Mindfulness and Young Children

“Where does time go?” ‘This year is flying by!” “I just need an extra couple of hours each day!” We have all at one point or another said any of the above. Life just seems to get busier and moves at a pace like never before. And with technology’s impact only growing stronger there are no signs of it ever slowing down.   Perhaps that is why now more than ever the word ‘mindfulness’ keeps making its presence known. The growing conversation around mindfulness in the workplace has been constant for a while but now the focus is shifting to teaching mindfulness to young children.

Mindfulness is difficult to define but there are many different techniques that can be taught which help to train attention in a particular and purposeful way to focus on the present moment without judgment. Keeping one’s attention in the present moment so that information can be seen objectively, with interest and with compassion.

However with young children, who are experiencing the world for the first time through fresh eyes, is this really something that is needed?

Well the short answer is yes. Yes because the way children’s sensory, motor and attachment systems are developing, they aren’t biologically evolving to cope with the frenzied and chaotic nature of today. Health and education systems are just beginning to detect the increase of physical, psychological and behaviour disorders in children and studies are finding more evidence to support the notion that mindfulness practice is extremely beneficial to young children.

The benefits seen in young children that practice mindfulness include improved ability to pay attention, to calm themselves down when they are upset, and to make better decisions. It helps regulating emotions and cognitive focus.

Getting young children to just sit and be quiet however can be a challenge in itself so how is one meant to approach mindfulness for young children?

First thing to remember is to keep it simple, check in on expectations, don’t force it and don’t make mindfulness a punishment. Ideal is if you have your own practice.

  • Using words such as awareness or noticing to explain mindfulness. Noticing our thoughts, what our body feels like, what our ears are hearing and with eyes closed what else can we notice around us that is happening right now
  • Sounds are an easy way for children to practice mindfulness. Getting them to sit with their eyes closed and focus on the sounds they hear. You could use a singing bowl, a bell, set of chimes or a phone app. Tell your children you will make a sound and they should listen carefully until they can no longer hear the sound.
  • A body-scan meditation is a very effective way to introduce mindfulness at bedtime. As your child lies in bed ask them to close their eyes and tell them to pay attention to their toes, feet, legs etc. working your way up to the top of their heads. This calming practice allows children to connect back to the body after a long day, readying themselves for a good nights sleep and letting go of any noise or chatter going through their minds.

Whichever way you choose to approach mindfulness and introduce it your children always remember to have fun, keep it simple and experiment to find the practice that works best for them.

There is an abundance of information available online including books, videos and apps that you can use to learn more about mindfulness and help you find the right practice for yourself and your child.