How to practise mindfulness at home with children

Mindfulness means being aware of the present moment. Some studies suggest it can help with mental health and wellbeing.

You can try some activities to help children feel calm and be kind to themselves.

Teach them a breathing exercise

This exercise is a good way to slow the breath or racing thoughts. It is sometimes called the ‘Take 5’ breathing exercise. Explain and practise these steps with your child.

  • Get your child to hold out one hand with the fingers apart, like a star.
  • Using a finger on their other hand as a pointer, they can slowly trace around the star shape.
  • They trace up each finger, then they breathe out as they trace down the other side. Your child should trace around their whole hand.
  • Repeat this as many times as you like.
  • Afterwards, ask your child how they feel.

    Make a mindfulness jar

    Pick a selection of mindful activities and write each one on a piece of card or paper. Put them all in a jar or box somewhere you spend time together. Each family member can then choose one at random to do every day. Activities could include:

    • Breathe. Do the tracing the breath exercise above, but keep it going for 60 seconds or longer. Try to focus only on the activity. Each time you notice your mind wandering, gently bring it back to the task.
    • Notice nature. Look or listen for birds, animals, plants, clouds and anything else. You can do this while sitting in the garden, or while standing at the back door or in front of a window.
    • Notice each of your senses in turn. What can you see? What do you hear? What can you taste, touch or smell?
    • Make a gratitude list. What makes you happy or helps you feel safe? Who or what would you like to thank for these things?
    • Pick a word for the day. Whenever you hear or read that word, take a moment to pay close attention to what you’re doing. Are you walking, texting or brushing your teeth? How are you moving? How do you feel?

    Teach self-care

    Encourage your child to choose at least one activity every day that makes them feel good. For example:

    • Read a book, watch a movie or listen to music.
    • Bake biscuits, or make a favourite cake.
    • Put music on and sing or dance around the house.
    • Make a collage out of old magazines.
    • Call or write to a friend or family member.
    • Do something nice for someone else.

    For more suggestions, see these activities for toddlers, children  and teens.

    Have a daily review

    Making this part of your child’s bedtime routine is a great way to let go of worries. Ask your child:

    • What was good about today?
    • What didn’t go well?
    • What made you smile?
    • What are you looking forward to about tomorrow?

    These questions help your child savour the good things and take pride in their achievements. They’re also a chance to release disappointment, and remember that tomorrow is a fresh start.

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    This advice was written by our experienced Parent Talk coaches. Parent Talk is a free online service for parents and carers, provided by the charity Action for Children. For more advice, message our parenting coaches with our online chat.

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