All children can benefit from mindfulness and it is something we need to start talking about. What is happening to our children? Why are so many anxious, stressed and on medication? What role can mindfulness play in this modern world? It has been my experience that the earlier we start teaching children to be mindful, the more equipped they will be for the stresses in life.
There is no need to wait until your children are older. Mindful activities are a great way to teach your toddler mindfulness, they are easy, fun and a great way to start developing life skills such as compassion, empathy and awareness.
In today’s world parents and children are more over-stimulated, over-scheduled and exhausted than ever before. Success is defined by financial wealth, academic achievement or fame. Society is constantly competing to look better, be better and have more. As a consequence, children are more out of touch with their emotions and are lonelier than previous generations.
Modern children suffer from more anxiety and depression and lack the coping skills needed later in life. In order to restore the balance and raise healthy and happy children more emphasis must be placed on raising empathic, compassionate and mindful kids. The easiest way to do this is to start when they are small.
The progression from baby to toddler can sometimes be overwhelming. You have spent the last year looking after this miracle you created, and during the first few months your baby needs you completely. Suddenly, we hit toddlerhood and your darling child gains its independence…eek!
The second year of childhood is also where toddlers learn about emotions and how to socially interact. They mimic how others behave, enjoy being around other people but at the same time start spending more time entertaining themselves and gaining some independence. So, there isn’t more opportune time to introduce them to particular way of living than now.
Toddlers (12-36months) have a few characteristics in common. They’re busy, noisy and inquisitive little people. The more things they touch and bang the better! However, this is an amazing opportunity to introduce mindfulness. At this age children are so receptive to trying new things and learning about the world in a tangible way.
So, if we want to raise happy, healthy and empathic adults, we need to use the time when they are receptive, open to emotional communication and are learning independent free thought.
Fun Mindfulness Activities For Kids
There is no need to stress out. Incorporate these few simple exercises into your daily routine and not only will you have a happier and calmer baby, but you and your family will be more at ease too.
Daily Toddler Activities
The first three years are vital to your toddlers development. So, with all the energy your child has why not direct it toward healthy, fun and mindful oriented activities. It all starts with a schedule – it makes it easier for you, and helps your child learn boundaries.
A schedule doesn’t have to be boring or time consuming. If you take a look at the basic schedule below, you will see how easy it is to incorporate, and I PROMISE you the benefits will be worth it.
Children function best with predictability. It gives them a sense of control and makes them feel safe. Children are much happier having regular bedtimes, snacks, rests and meals. However, your toddler routine does not need to be rigid. Create a dialogue around it and tell them what you have planned for the day, and why not make an adventure out of it.
Below is the routine I used with my son, it is just an approximate and every mom and baby is different, get creative and change it up…do what suits you.
- 8:30 am Wake up and eat breakfast (with music of course)
- 9:00 am Playtime (Mindful Art)
- 11:00 am Lunch (Mindful eating exercise)
- 11:30 am Reading time
- 12:00 pm Nap Time
- 3:00 pm Wake up and have a snack.
- 3:30 pm Play until dinner (Yoga for children)
- 6:00 pm Dinner
- 7:00 pm Wind Down Routine
- 7:30 pm Bedtime
Music for young children
Music is a wonderful mindfulness tool. It can be used to wake your toddler up or to wind them down and calm them. Music can really help bring their attention to the present moment. I used to play the “Bare necessities” song from the jungle book or a song from the “Sound Of Music” every morning. The usual groggy and sometimes difficult morning routine was given a little flair. Not only did my son wake up in a good mood, but it had a positive effect on my whole family.
As we danced around the kitchen the music was able to bring added intimacy to my relationship with my husband as well as my son. It is a good way to start the day. Using classical music or a lullaby is another great tool to get your toddler to wind down. When we play music for young children, the calming sounds can gently simulate and regulate your child’s energy levels. Music also stimulates the senses, encourages brain development and can be used to teach children effective communication.
