Mindfulness is a type of meditation practice that trains the practioner to be completely immersed in the moment, with all five senses. With practice, we learn to bring our scattered attention and energy back to what we are experiencing right now, without judgement, without future plans, without regret or worry. Like scientists observing a subject or experiment, we note our body’s reactions and tendencies to whatever stimuli we are presented with. This is powerful stuff, especially for children! A mindfulness practice can build empathy, manage stress, and promote a sense of calm regardless of the chaos that might be surrounding you in the busy-ness of the world.
Convinced yet? Here are some activities to start a mindfulness practice with your whole family:
Memory: Sit together in a circle with about 7 small objects in the middle where everyone can see them (if your children are younger, maybe just use 3-5 objects and if they are older, use more). Choose little toys, common household objects, buttons, pebbles, etc. Your family gets one minute to look intensely at the objects and try to remember them all. After one minute, cover the objects with a towel. Choose a player to secretly remove one object without telling/showing which they removed. When the missing object is hidden away, remove the blanket and try to figure out which object is missing. Take turns being the person who removes the object.
Sneaky Walk: Standing spread out in a room or outside, take three long, mindful breaths (feel the temperature of the breath, how long it lasts, where you feel it moving, etc). Now begin to walk very carefully and quietly. Imagine you are a little animal walking silently through the jungle or a field, trying to stay hidden from predators. You want to be so slow and silent. Feel your toes working to keep you balanced, your arms moving with each step, your eyes focusing on your path. If you begin to plan your path too much, try to feel your feet again. Keep walking, sneaking through the room, without anyone else hearing you. Can you feel your leg muscles working? Your hips swaying? After a few minutes, everyone share what kind of animal they were pretending to be and where they were sneaking. How did it feel to walk so quietly? This is a version of a walking meditation.
Thankful Thoughts: When it’s time to tuck in the kids for bed, take a moment to list something you are grateful for, something good that happened to you, or someone you love. After you say your Thankful Thought, everyone close their eyes and take three mindful breaths, picturing what was said. If you make this part of your evening routine, the whole family will start to pay more attention to the good things happening during the day so they have something thankful to share at bedtime.
Inside and Outside: Everyone gets pieces of paper and drawing implements. Draw a picture of yourself to show what you look like and how you feel. Then, on other pieces of paper, draw a picture of each person in your group, showing how you see them and how you think they feel. You can use words or pictures. When everyone has finished, share your pictures and talk about what’s the same in each version and what’s different. Do we see each other the way we see ourselves?