Inviting your child to sit down and practice mindfulness may feel quite tricky. The last thing a toddler, middle schooler, tween, or teen wants to do is sit down and become more present to their mind, body, and emotions.
Throughout these years of growth children are exploring who they are and are drawn to stimulating activities, sports, outlets, and social spheres. But there is a way to bring mindfulness into your child’s life, while letting them embrace the age they are.
Checkout these 30 mindfulness activities for kids that can help you get started!
What is mindfulness?
Typically, mindfulness is depicted as moving through life in a very gentle, present, aware way; but in reality, it can easily be part of your daily life. A person doesn’t have to be in any specific environment or place to practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness activities can include simple things that bring you back into the moment by becoming conscious of your sensory experience.
What do you hear, smell, taste, touch, see? Simple mindfulness practices can increase a person’s self-awareness and help them arrive in every environment with presence. Other techniques can include mindful breathing, where individuals become aware of their inhales and exhales, and try to make them equal in length.
For instance: breathe in for the count of 4, breathe out for the count of 4. Breathing in this way can have a profound impact on the body, and even begin to regulate our nervous system—adjusting how we see the world from the inside out. Other forms of mindfulness may include: yoga, deep breathing, and meditation.
Overall, mindfulness is an important resource and tool that can be used in our lives when we feel overwhelmed.
Why teach mindfulness?
Before we explore 30 mindfulness activities for kids, let’s break down why it’s important to teach mindfulness.
Sharing fun mindfulness activities with kids is a great way to support their mental health as they transition through different periods of growth: from toddler to preschooler, middle schooler to tween, and teen to adult.
While there are many benefits of mindfulness, the most important is that it teaches individuals how to control their response to happenings, rather than react, and how not to get swept up in emotions.
Rather than stepping into a seat of judgment, mindfulness invites each person to slow down and recognize what they are experiencing with acceptance. As a person moves from jugement to observation, they are able to calmly approach situations with the confidence that they have the tools they need to get through them.
Mindfulness isn’t about only embracing positive emotions, it’s about embracing all emotions and recognizing that they are passing and changing—imagine the impact that realization could have on your child’s life as they approach challenges.
Whether it be sitting down, studying a difficult book for school, sticking to a routine, or developing new social skills, mindfulness can help!
Amazing Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness can help reduce stress by increasing awareness and acceptance of experiences in the present moment. A meta-analysis of 39 studies found that mindfulness-based interventions were effective in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms.
Practicing mindfulness can improve overall well-being and quality of life. One study among many found that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) significantly improved well-being, depression, and anxiety!
Boosts Immune System
Mindfulness meditation has been linked to improvements in immune function, where one study found that individuals who practiced mindfulness meditation had higher levels of antibodies to the flu vaccine compared to those who didn't practice mindfulness. This is most likely since mindfulness also reduces one’s stress levels, and by stepping out of a state of stress the body is able to rest and restore itself.
Enhanced Cognitive Function
Mindfulness has been shown to improve cognitive function, including attention, memory, and executive function. A study found that practicing mindfulness for just four days improved attention and working memory performance. Imagine the impact this could have on your child in an educational environment!
Improved Emotional Regulation
Mindfulness can help regulate emotions by increasing awareness and acceptance of emotions without judgment. A meta-analysis found that mindfulness-based interventions were effective in reducing negative affect and improving positive affect, learning how to see all that one does have rather than what is lacking. This is the foundation of developing a growth mindset later in life.
Reduced Chronic Pain
Mindfulness can help reduce chronic pain by increasing awareness and acceptance of pain sensations. A systematic review and meta-analysis found that mindfulness-based interventions were effective in reducing chronic pain and improving physical functioning.
Mindfulness has been shown to improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia symptoms. A randomized controlled trial found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) significantly improved sleep quality and reduced insomnia symptoms.
Mindfulness Activities for Toddlers (Ages 1-3)
- Bubble blowing - Encourage your toddler to focus on their breath while blowing bubbles.
- Sensory play - Allow your toddler to explore different textures, smells, and tastes with various sensory toys.
- Mindful breathing - Teach your toddler to take deep breaths and imagine a balloon filling up as they inhale and deflating as they exhale.
- Finger painting - Encourage your toddler to focus on the sensations of the paint on their fingers as they create a masterpiece.
- Mirror gazing - Sit with your toddler in front of a mirror and have them make different facial expressions, while observing and describing what they see.
- Nature walks - Take your toddler on a walk in nature and encourage them to notice the sights, sounds, and smells around them.
- Mindful listening - Play calming music and have your toddler focus on the sounds and rhythms of the music.
Mindfulness Activities for Kids in Preschool (Ages 3-5)
- Mindful breathing - Teach preschoolers to take deep breaths and imagine blowing out candles on a cake.
- Mindful coloring - Encourage preschoolers to focus on their breath while coloring mandalas or other intricate designs.
- Sensory bottles - Create sensory bottles filled with glitter, water, and other materials and encourage preschoolers to focus on the movement of the items inside.
- Mindful movement - Encourage preschoolers to move mindfully, focusing on their breath and their body's movements.
- Bubble meditation - Encourage preschoolers to focus on their breath while blowing bubbles and watching them float away.
