by Dana Asby
The beginning of the school year can be hard for parents and kids. Increased stress makes it more difficult for kids to control their emotions and get on the same page as parents, teachers, and peers. Luckily, we know that mindfulness “significantly increases one’s ability to cope with stress, regulate emotions, and attune to others” (Synder, Shapiro, & Treleaven, 2012).
Many mindful parents are already using meditation, breath work, and body scans to calm stressed and anxious minds. Here are some kid-friendly versions of some of the most effective stress-reduction mindfulness techniques.
Yoga: For active preschoolers, yoga can be a fun introduction to mindfulness. Children practice moving their bodies in small, intentional movements that help young children build their attention skills and reduce their stress level.
Breath Work: The National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends teaching breathing techniques, such as deep belly breathing, to stop stress in the moment by helping children better attune to their emotions and understand how to alleviate negative ones with intentional breathing (Statman-Weil, 2015).
Body Scans: A fun technique for kids is the rainbow body scan, which asks children to pay attention to how their body parts and emotions feels as they move from the top of their head with red down through all of the colors of the rainbow until they reach their violet sitz bones.
Progressive Relaxation: This practice takes the body scan further by asking children to tense up different sets of muscles and release them, allowing some of the built-up stress to be released as well.
Intentional Refocusing: Help children increase attention and quiet extreme emotions by asking them to bring their focus onto a specific object, concept, or sensation without moving their body. These exercises help children bring their minds back into the present (Gehl & Bohlander, 2018).
Many of the above techniques are presented in an engaging way for preschool-age children in the book by Eline Snel, Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and their Parents). In addition to giving parents a crash course on mindfulness and mindful parenting, the book presents kid-friendly descriptions of mindfulness practices and gives kids fun activities that engage them in practices that focus on breath, attention, emotional regulation, compassion, and patience.
This blog post was adapted from a larger one originally published for the Center for Educational Improvement. Read more about how kid friendly mindfulness techniques can support self-regulation and secure attachment in traumatized children here.
Gehl, M., & Bohlander, A.H. (2018). Being present: Mindfulness in infant and toddler settings.Young Children.
Statman-Weil, K. (2015). Creating trauma-sensitive classrooms. Young Children.
Synder, R., Shapiro, S., & Treleaven, D. (2012). Attachment theory and mindfulness. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 12, 709-717. doi: 10.1007/s10826-011-9522-8