Mindfulness activities for kids

The best way to introduce mindfulness to kids is to make it a game. That’s exactly what the activities below do.

Wiggle and freeze game

This game is a fun way for kids to start practicing mindfulness and improve their awareness of bodily sensations using movement.

It involves wiggling, moving around, shaking, stomping, or dancing until you say, “Freeze!” Once everyone stops moving, encourage children to pay close attention to the sensations that they feel in their body.

You can repeat this game several times and can even play music and pause when it’s time to freeze.

Five sense scavenger hunt

Most kids love a scavenger hunt, and this one is specifically designed to encourage mindfulness by engaging all the senses.

All you need to do is provide a safe environment for exploration. Here are the steps for kids to follow:

  1. Listen. Name one thing that you hear when you listen with your ears.
  2. Look. Name one thing that catches your attention when you look around.
  3. Smell. Name a scent that you notice when you take a sniff with your nose.
  4. Touch. Name an object that you enjoy feeling with your hands.

If you want to add in the sense of taste, simply supply a few kid-friendly snacks, and ask kids to name flavors they enjoy, like sweet, salty, or sour.

Monkey see, monkey do

This is a great mindfulness game to help kids increase body awareness and think about how they move in space. As the adult, take on the role of the monkey, and lead the kids through different positions.

Try to shift your weight in unexpected ways, like standing on one foot, getting on all fours, or sticking one foot up in the air.

Ask the kids what it feels like to be in each position. Is it hard to balance, or does it give them a big stretch?

Let it be silly. When kids get moving, giggles will likely ensue. Just go with it. You can even ask the kids to pay attention to how their breath changes when they laugh.

Dragon breathing

Dragon breathing is a fun way to get kids to practice slow, deep breathing. The simple version doesn’t require any supplies, but you can incorporate a fun craft to really drive the lesson home.

To optimize the fun, you can read or make up a short story about dragons to get everyone’s imagination flowing. Some good options are “The Mindful Dragon,” “There’s a Dragon in Your Book,” and “Train Your Angry Dragon.”

Simple version:

  1. Instruct the kids to take a deep breath in, filling their belly and chest.
  2. When they’re ready, instruct them to “breath out their fire” with a long, slow exhale.
  3. If you have paper available, it can be extra fun to watch the paper blow as the kids breathe out. Just instruct them to hold it about 6 inches away from their mouths and let go as they exhale.

For the crafty version of dragon breathing, check out the instructions and video tutorial on One Little Project at a Time.

Bubble blowing

Bubbles are a classic activity for kids, and they make for a great mindfulness practice.

  1. First, ask the children to reflect on what they’re thinking or feeling. You can prompt them by giving examples like, “I feel tired” or “I want to eat lunch.”
  2. Demonstrate blowing your bubbles and figuratively putting your thoughts and feelings inside them. For instance, “I feel nervous. I’m going to put that feeling in a bubble and let it float away.”
  3. Point out how our thoughts and feelings are just like bubbles: They come up, and they drift away in the breeze. Sometimes they even pop.

This exercise can be especially useful for kids who have uncomfortable thoughts or feelings that they need help letting go of.

Calm cards

Sometimes, having little reminders can help kids practice mindfulness in difficult moments. This is another basic craft that provides kids with a tool to take with them in their day to day.

Help the kids reflect on activities that help them feel calm, like drinking water, taking breaths, closing their eyes, reading a book, or hugging a friend.

Then, ask them to draw pictures of these activities on separate cards. You can also provide them with printed pictures to paste.

If the kids can write, have them label the cards (if not, you can label for them). Hole-punch the cards and bind them together with a bit of yarn or a book ring.

Kids can use the cards whenever they’re feeling upset, angry, scared, or sad to help them regulate their emotions and feel better.

You can make your own cards, or try this printable version from Babies to Bookworms.

More mindfulness resources for kids

Sitting Still Like a Frog” is a book and CD full of simple mindfulness exercises for kids and their parents. The practices use creative, kid-friendly language to make mindfulness accessible to little ones. You can also find the audio online from the publisher.

GoZen is an educational gold mine of mindfulness resources. They offer programs, resources, printables, books, and more. They’re all designed to help kids regulate their emotions and navigate life.

