3 Mindfulness Activities to Help Children Wind Down
Slathered in sunscreen, hot summer days are filled with splash parks, bar-b-ques and weekend adventures. On the flip side, summertime is often packed with all-day outings, family obligations, and meltdowns due to skipped naps and disrupted schedules. Because all that excitement can take a toll on our little humans, it’s a great idea to take a break and wind down before the school year starts up again.
These activities encourage our kiddos to slow down their little bodies and take time to practice mindfulness. By teaching our children how to be present in the now and aware of their feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations, we can help lay the foundations for strategies to conquer stress as children continue to grow and develop.
1. Mindful Walking in Nature
Nature is a perfect place for children to fully connect to the here and now. Mindful walking is a more active form of meditation and can be an excellent way to encourage body awareness in the present moment. Take a walk together as a family through a local hiking trail and ask your child to occasionally slow down and focus on a specific sense. When you close your eyes, what do you hear? If you grasp a handful of earth, what can you smell? Find a leaf, how does each side feel? Don’t forget to practice breathing deeply while you walk, it’s an amazing tool for relieving stress in the body.
2. Gratitude Scrapbook
This is a great activity that can be tailored from toddlers to older children and forces us parents to get all those digital photos printed out! Get all your summer photos printed, both big events (like birthdays or vacations) and everyday captures (playing in the sandbox, riding bikes). Gather a basic 12-page scrapbook, markers, scissors, stickers, etc. and ask your child to pull photos of their favorite summer moments. Each child can create their own book or the family can make one together. As your child decorates the pages, ask what made that day special for them. If your child is younger, write their words down and read them back, if your child is older they can write their reflections. Gratitude is an emotional muscle that needs exercise! This practice can help your child see what’s going well in their life, and focus on those positive feelings. Add the finished scrapbook to your bookshelf to read and reflect throughout the year.
3. Happy Mail Watercolor Postcards
Spread the love! Put on some calming instrumental music and ask you child to close their eyes for a minute, listen, and think about how the music makes them feel before picking up their paint brush. Watercolors are a great medium to create with, for younger kids I recommend wet-on-wet painting to keep them engaged. Make sure you’re using thicker art paper designed for mixed media or watercolors, spray with a water bottle, dab excess off with a sponge, and let your child paint! The moistened paper will allow watercolors to diffuse and disperse for a dramatic effect. When their masterpiece is complete, cut the art into a 4x6 postcard, address the blank side and mail to a family or friend. Here’s a great template to use from Smashed Peas & Carrots.
The greatest part of encouraging mindfulness in our children in reminding ourselves to slow down and embrace the present moment. When my son rips open a bag of pretzels in the middle of the supermarket, I focus on the fact he’s sharing with his sister rather than scolding about mess he made. When both my toddlers are squeezed on my lap, and bedtime seems a lifetime away, I remind myself they’ll only be small enough to fit on my lap for so long, so I push out the thoughts of what chores I should be doing and take that moment to kiss each of their heads and breathe in their scent, because this present moment is what counts, and is worth savoring.
Erika is a mama, wifey, DIYer and freelance photographer. She has a passion for child-led play, crafting handmade parties, and the perfect manicure. When she’s not chasing after two toddlers you’ll find her creating marketing strategies and managing social media for Babson College’s Youth Entrepreneurial Leadership programs. Visit her blog at www.yayforhandmade.net.