Written By: Emily Swogger, OTR, M.S.
- Mitigate the effects of bullying (Zhou, Liu, Niu, Sun, & Fan, 2016);
- Enhance focus in children with ADHD (Zhang et al., 2016);
- Reduce attention problems (Crescentini, Capurso, Furlan, & Fabbro, 2016);
- Improve mental health and wellbeing;
- Improve social skills when well taught and practiced with children and adolescents.
Types of mindfulness activities
- Breathing Activities Deep breathing also known as diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing is what we are going to focus on during mindful breathing activities. We have a tendency to do more chest breathing which are shallow breaths. The problem with shallow breathing is that it causes the body to remain in a state of stress. Taking bigger, fuller breaths has a calming effect on the body and increases mental focus.
- Infinity Breathing - Visualizing an infinity symbol, or even tracing the symbol with one finger while breathing in and out, can be a helpful tool for kids to achieve a smooth, even breath cycle. Have kids inhale as they follow one half of the symbol and exhale as they follow the other half.
- Balloon Breathing - Another helpful breathing technique is to have kids visualize a balloon inside their bellies. As they breathe in, the balloon expands and as they breathe out, the balloon deflates
- Take 5 Breathing- Have kids hold up one hand or place the hand on their desk or table. Have them place the index finger of their opposite hand on the outside of the bottom knuckle of their pinky finger. As they breathe in, have them use their index finger to trace up the outside of the pinky finger. As they exhale, they trace down the other side of the finger. Then inhale – up the ring finger, exhale – down the other side of the ring finger. And so on until they get to their thumb.
- Rainbow Breathing - Click here for video
- Beach Breathing- Have kids imagine that they’re standing on the beach. As they inhale, have them imagine that they’re drawing a wave up onto the sand. As they exhale, have them imagine the water receding back into the ocean or lake. Repeat.
- Making an Object Move with Breath – Have the child lay on their back with an object on their stomach. Tell them to make the object rise and fall slowly with their breath.
- Big Full Yoga Breath- Have the child place their hands together in front of their chest. Have them slowly raise their hands up and over their head while breathing in and slowly lowering them back down. Click here for video
- Guided Visualizations- Guided visualizations are an excellent way to help a child calm their bodies and rid themselves of anxiety and tension. They are especially good at promoting sleep in children who have a hard time turning their minds off at bedtime. Visualizations can be used at any time of the day when a child is feeling upset and stressed. Click here for audio only Click here for video
- Journaling- Journaling is an excellent mindful activity because it is very versatile. Some children have trouble expressing their feelings verbally but can do so in writing or drawing. Because a journal is private in nature it allows the child to get their feelings out in a safe space.
- Yoga – There are lots of great yoga programs out there for kiddos. Yoga is great for mindfulness because it combines movement with breath. So it taps into the calming input of the breath and the calming input of vestibular input. There is even a type of yoga called aerial yoga that incorporates yoga and yoga hammocks for even better vestibular input. Some of my favorite yoga resources come from Kosmic Kids yoga and can be accessed for free on Youtube. Click here for video
- Tai Chi- Studies have shown that Tai Chi, like yoga helps increase focus and concentration and decrease stress and anxiety. It also has been show to improve balance and self-control.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation- Progressive muscle relaxation is a deep relaxation technique. Progressive muscle relaxation is based upon the simple practice of tensing, or tightening, one muscle group at a time followed by a relaxation phase with release of the tension. Click here for video
- Mindful Walks- A mindful walk is an activity that involves taking a walk and really taking the time to be present in the moment and feel the breeze, hear the birds, concentrate on your steps, feel your heartbeat. Click here for video
- Warm baths- Warms bath have been proven to lower anxiety and stress levels in your body. They also improve circulation in the body and relax your muscles.
- Massage- Massage can has shown benefits as early as in the infant years. It can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve attention, improve sleep and increase motor coordination and decrease risk of injury, especially if your child plays sports. Additional resources
- Stretching- Stretching your muscles is not only good for improving flexibility and decreasing muscle pain and injury, it is also great for relieving anxiety and decreasing stress. This is especially true if you add a mindfulness activity to the stretching. Click here for video
How to get started
- Keep the purpose of mindfulness practice in mind. Be sure to engage in mindful practice with children in positive situations, and never use it as a disciplinary tool.
- Make sure you practice mindfulness yourself!
- Set a daily routine for practicing mindfulness to make sure you incorporate it.
- Prepare the environment for successful practice; move the furniture around or have everyone switch positions.
- Involve the child in the process; have them help set up any tools or props.
- Share your own experiences with your child; this will help them understand how mindfulness is applied and practiced in everyday life. Feel free to share how you redirect yourself when you feel distracted during a mindfulness session.
- Encourage your child to share their experiences as well, whether they were good experiences with mindfulness or experiences in which they got distracted.
- Practice every day. The more you embed mindfulness into the daily routine, the easier it is to engage.
- Cowan, M. (2010, May 13). Tips for teaching mindfulness. Retrieved from www.greatergood.berkeley.edu
- Zhang, D., Chan, S. K. C., Lo, H. H. M., Chan, C. Y. H., Chan, J. C. Y., Ting, K. T., Gao, T. T., Lai, K. Y. C., Bögels, S. M., & Wong, S. Y. S. (2016). Mindfulness-based intervention for Chinese children with ADHD and their parents: A pilot mixed-method study. Mindfulness, 8, 1-14.
- Zhou, Z., Liu, Q., Niu, G., Sun, X., & Fan, C. (2017). Bullying victimization and depression in Chinese children: A moderated mediation model of resilience and mindfulness. Personality and Individual Differences, 104, 137-142.
Emily Swogger, OTR, M.S. is the Occupational Therapy in Charge at Therapy Center of Buda. She received her Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education from Walsh University. Emily then went on to receive her Master of Arts in History and Government from Ashland University and a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from Cleveland State University. In 2016 she and her family moved to the Lone Star State. She is licensed to practice as an Occupational Therapist in the state of Texas. Emily joins us with a passion for making a difference in the world and forever learning. Professional interests and exposure include; infants, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Integration Disorder (SPD), Cerebral Palsy, Dysgraphia, and Vision Processing. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family, dancing, gardening, and wrapping gifts.