Mightier is a biofeedback video game that teaches kids to use breathing to slow their heart rate and calm down. Kids play while wearing a heart rate monitor. When their heart rate goes up, the game gets more challenging. An on-screen character then prompts them to practice breathing to get their heart rate down.

Music appreciation

Music can be a great entry point into the world of mindfulness for teens.

To practice, teens simply need their favorite music and a space where they won’t be interrupted. Ideally, the music will be something they haven’t heard too many times before. Headphones work, too.

Let them can pick their own song that’s a reasonable length. (They might want to save the 15-minute guitar solo for another time.)

Then, they can simply get comfy and tune into the music. They can ask:

  • How does it feel in my body as I listen?
  • What different sounds can I hear that I might not have noticed before?
  • How does my breath change with the rhythm of the music?

Mindful movement

Movement is a great way for teens to get in their bodies and let loose, discharging pent-up energy and allowing for self-expression. It’s another way to incorporate mindfulness that uses music, which means it may hold particular appeal for teens.

Mindful movement involves moving the body along to music without thinking about executing dance moves or appearance. It’s simply free-flowing music interpretation.

There’s no way to do this incorrectly. It’s simply expressing how the music feels.

Group-based mindful dance

If you have a teen who’s into dance and movement, they may enjoy attending an Ecstatic Dance session.

Ecstatic Dance offers a safe space for people of all ages, including families, kids, and teens, to mindfully move together. Sessions are substance-free and silent, which means it’s a great place to explore movement safely and without the distractions that go with a typical public dance floor.

They have events that take place all over the world as well as online. Simply search for your location with the phrase “ecstatic dance” to find the closest event to you.

Shaking

Shaking is another fun way to blend movement and mindfulness that doesn’t even require music.

This is also known as a tension and trauma releasing exercise, or TRE. Find full benefits and instructions here and a step-by-step video here.

Puzzles

Puzzles are a great way to sharpen the mind, but they’re also a mindfulness practice. They require focus, attention to detail, and presence of mind while also being fun and rewarding.

They include:

  • jigsaw puzzles
  • crosswords
  • sudoku
  • word finds
  • spot the differences
  • riddles

Teens may enjoy puzzles and not even realize they’re practicing mindfulness at the same time. To encourage reflection, they can ask:

  • When I get frustrated, what does it feel like in my body?
  • When I solve a new piece of the puzzle, how does my body respond? How does my heart rate change?
  • How am I breathing differently as I play versus before I started?

Apps

If stereotypes are to be believed, teens and apps go hand in hand. Luckily, there are a number of apps geared toward teens that teach mindfulness and meditation in a relatable way.

Aura is an app geared toward teens that sends 3-minute meditation reminders each day. It also includes a nature sounds meditation timer, gratitude journal, goals list, and an intelligent meditation personalization — all with Google calendar integration.

Stop, Breathe, and Think allows teens to chart their physical, mental, and emotional health while suggesting appropriate meditations. The app was designed with the idea that teens have a hard time transitioning straight from activities to meditation. The intermediate step of a check-in helps them recalibrate and settle into a more mindful state.

BetterSleep is a great choice for teens who love music. It allows users to mix their own sounds to use for mindfulness. The app also gives users the option to add meditations targeted for better sleep, more focus, or decreased anxiety.

Simple Habit offers meditations curated for specific situations, like getting ready for a test, commuting, taking a bath, and even soothing premenstrual syndrome. Tracks are 5 minutes long, making the practices easy to incorporate daily.\

Mindfulness for anxiety

According to a 2018 studyTrusted Source, mindfulness meditation may help reduce markers of stress in people with generalized anxiety disorder. Try the practices below to calm and ground.

Body scanning

Body scan meditation is a simple, relaxing way to calm the mind and body. It involves using awareness to mindfully scan your body for sensations, like pain or tension.

To practice, you simply lie down, relax the body, and tune in to what you’re feeling. For full instructions, benefits, and tips, check out this article.

Tracking

Tracking is a somatic experiencing technique that can help you feel grounded and present in the space you’re in. This is done by looking around the room and observing objects with mindfulness.

You can find full instructions here.

Box breathing

Box breathing is a technique that involves taking full, deep breaths to calm the nervous system. It’s also known as four square breathing.

