Top 6 Benefits of Mindfulness for Children (And How to Teach Mindfulness In the Classroom)
As a children’s yoga teacher, I have witnessed firsthand the benefits of mindfulness for kids. I specialize and focus on teaching children and young adults under the age of 18.
From the hundreds of children I have taught, I have learned that their need for a mindful existence is great and we are currently at an important turning point in society.
The development of technology is a double-edged sword. The benefits are amazing and yes – our life is better for it (in my humble opinion). However, as technology grows and the desire to be connected 24/7 increases, we as humans are becoming disconnected from ourselves.
Young people have a natural need to be liked and accepted by their peers, hence the obsession and importance of social media to children. They can create and nurture relationships without having to leave their bedrooms.
Validation by ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ at all times of the day creates an inability to switch off or connect to themselves (their inner self).
Validation by ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ at all times of the day creates an inability to switch off or connect to themselves (their inner self). Many children are so caught up with trying to impress each other and fit in that they have lost their sense of self
Through my work, I share yoga and mindfulness with young people on a daily basis. Yoga and mindfulness enables these kids to really feel what they are experiencing in the moment, and also gives validity to their emotions so they can in turn process them.
This is why mindfulness in the classroom is so important. School-age children are developing and evolving in their emotional intelligence, and this important developmental stage is vastly supported and benefited with mindfulness.
Why Is Mindfulness for Kids Important?
Fostering mindfulness in the classroom will improve the student’s learning experience and also support the teacher’s effort to teach as effectively as possible.
A vast majority of the time, we move through our day unconsciously – going through the motions, achieving things, having conversations and interacting – but not fully there or present.
We are accomplishing and living, but our thoughts are not 100% ‘in the moment.’ This can cause us to be ‘reactive.’ Reactive means responding to events in a habitual way, rather than an honest and authentic way.
When a child is distracted and not ‘in the moment,’ the ability to think clearly and make decisions confidently is diminished. Emotions run very high in children, regardless of external influences.
Therefore, when children can quiet and calm their mind, the daily pressures of their lives – schoolwork, playground politics, and friendships – all flow with greater ease.
Top Benefits of Mindfulness for Children:
1. Healthy understanding of emotions 2. Increased confidence 3. Greater self-esteem 4. Improved decision making 5. Better sleep 6. Improved focus and concentration
Through mindfulness, a child can remember what is important to them and establish stronger boundaries. They can be less reactive and know their boundaries and what really deserves their energy and what does not.
A short mindfulness technique can enable a child to be more present when they need to focus (like when they’re taking a test). Presence is key, and mindfulness can teach this practice to children from a young age.
How Do We Practice, Experience, and Teach Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a friend that you can invite in at any time. Mindfulness is not difficult and doesn’t need to feel daunting – it just takes a little commitment, and who wouldn’t commit to providing a healthier environment to children?
The first step is to not aim for a ‘clear mind.’ There is no such thing. Our mind is designed to continuously think, analyze, and look for danger/opportunities.
Our human mind thinks thousands of thoughts an hour, so to have a clear ‘no mind’ state is incredibly rare. Hence, mindfulness is enabling the child (or yourself) to harness the mind, grab its attention and control it.
The idea is to give the mind something to focus on and distract it from its continual thoughts – a practice that is both calming and present.
The second step is to focus on the breath. Simply teaching a child that they can control their breath empowers them and enables them to shift how they’re feeling, and also find focus and presence.
Feeling the breath travel into the body through the nose and all the way down into the tummy is a perfect mindful practice. In the past, when a friend or child has been upset, have you ever advised them to slow down and take a deep breath? That is mindfulness!
When children can quiet and calm their mind, the daily pressures of their lives – schoolwork, playground politics, and friendships – all flow with greater ease.
The science behind HOW the breath calms us and makes us feel more present and peaceful is from the exhale. When you breathe out, the vagus nerve is stimulated. The vagus nerve connects to our Parasympathetic Nervous System – the system we require to feel calm.
