Your Weekly Mindfulness: The Mindful Child

I was sitting in an ice cream shop with Max the other day and across from us was this little girl, about 8 or 9 years old, with one hand on her heart and one on her stomach. She was slowly breathing in and out, sitting with her eyes closed, focusing on her breath. I couldn't help but smile because: A. it was sooo Berkeley and B. what she was doing is a really great mindfulness exercise for children.

This week I'm sharing the how and why of this exercise. Try it out with your kiddos or students and tell me what you think.

Awareness of Breathing

1. First have the child sit down and get comfortable. 
2. Invite them to put one or both hands on their belly and to feel their breathing. 
3. Let them sit for a few breaths doing this. Then ask them what they notice, how they feel, how does their body feel when they sit and do this?
4. Then ask them to move one hand to their chest, resting it on their heart. 
5. Again let them sit for a few breaths so that may simply notice their breath and heart beat together. 
6. You can again ask how this feels and what they notice. 
7. Instruct them to sit for a few more breaths, or as long as they like in this position. Ask them to pay attention to the in and out of their breath and invite them to take a few deeper breaths. 
8. When they're done you can talk about:
  • The importance of breathing and how our body uses our breath to keep our blood flowing, and our muscles moving. 
  • How breathing is involuntary. 
  • What our breathing is like when we're upset or angry. 
  • How learning to take deep, slow breaths can help us calm down when we're upset. 
9. Make sure to ask the kids what they thought of the exercise, whether or not they liked it, if they'd like to try it again etc. (It's important to get their input so that you can modify the exercise if needed.)
10. Before completely ending the exercise, take a second to stretch, wiggle your muscles, take a deep breath and "come alive" again (if your kid is more active, just do a little wiggle, we want them to come "alive," but not get too crazy!). 

More on this exercise:
This is a great exercise for helping kids practice mindfulness, it's also a helpful resource for children to access when they are over-activated, upset, angry or simply having a difficult moment adjusting to their environment. Two important things to remember about doing these exercises with kids is 
1. calming exercises should be taught before a child is over-activated/angry etc. (it's very difficult to teach a new skill in an angry moment) and 2. practice makes perfect. The more you practice, the easier it will be for your child to easily access this resource. 

Further Reading:
Black D. S., Milam J., Sussman S. (2009). Sitting-meditation interventions among youth: a review of treatment efficacyPediatrics 124, e532–e541 10.1542/peds.2008-3434

Broderick P. C., Metz S. (2009). Learning to BREATHE: a pilot trial of a mindfulness curriculum for adolescentsAdv. Sch. Mental Health Promot2, 35–46 10.1080/1754730X.2009.9715696

Nghiem, C. (2008, August 8). Listening to and Inviting the Bell. Retrieved November 14, 2014, from

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