In today’s fast-paced world, children, just like adults, can feel anxious and overwhelmed by their surroundings and life circumstances. Mindfulness is a state of mind which helps calm the mind, relax the body, respond to stress, and develop resilience by focusing on the “now” and tapping into our “inner joy.” Through practicing mindfulness and guided meditation, children can develop critical skills such as increased concentration, reduced levels of anxiety, improved behaviour, and enhanced academic performance.
“Mindfulness and meditation techniques are powerful and effective methods that can be employed by skilled clinicians with children to help correct sleep issues and insomnia. Most importantly we want to discourage the use of medication and over the counter products for sleep issues in children, so behavioral techniques like mindfulness and meditation are important therapeutic tools.” - Dr. Charles Samuels
In this article, we have compiled a list of effective mindful and relaxation tips for children to navigate their early life.
These techniques can be used to help children transition from one subject to another, at the beginning of the day, after lunch and recess, at the end of the day, or on Fridays.
Have the children pick a random number and count to it. Counting numbers like this removes chaotic thoughts, improves concentration, and calms the body. This way children can focus better in school when they are going from one subject to another.
Five Senses “54321”
The five-senses exercise grounds the children to be present in their bodies and connect to their surroundings. Ask the children to find or describe: 5 objects they can see, 4 objects they can feel or touch, 3 things they can hear, 2 things they can smell, and 1 thing they can taste. This mindfulness technique appeals to all of the child’s senses and helps them relax. For effective mindfulness, engage each of the senses for 30-60 seconds.
Imagine Your Favourite Place
A child's imagination is a powerful tool in helping achieve mindfulness and relaxation. Using imagination, children can take a “mini-vacation” to their favourite place, no matter where they are. Ask them to imagine a place where they feel safe, comfortable, and happy. Have them imagine who is with them, such as a close person, an animal, or a pet. Ask them to describe in detail what they are doing in that place, what they see and hear. This will ground them, quieten their thoughts, and relax them.
The calming jar is a useful technique for relaxing children who are restless, overwhelmed, or upset. It can be done one-on-one or in a group. Children shake glitter jars and as the glitter settles to the bottom of the jar, it encourages them to settle their mind and let go of any disruptive thoughts and negative emotions. You can easily learn how to make a calming jar for children, and it is a fun craft project too.
These simple techniques can be used to help your child settle down - before homework, school, or bedtime.
Similar to adults, yoga can help kids relax and de-stress. It also helps boost children’s self-esteem, and develop strength and flexibility. There are several Youtube channels that have content specifically designed to help kids with guided meditation for relaxation and mindfulness through yoga.
Some kids who love bath time can find it a great way to relax and settle down either at noon or before going to bed. You can add an essential oil like lavender, pick their favourite toy, and play some soft music or listen to an audiobook to make the bathing experience soothing and relaxing for the child. This will refresh them and help them sleep better.
Take a Walk in Nature
Nature has been scientifically proven to have a calming and relaxing effect on children’s minds. You can take your child for a walk in nature in a park or garden. Familiarize them with the various sights, sounds, smells, and touches. Ask them to identify different bird songs or have them feel the texture of a pine tree. Make it a routine to bring your child to the same spot and have them observe the changes. Mindfulness in nature can also help children develop empathy as they feel connected to other living things.
Flower and Bubbles Breathing
Breathing has a profound effect on calming our nerves, and it is the same for children. Guide your child through a simple meditation technique by having them smell a flower and blow bubbles or pinwheels. This simple act helps children breathe in and breathe out deeply and calm their nerves.
Belly Breathing or Abdominal Breathing
Belly breathing or abdominal breathing is beneficial for your child to help with anxiety and fatigue. Abdominal breathing helps children relax by reducing heart rate and lowering stress levels. Have your child lie on a soft carpet or mat with one hand on his tummy. For young kids, you can use their favourite toy. Ask your child to take the toy “for a ride” on their stomach. As the child breathes in, notice their tummy moving upwards and outwards, lifting the toy. As they breathes out, notice their tummy moving inwards and downwards, letting the toy fall. Let your child do the belly breathing exercise for 3 to 4 breaths in a row followed by resting. If your child is older, you can have them practice belly breathing while sitting or standing so that he can calm themself down whenever they are stressed or anxious.
Let your kid imagine that they are a bunny, sniffing the air for carrots or grass. Have them sit in a position with the chest lifted and shoulder blades pointing downwards. Let them take in 3 sniffs through the nose followed by one slow deep exhale. This will help the child find their breathing and calm down when upset.
Colouring for Relaxation
An effective way to calm kids and reduce anxiety is to provide them with colouring sheets and pencils or crayons. Colouring is a mindful practice that helps children focus, improve motor skills, and enhance mood as the child feels happy using bright colours.
You can have your child bake or cook something simple such as cookies or pancakes. Ask your child to help you out with the measurement or kneading or rolling of dough. Let them take in the smell and taste the end-product, and ask them how they feel. This is a great way to bond with your child while helping them experience mindfulness. You can also teach your child to be grateful and empathetic by sharing food with a neighbour or their friends.
Make an Imaginary Lemonade
This is another relaxation technique that uses imagination and muscle movement. Ask your child to make an imaginary glass of lemonade. Start with squeezing the lemons with tight fists to release the juice. Then throw away the lemons on the ground, relaxing the hands. Have them repeat the process until they have a glass full of lemonade. At the end of the last squeeze and throw, have them stretch out their hands to release the tension and relax.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation teaches your child how to relax muscles by systematically stretching specific muscles in the body, and then releasing the tension. Have your child pick one muscle from the lower half of the body, such as the toe and squeeze it tightly. After counting to five, let them release for ten seconds, and ask them how it feels. Repeat by gradually moving up the body and squeezing different muscles, one at a time. This progressive muscle relaxation can reduce your child’s overall stress level and improve sleep.
If your child is restless or agitated, carefully trace an alphabet on your child’s palm and ask them how they feels. This simple activity can help your child relax and improve their mood within a short period.
Pretend to be an Animal
Ask your child to pick their favourite animal such as the giraffe, elephant, or kangaroo, and have them pretend to be one and go through the movements. This will relax their body muscles and also lighten their mood when they are upset or distressed.
Rub Your Palms Together
Ask your child to quickly rub the palm of their hands for a few seconds and ask them how the hands feel – whether they feel warm or tingly. This simple act of rubbing hands together promotes relaxation and relieves stress, and it can be done anywhere.
The Sleep Institute offers cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia for children by our trained behavioral therapists. Services are covered under Alberta Health.
Please contact us at 403-879-8263 or fill out our contact form for more information.