Find full benefits and instructions here.

Acceptance and self-compassion

Anxiety can often involve resistance and fear toward the anxiety itself. One way to relax the hold anxiety has on you is to accept it. This can involve a simple reframing of anxiety as a strength rather than a shortcoming.

When you do so, you may also find that you can more easily let go of self-blame or shame around having anxiety in the first place.

Mindfulness for groups

Mindfulness doesn’t have to be a solo activity. In fact, practicing mindfulness with others can be a powerful reflection tool.

Blindfolded movement

Blindfolded movement is a way to heighten your senses and shut off your need to “look good.” It can come in the form of blindfolded yoga or even open-ended, free-form movement.

For the latter, participants move at a very slow pace. When they start to sense another person nearby, or accidentally graze a shoulder or elbow, they can mindfully move in the other direction.

Eye gazing

Eye gazing with a partner is a powerful way to connect and see what comes up when you engage in this intimate practice. All you need to do is sit facing each other, set a timer for 1 to 5 minutes, and stare into each other’s eyes.

You may find that strong emotions come up, and that’s OK. If you’re practicing in a group, you can switch to a new partner after the first round and continue in this way until all participants have practiced together.

Partner breathing

Partner breathing is similar to eye gazing, except that you sit back to back with your spines lined up.

As you do so, begin to focus on expanding the breath into your belly and back. Try to sync your breathing with your partner’s, so you’re both in rhythm.

Laughter yoga

It’s often said that laughter is the best medicine. Laughter yoga is a group practice that focuses on joy, playfulness, and fun.

For a full list of benefits and how to do it, read on here.

Sound healing and music therapy

If you feel drawn to music as a healing tool, you might benefit from sound healing. It can come in many shapes and sizes, from music therapy to gong baths.

Art-based mindfulness activities

If you loved making arts and crafts as a kid, chances are you’ll benefit from art-based mindfulness.

Colouring and doodling

Adult coloring books abound on store shelves these days, so it’s easy to pick one up and get coloring. You can even try Healthline’s very own mindful mandala.

Doodling is another relaxing art-based activity that’s a bit more free-form than coloring inside the lines. The Zentangle Method is a popular option.

Crafting

Crafting can get you out of your head and into your body. It also offers the opportunity to work with your hands, tune in to your inner child, and engage with different shapes, colors, and textures.

Art therapy

When it comes to healing, art therapy may have a lot to offer. It’s used for post-traumatic stress disorderanxietydepressiondiabetes, and multiple sclerosis. But it can benefit almost anyone.

According to research, art therapy can regulate mood and even addictive behaviours.

5-minute mindfulness activities

Having a full schedule and being mindful don’t have to be mutually exclusive. You can incorporate mindfulness into your life no matter how stacked your calendar is.

Basic breathing

Basic breathing is simple, straightforward meditation that uses the breath to settle the mind.

  1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
  2. Observe your breath on the inhalation.
  3. Observe your breath on the exhalation.
  4. When the mind wanders, gently bring it back to focusing on your breath.

That’s it! To deepen the practice, focus on feeling:

  • your belly and chest expanding and contracting
  • the warmth of your breath in your nostrils and throat
  • the sensation of your body against the seat or the floor

It’s best to practice consistently at the same time each day. Start with 3 to 5 minutes, and lengthen your practice over time.

Deep seeing exercise

Deep seeing is a simple exercise that engages the sense of sight to tune in more deeply to your surroundings. All you need to do is select an object that appeals to you. It can be anything: a colorful scarf, an orange from a fruit bowl, or a fresh flower.

Then, use your sense of sight to intimately engage with that object. See the folds, colors, texture, size, and shape. Gently observe the object until you begin to notice things you didn’t notice before.

Set a timer for 3 to 5 minutes, so you can fully immerse yourself in the process without looking at the clock.

Deep listening exercise

The deep listening exercise is similar to deep seeing, except you use your sense of hearing. All you need to do is sit and listen.

Listen to close sounds, like your breath. Then listen for sounds that are slightly further away, like the hum of a fan or someone speaking in the next room. Then listen for even further sounds, like cars or airplanes.

Do this for 3 to 5 minutes.

Content courtesy of healthline.com