- Gratitude journaling - Encourage preschoolers to write down things they are grateful for each day. Not sure how to start? Check our article where we provided tips on how to start journaling. You can also check the range of journals we offer in our shop.
- Mindful storytelling - Tell a story to preschoolers and encourage them to use their imagination while focusing on their breath. Want to help your little one get ready for 2nd grade? Checkout these journal prompts to inspire storytelling!
Mindfulness Activities for Tweens (Ages 9-12)
- Body scan meditation - Guide tweens through a body scan meditation, encouraging them to focus on each part of their body.
- Mindful breathing - Teach tweens to use deep breathing exercises to manage stress and anxiety.
- Gratitude jar - Have tweens write down things they are grateful for on small pieces of paper and place them in a jar. Encourage them to read through the jar when feeling down.
- Mindful coloring - Provide tweens with a coloring book and encourage them to focus on their breath while coloring intricate designs.
- Mindful listening - Play calming music or sounds and have tweens focus on the sounds and rhythms.
- Mindful tech use - Encourage tweens to take breaks from screens and practice mindful tech use, such as turning off notifications and setting specific times to check their phone or social media.
- Mindful eating - Encourage tweens to eat mindfully, taking small bites and focusing on the tastes and textures of their food.
- Gratitude scavenger hunt - Create a scavenger hunt for tweens to find things they are grateful for in their environment, encouraging them to appreciate the small things.
- Mindful communication - Teach tweens to practice effective communication skills, such as active listening, empathy, and speaking clearly and respectfully. Want to understand how your child communicates love? Checkout this blog on the 5 Love Languages!
Mindfulness Activities for Kids in Middle School (Ages 11-13)
- Mindful breathing - Teach middle schoolers to focus on their breath and count to five on each inhale and exhale.
- Yoga - Introduce yoga poses to middle schoolers, such as the eagle or the bridge pose. Bringing a child’s physical body into mindfulness can teach them new ways of finding presence through movement.
- Mindful walking - Encourage middle schoolers to walk mindfully, focusing on each step and the sensations in their feet.
- Sensory exploration - Encourage middle schoolers to explore different textures, smells, and tastes, and describe their experiences.
- Mindful eating - Encourage middle schoolers to eat mindfully, taking small bites and focusing on the tastes and textures of their food.
- Gratitude journaling - Encourage middle schoolers to write down things they are grateful for each day.
- Mindful listening - Play calming music or sounds and have middle schoolers focus on the sounds and rhythms.
- Mindful drawing - Encourage middle schoolers to draw mindfully, focusing on each stroke and the sensations of the pencil
Mindfulness Activities for Teens (Ages 14-18)
- Body scan meditation - Guide teens through a body scan meditation, encouraging them to focus on each part of their body.
- Yoga - Encourage teens to attend a yoga class or practice yoga at home to improve flexibility and mindfulness.
- Mindful breathing - Teach teens to use deep breathing exercises to manage stress and anxiety.
- Mindful walking or running - Encourage teens to go for a mindful walk or run, focusing on the sensations in their feet and the rhythm of their breath.
- Mindful tech use - Encourage teens to take breaks from screens and practice mindful tech use, such as turning off notifications and setting specific times to check their phone or social media.
- Mindful listening and communication - Teach teens to practice active listening and effective communication skills, encouraging them to focus on the other person's perspective and to express themselves clearly and respectfully.
- Mindful journaling - Encourage teens to reflect on their thoughts and emotions through mindful journaling, writing down their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Want to give your teen some inspiration? Check out this article!
Overall, mindfulness exercises offer a doorway into the present moment, and a space for your child to experience their emotions, thoughts, and feelings without a need to judge them or fix them.
Even simple opportunities to engage in breathing exercise while going about your daily family routine can have a lasting impact on your child’s well-being long afterward.
Breathing in particular is such a paramount part of our life that can deliver a profound effect on the body by calming the nervous system. Imagine if your child could take these tools into every setting they enter, and the confidence they would have to deal with difficult situations when you aren’t present.
While these are a place to start, know that there are way more than 30 mindfulness activities for kids that can be explored and integrated into your family routine. Anything that helps your little one enter into the present moment is something worth exploring!
Learn more about the studies mentioned on the benefits of mindfulness:
- Chiesa, A., Calati, R., & Serretti, A. (2011). Does mindfulness training improve cognitive abilities? A systematic review of neuropsychological findings. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(3), 449-464.
- Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., ... & Sheridan, J. F. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65(4), 564-570.
- Hilton, L., Hempel, S., Ewing, B. A., Apaydin, E., Xenakis, L., Newberry, S., ... & Maglione, M. A. (2017). Mindfulness meditation for chronic pain: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 51(2), 199-213.
- Khoury, B., Sharma, M., Rush, S. E., & Fournier, C. (2015). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for healthy individuals: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 78(6), 519-528.
- Ong, J. C., Manber, R., Segal, Z., Xia, Y., Shapiro, S., & Wyatt, J. K. (2014). A randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation for chronic insomnia. Sleep, 37(9), 1553-1563.
- Zeidan, F., Johnson, S. K., Diamond, B. J., David, Z., & Goolkasian, P. (2010). Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: evidence of brief mental training. 19(2):597-605.