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This is why it’s important to focus on the exhale when you’re using the breath for a mindfulness practice. A fun idea for children is to have them blow their exhale into their hands.
When the mind is focused, the mental chatter decreases and the child becomes more comfortable with their current state of being.
Here Are 5 Fun Ways to Teach Children Mindfulness In the Classroom (And Beyond)
Below is a list of five fun ways to bring mindfulness into the classroom and see the benefits of mindfulness for children. But the best part is that these practices can be done anywhere, so parents – you can teach your kids these mindfulness techniques at home too.
Just a few minutes of mindfulness can completely transform a child’s mindset, experience, ability to learn and retain information, and uplift the overall energy.
If you’re planning on introducing mindfulness to a group of children, note that different children will connect with different mindfulness practices so you may need to adapt the activity or offer several techniques. Some children like more active activities like coloring or yoga, while others may prefer sitting still and chanting or breathing.
Have fun getting creative and making these your own!
1. Create a Calm Corner
Create a designated space like a Calm Corner with journals for writing, uplifting motivational books, coloring books with colored pencils and comfy seating. Make it age appropriate. Younger kid’s corners could have a sensory puzzle while an older age group might appreciate a mandala drawing station.
This Colorado elementary school created Peace Corners to bring yoga and mindfulness into the classroom, and the result was both successful and inspiring. Read the story here!
If you aren’t able to create a full corner, use elements from it like mandala coloring books, or try teaching the kids a few basic kid’s yoga poses. These are easy, fun ways to introduce mindfulness to kids.
Mindfulness and Yoga: The Perfect Pair! Here Are 7 Yoga Poses for Kids in School (Plus How to Teach Them Each Pose)
2. Daily Journal Prompts
Bookend the day with journaling (the kids don’t have to share so they feel safe to write how they really feel). You can write down a few questions for them to answer in their journals as a way to encourage reflection and introspection.
For example, start the day with an intention and end the day with their biggest takeaway or favorite part. It doesn’t need to take a long time – 5 or 10 minutes is the perfect amount of time for these journal sessions.
3. Silent Breathing
Start the day with 1-3 minutes of silent breathing before class starts. Ask the children to close their eyes and focus on their breath. They can count the length of their inhale/exhale as a way to keep the mind focused.
Depending on the age group, you can also lead a very simple breathing exercise (see #4).
4. 5:3 Breath
This is a fan favorite. Inhale for a count of 5, hold the breath in for a count of 3, exhale for a count of 5, hold the breath for a count of 3, repeat. This simple breathing exercise is easy for you to guide your class through and helps everyone stay focused and present.
5. Pairs Breathing
This is another popular breathwork for mindfulness practice, because it involves interacting with a partner.
Sit back-to-back with a partner and without speaking, try to breathe at the same time. Not only is this technique a great way to get kids (especially middle and highschool age) to connect with each other, it is also fun and guarantees some giggles.
Want more mindfulness for children inspiration? Here Are 15 Fantastic Ways to Teach Mindfulness to Kids
The Takeaway: The Benefits of Mindfulness for Kids and Mindfulness In the Classroom
Mindfulness does not have to be the holy grail of peace and tranquillity. It can be easily slotted into a class or day with the children barely noticing. Just a few minutes of mindfulness can completely transform the children’s mindset, experience, ability to learn and retain information, and can also uplift the overall class energy.
These small but hugely effective mindfulness practices make subtle changes in the mind of a child. As a bonus, they take their blossoming mindfulness practice into their lives outside of school.
Imagine if every child was given a tool that allowed them to feel more calm, more in control, present, and content. It would completely shift their ability to cope and hone important life skills as they get older.
You can provide them with that tool, and it is our duty to set this upcoming generation up for success the best way we can.
Mindfulness is a tool that when taught well, from an early age, can stay with children for life. What a gift – not just to the child but to the entire world!