Mindfulness lessons and activities for kids have been popping up all over the place in recent years. This is because more and more research is showing that teaching kids mindfulness helps to improve attention, regulate their emotions, have greater compassion, as well as reduce stress and anxiety. (Mindful Schools)
In today’s classrooms, children need mindfulness lessons and activities in order to navigate the complex world they are living in. Children come to school to learn academics, but they also come to school to feel safe, feel like they belong and develop strong social emotional skills for life. Even as young as kindergarten, children need lessons to help them to understand how to deal with strong emotions and social situations. Throughout this post, you will find useful information and linked resources to help you teach this very important set of skills.
Why Mindfulness is Important
Kids are coming to school without lunches, without proper supplies, with traumatic experiences both at home and outside of home and other kinds of life experiences they may be witness on the news or through their parents’ conversations. This is all leaving students feeling stressed. When childrens’ lives feel out of control, they try to gain some of that control through expressions of anger, defiance, or withdrawal. Mindfulness lessons and activities can help.
Not all students are experiencing this kind of stress or unrest. There are students that come to school, alert and ready for learning and socializing. These students also benefit from mindfulness lessons and activities as the lessons serve to deepen the skills. These students also can serve as models of calm.
What Kind of Mindfulness Lessons Do Kids Need?
Self awareness is a very important element that has to be in place before other social learning can happen. The development of self awareness enables children to see themselves as others may see them. It also helps them to recognize how their actions and decisions may affect others. Self awareness activities can take many shapes. It’s important that all kids can take part in the learning with many personalized access points.
Awareness Through Senses
When kids use their 5 senses to see, feel, hear, taste, and touch things, it helps to bring more awareness to the child. I love how activities that promote this can extend all across the curriculum – especially in Science and Writing!
Awareness of Others
Once students have grown in their self awareness skills, they are able to take a look at others. Awareness of others begins to grow around them both at home and at school with some explicit lessons and focus from you. This is powerful stuff! When that awareness kicks in, children begin to develop empathy and compassion. Two more very important social and emotional skills.
Children need to be able to regulate their emotions in order to be able to pay attention and learn and to interact with others. There are general self regulation skills. Students should have the choice to use whichever skill/s they need to help them to self regulate. It is not a one size fits all. Once the children understand how to handle their big emotions, they can start to set learning goals. Learning goals are directly linked to being able to self regulate.
Other Things That Help Develop The Whole Child
Once students have some basic understanding of mindfulness and it is consistently practiced in the classroom and maybe even at home, students can begin to explore character. By character, I am referring to things like courage, generosity, honesty and more. Oftentimes, we use childrens’ books to help us teach these things. That is an effective and engaging way to do it. Following up with these skills and having students reflect on them in real life situations is key.
It’s okay to make mistakes. We’ve been hearing that a lot over the last few years. Many students who struggle in school have a fixed mindset. Teaching kids to have a growth mindset is important. We learn from our mistakes. I find that making mistakes causes kids (and us) to feel uncomfortable – often humiliated . By making mistakes part of learning and normalizing it, we can help students embrace the struggle and move forward in their learning.
The Ups and Downs
We read about things or talk to others and believe that life is just one happy day after another. When it’s not, we feel distressed or that we are not living a normal life. Normal life is all about the ups and downs. Life is more downs than ups. That is a fact and the earlier kids learn this, the more they can learn to “ride the wave”.
Oh this is a transformational aspect of mindfulness. Anyone who has realized the potential for how good gratefulness feels truly will find themselves with more and more happy days. Teaching kids to be grateful needs to happen more than just on Thanksgiving Day! It needs to be modelled and practiced daily. Having a daily gratitude message on the board or asking for contributions from students will help everyone get into the practice.
When students learn to be problem solvers, they learn to think critically. One way to do this is to have students evaluate their problems on a 1-10 scale. It’s amazing how this gives perspectives to our problems! We can also either supply children with potential problems and they can write about a possible solution or have them come up with recent problems they have had. Again, real life is best. It is also good practice to have students get into pairs or small groups to discuss the problems and solutions work they have done. It helps children see others’ perspectives. Tip: remind students to be good listeners and that while they may not agree with the perspective, they will listen.
Connected to Nature
There is no doubt that being out in nature does amazing things for people. Outdoor education is becoming more and more utilized for this reason. Having kids reflect on how they are connected to nature and how they feel when they are outside is a great way to bring this awareness to the forefront.
Mindfulness Activities Everywhere
Mindfulness can be practiced everywhere! Once kids learn the skills at school, many will bring that learning home. They may even teach their parents! It is useful for teachers to have a print and digital resource that will enable you to teach all of these skills using engaging lessons and mindfulness activities. You can get such a resource by clicking here.
If you have any questions or comments or mindfulness ideas that worked for you, please share them in the comments.
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