The transition to learning at home might bring up an array of emotions for school-aged children. Incorporating mindful exercises at home throughout the day can give children the tools they need to self-regulate their emotions, release their energy in a positive way, and add more structure to their day. In addition, practicing mindfulness with your child has several benefits that include increasing focus and self regulation, decreasing stress and anxiety, and improving social skills and communication.
As a former elementary school classroom teacher, I wove several mindful routines into my classroom and daily schedule to support students social and emotional growth. Here are four of my favorite mindful exercises that can be woven into your child’s daily home routine:
Breathing Buddies: For young children, being asked to “focus on the breath” can be difficult to understand. To help your child tap into their breath in an interactive way, ask them to grab their favorite stuffed animal to use as a breathing buddy. Ask your child to lay down in a comfortable, quiet spot and place their breathing buddy on their belly. As your child breathes, ask them to focus on their breathing buddy rising and falling on their belly as they inhale and exhale. Invite your child to slow their breathing buddy down by breathing slower and deeper in and out through their nose. Ask your child how they feel after breathing with their breathing buddy. This is a great exercise for children to practice when they are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or just need a moment to slow down.
Mindful Listening: Mindful listening allows children (and adults!) to quiet their minds and
connect to the present moment by just focusing on just one thing. To introduce mindful listening, ask your child to sit in a comfortable seat and close their eyes. After ringing a bell (you can also use a chime, a singing bowl, or a wooden spoon on a pot) ask your child to listen closely and to the sound and to bring their hand to their heart when they can no longer hear the sound. Once they can no longer hear the ringing sound, ask your child to sit in silence and notice the sounds they hear around them. After 30 seconds of silence, ask your child to share every sound they heard. You can go even deeper by asking them to share how they felt sitting in silence and listening and if they noticed any sounds they had never heard before. As your child practices this exercise more often, you can increase the time they sit in silence from 30 seconds to 1 minute to 2-3 minutes. You can also try this listening exercise in different rooms of the house, on the front porch, and in the back yard for variety.
As an elementary school teacher, I incorporated this mindful listening routine daily after recess to refocus and calm both the mind and body. The same can be done at home by incorporating mindful listening at the same time each day, preferably at a time where your child is transitioning from a high-energy activity to a quiet activity.
Take 5 Breath: This breathing activity teaches children to self-regulate their emotions by slowing their breath down while offering a visual and kinesthetic aspect for each breath by using the hand as a guide. Ask your child to stretch their fingers out wide to make their hand look like a star. Using their pointer finger on the opposite hand, ask your child to get ready to trace their fingers up and down. Starting at the bottom of the thumb, slide the pointer finger up each finger on the inhale, and slide down on the exhale. Keep going to trace all five fingers, completing five full inhales and exhales. Ask your child how they feel after taking five deep breaths and invite them to trace their hand again if they would like to take another five breaths.
Introduce and practice Take 5 Breath at a time when your child is calm. Once your child is familiar and comfortable with this breathing exercise, you can invite them to “take 5” any time they might feel overwhelmed, anxious, or angry, inviting them to take more rounds of breath if they need more time to calm down.
Create a Peace Corner: One of my student’s favorite spots in our classroom was the Peace Corner- an inviting, comfortable, and quiet place where students could go to self-regulate and apply the mindfulness exercises they learned in class. Creating a peace corner at home allows your child to have a special, relaxing place in their home where they can go to breathe and reflect anytime they feel overwhelmed, anxious, angry, or sad. To create a Peace Corner in your home, choose a nook in your child’s bedroom, playroom, or any other location where your child feels safe. Add a small area rug to define the space, with pillows, cushions, and/or a blanket to make the corner comfortable and inviting. Add 3-5 tools to the Peace Corner to help your child apply mindfulness exercises. Some ideas for peace corner tools are their favorite breathing buddy, a favorite mindfulness book, a journal and markers or crayons to write or draw, pictures or photos that bring peace and happiness, a small plant, a sand timer, or a small snowglobe or glitter jar. Once the peace corner is set up, teach your child how to use each available tool, and discuss situations when your child might choose to spend a few moments in their peace corner to practice buddy breathing, take 5 breath, journaling, or any other mindful activity.
About the author:
Rachel tried her first yoga class nearly two decades ago and dabbled in the practice over the years, but became a serious practitioner
in 2010 when looking for stress relief and self-care from her busy role as a public elementary school teacher. Coming to her mat after a busy day of teaching allowed her to completely release and renew her energy. Over the years, Rachel incorporated many parts of her practice- breathing, meditation, asana, and mindfulness- into her classroom with students. She loved seeing how daily breathing and mindfulness helped her young students self-regulate and manage their emotions. After nearly a decade of consistent practice, Rachel completed her 200 hour training at Embrace Yoga DC in 2019. She is grateful to combine her two passions, yoga and education, and share mindfulness and yoga with young learners in a fun, accessible way. She has 15+ years experience as an educator.