Teaching children mindful awareness practices

Mar 17 / Louise Shanagher
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The first step in introducing mindfulness to children is to introduce simple awareness practices.
The first awareness practice I typically introduce is awareness of the breath. Ask children to put their hand on their belly and to feel their belly move as they breathe in and out. Other breath practices include, hot chocolate breathing, ask children to imagine that they have a cup of hot chocolate in their hands. Ask them to breathe in smelling the hot chocolate and breath out cooling it down. You can also ask children to practice hand breathing, ask children to hold out their hand and breathe in as they trace their pointer finger up the length of their thumb and breathe out as they trace their thumb from top to bottom towards their next finger, ask children to continue doing this until they have completed their whole hand. Props also work well when teaching children how to bring awareness to the breath. You can use a Hoberman sphere and instruct children to bring in and out in synchrony with the sphere as you move it in an out. A fan can be used in a similar way, encourage children to breathe in as you fold the fan in and out. Children also love using windmills, straws and bubbles as they do their mindful breathing. A nice way to introduce mindful listening to children is to ring a bell and ask children to listen and raise their hand when the sound is gone. Long resonating sounds work best for this practice, Tibetan singing bowls work particularly well. You can be creative with this asking children to wave their hands when the sound is gone or ask them to close their eyes and open their eyes with then sound is gone. Another nice practice is to ask children to close their eyes and notice how many sounds they can hear from themselves, inside the room they are in and from outside the room they are in.
You can also help children connect to their sense of touch, sight, smell and taste. Nice items for this activity include feathers, material, objects from nature, such as stones, shells and pine-cones, or small pieces of food such as raisins, orange segments or grapes. Give each child an object and ask them to notice how it feels in their hands, ask them to notice whether it is smooth or rough, what shape is it? What size? Does different parts of the object feel different? What temperature is the object? You can also engage other senses by asking children to notice what the object looks like. Ask them if there is any patterns? How many colours does the object have? Can they notice the light and shadows. You can also ask children what the object smells like. If the object is edible such as a raisin, piece of mandarin orange or apple you can ask them to notice what it tastes like.
Another great awareness practice for children is the 54321 practice. Ask children to identify 5 things they can see, 4 things they can touch, three things they can hear, two things they can smell and one thing they can taste.
When we introduce awareness practices like these to children we are helping them bring their attention into the present moment. We are helping them connect with themselves and the world around them. Each time children practice mindfulness they are strengthening their capacity to connect to the “here and now”.