Right now is the best time to start teaching children mindfulness. There are huge benefits to being mindful, and it’s vital for children to learn these behaviors to live a healthy and happy life. When one lives in the present moment, they are aware of their surroundings, more relaxed, happier and able to make better decisions. Mindfulness is a skill that benefits everyone. There is an extraordinary power of living in the present moment rather than the past or present.
Children who learn the skill of being mindful make more connections in their environment that will be crucial to their learning development. In a child’s social world, learning to focus and recognize facial expressions will result in making more meaningful connections to communicate with peers and adults. Another benefit of mindfulness is when children live in the present moment, they learn quickly and absorb more information that will help them with the building blocks of their academics. Children who participate in extracurricular activities and practice using mindfulness will perform at a higher level because they continue to focus on their deliberate practice.
During moments in a child’s lifetime when they have to make quick decisions, if they have a solid foundation of mindfulness, they will have a better decision process. Throughout a child’s developmental stage growing into adulthood, having mindfulness skills will provide them with a tool to relax, and stay calm and happy even when life becomes tough and challenging.
Mindfulness is a powerful skill for children to develop, practice and demonstrate in their daily routines. It could be one of the most vital tools to prepare them for a lifetime of experiences. Mindfulness can and should be generalized to all settings that include, but are not limited to academics, sports, music, community and home.
There are many moments in a child’s life where they are practicing mindfulness. Children will demonstrate behaviors of excitement and interest to show they are captivated in the present moment. For example, video games are a great example of when children are living in the moment. They are focusing only on the game they are playing in the current time. You will notice children who are demonstrating mindfulness behavior by their body language of using all senses and being engrossed in what is in front of them.
You have also experienced moments when you demonstrated behaviors of mindfulness. You may have experienced you were happy, focused, calm, in the present moment and relaxed. You might have heard a few buzz words, such as “in the zone,” “hyper-focused” or “flow.” Being in the present moment is an enjoyable, rewarding and productive experience.
Teaching and training children mindfulness can and should be fun and engaging. There are many ways for children to experience mindfulness in their natural environment. Having children practice activities so they can use all, or most, of their senses will bring them into the present moment. As an example, you can practice breathing five times and guide the child to listen to their breath, have them place their hands on their tummy and feel it go up and down, and have them smell the air going in through their nose. Explain to the child if their mind wanders to another thought or idea, to bring their thought process back to focusing on their breathing.
Another example of how to teach being in the present moment is to ask the child to use their pointer finger, look around in their environment and point to something red, blue, green or yellow. When a child is looking around in their environment, it will enhance their experience of being in the present movement. Lastly, you can have the child play with slime and ask them what it smells like, what it feels like and what it looks like — therefore, you are teaching the child to be more aware and focused on what they are experiencing.
There are many ways to teach children mindfulness and have them practice daily in their natural environment. Practicing mindfulness activities can and should be fun and enjoyable for the child. Mindfulness skills will provide children with the power to live in the present moment and make better decisions — therefore, living a happy and healthy life.
Holly Metzger-Brown, M.Ed. is the youth fitness director at the York Jewish Community Center.