A Mindful Eating Exercise
Mindfulness asks us to be open-minded and encourages us to just be and let go. So the next time you need to make a trip to the store with your toddler turn it into an experience. Allow them to look, touch and taste. Get them to explore and experiment. I used to put my son in the shopping cart while I did my grocery shopping. I would allow him to touch and smell different types of fruits and vegetables and even get him to taste some.
Your child’s routine can be a great opportunity to start implementing mindful eating. Whether you are in the store or making your child a meal at home, try this little mindful eating exercise with them.
- Take a piece of fruit or vegetable that both you and your child enjoy. I like apples.
- As the parent start off by smelling the piece of apple and ask your child to do the same.
- Tell your child what you smell and ask them what they smell? If your child is too young, get them to observe you instead.
- Take a bite and tell your toddler what flavors and textures you experience. Ask them to do the same.
For a more in-depth explanation of mindful eating go back to my blog posts.
Mindfulness games for kids
Mindfulness games for kids can easily be incorporated into your normal routine. Toddlers need to channel their energy. There is no better activity for toddlers than some form of creative expression. Mindful art is a wonderful way to bring a quiet focus to your child’s life. Whether its finger-painting, drawing or cutting and pasting. Let your toddler experiment. Guess what? It can also be used as a calming moment for you. Try it for a moment, turn your phone off, pick up a paint brush or grab a coloring book and get creative. This can be a relaxing moment where you and your child calm the mind and bond
Physical activity is known to have a relaxing affect on us. Not only does it sync the body and mind, but it gets the heart pumping and the breath flowing. Toddlers are known for their excitable energy and will just get frustrated if left to sit and play or watch television. This is not very stimulating for them, and not mindful at all.
Try these other fun mindfulness games for kids to mix up your toddler’s routine:
Yoga for children
- Set up a routine at home. Yoga can be done inside or outside. Encourage your child to put out her own mat, while you do yours. Why not play a little music too.
- Offer variety. Children cannot concentrate for long periods of time so try for 10minute segments. Present kids with different poses.
- Teach them postures they can relate to. Cat and Cow pose, Puppy Pose and Tree pose. Make it fun and interactive.
Get your child used to breathing exercises early. I found using an object to help focus on was a great way to get my toddler to concentrate. Make a paper pinwheel and use it together with this mindful breathing exercise.
- Make a paper pinwheel. Your toddler can help you make it and color it in – what fun!
- Your child can sit or stand for the activity.
- Ask them to slowly breathe in and out – you can show them how by doing it too.
- Count “1,2,3” for each breath in and “1,2,3” for each breath out.
- Once they are comfortable with the rhythm you can ask them to blow on the pinwheel with every exhale – watching the pinwheel spin.
- For younger children just start teaching them to blow on the pinwheel and let them see how their breath makes it move.
Mindfulness is about exploring the present moment and being aware of your senses. Being in nature gives our toddlers an opportunity to entice their senses, focus on the here and now and really clam the mind. Whether you take them for a walk around the neighborhood, take them to a park or if you are sitting in your garden – try this.
- Allow your toddler to touch, feel and smell something that catches their attention, it could be a rock, leaf or flower.
- Talk to them about it. Tell them what it is if they don’t know, ask them what it makes them feel like, and be as interactive with the object as you can. Don’t worry about whats happening outside of you, just be with your toddler in that moment.
An area we often neglect to talk about when it comes to teaching our children mindfulness is the importance of evaluating our own behavior as parents. As a parent examine the tone of your voice when you interact with your child. Toddlers are sensitive to emotion and they can easily pick up on how you feel through your voice. If you get panicked easily, try breathe, and as much as possible try speak calmly and reassuringly.
Don’t forget that we are the biggest role models for behavior when it comes to our children. If we want to have mindful children we should be practicing mindfulness ourselves. This does not mean you need to be perfect at it, we are all human and parenting is hard enough as it is. But if you try to do at least one of these activities above, just once a day, you will already make a huge impact on you and your toddler’s life.