What flavours can you taste in your food?
What are the ingredients in your food?
How does it feel in your body as you eat it? Can you feel it moving from your mouth to your stomach or not?
Think of a way to make it into a game and you’ll have an even better chance of getting this exercise adopted at mealtimes at school or at home.
3. Mindful Art
You could argue that a lot of the kind of art children create is mindful anyway, most children are great at using art to express themselves authentically, putting on paper their emotions or the situations playing on their minds, without even knowing it!
To incorporate mindful art-making into the classroom, we simply need to make time to create without an end goal in mind, creating for the sake of creating and focusing on the present moment and the paper in front of you, the act of putting pen, crayon, pencil or paint to paper, or even sculpting with clay.
Why not put on some relaxing music, give out some paper and ask the children in your class to draw how they are feeling right now. Or if you’d prefer to do something more structured, you could ask students to draw around a repetitive, calming, easy theme like bubbles, triangles, waves, leaves, squares, dots, any shape or likeness you think the kids in your class could recreate easily depending on their age. Making time and giving kids permission to engage in the calming, grounding act of art-making is a great way to practice mindfulness.
4. Easy Yoga
Getting kids into a gentle, calming, healthy practice like yoga from a young age can’t be a bad idea! And making time in the classroom, even just 20 minutes (or 10) whenever you can fit it into your class’ schedule, is enough. Yoga asanas, the physical postures of the broader yoga philosophy, allow us to connect with our bodies, calm our minds through regulated breathing and increase our flexibility and the health of our bodies overall. This is an exercise that appears in our children’s mindfulness book, Making Mindful Magic, available in our online store and on Amazon US and UK.
Some easy yoga poses that children can easily connect with and remember, owing to their gentleness and animal or familiar names and shapes include:
- Cat Pose
- Cow Pose
- Bridge Pose
- Cobra Pose
- Corpse Pose
- Downward Facing Dog
- Cow Face Pose
- Tree pose
More information on the poses, including pictures on the Yoga Journal! You don’t need yoga mats to do such simple poses, a patch of grass or carpet will do just fine for this easy level.
5. Nature Appreciation
This is a theme that also appears in our book, Making Mindful Magic, often; taking the time to appreciate nature. Stopping to notice all the beautiful creations in nature, from the trees to the waves, to the leaves, to the grass and the sky, to insects and birds, is an easy way to help children to connect with the grounding energy of nature, to appreciate the simple, free things in life. A way to incorporate this theme into the classroom could include a short nature walk somewhere on the school grounds to collect leaves, flowers, pebbles, blades of grass, and taking them back to the classroom, spending time appreciating the colours, shapes, names of each thing collected, perhaps turning them into a collage, gluing them on the page and writing or drawing around this theme.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our suggestions for easy mindfulness exercises for children to use in the classroom, and of course, these are all exercises not just reserved for teachers and educators but are ideas you could adapt for home, your therapy practice or studio as well.