mindfulness for kids

Cultivating Mindfulness for Kids: A Comprehensive Guide for Parents

Children are exposed to a lot of stress and anxiety, but they unfortunately aren't always taught how to manage it. As adults, many of us know that practicing mindfulness and meditation can help regulate our emotions, increase our focus, and encourage us to express more empathy.

So, can children be taught mindfulness? 

Spoiler alert: Yes, they absolutely can. And if you’re curious to learn how to teach mindfulness to kids—and how the Balance app can help—keep reading. 

What is Mindfulness for Kids?

Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Just as children can be taught to notice things like when they're hungry and when they're tired, they can also be taught to notice when they're thinking certain thoughts and feeling various emotions. And that's done through mindfulness exercises.

Mindfulness can look different at different developmental stages in kids (more on that in a minute), but if there’s one takeaway here, it’s that it’s important to start teaching mindfulness as early as you can.

What are the Benefits of Mindfulness for Kids?

Just like adults, there are many benefits of mindfulness for kids that can help them learn to manage their emotions, stay focused, and develop empathy for others. Here's a little more information on some of the biggest benefits of mindfulness for kids:

  • Improved emotional regulation: Mindfulness helps children become more aware of their emotions and develop strategies for managing them. By practicing mindfulness, children can learn to identify and understand difficult emotions like anxiety and anger, and learn how to respond to them in a healthy way.
  • Increased focus: Mindfulness practices like deep breathing exercises and body scans can help children improve their ability to concentrate. By learning how to focus on the present moment and tune out distractions, they can improve their academic performance and overall productivity.
  • Enhanced empathy: Mindfulness practices encourage children to be present and attentive in their interactions with others. This can help them develop empathy and compassion, which can lead to stronger relationships and improved social skills.
  • Better cognitive development: Mindfulness practices can help improve cognitive function in children, particularly in areas like attention, memory, and problem-solving skills.

How Can I Teach My Child Mindfulness?

Now that you know about the benefits of mindfulness for kids, you’re probably wondering how to actually teach your child mindfulness. 

The most important thing to keep in mind is that not all mindfulness techniques are created equal, so the first step is to choose a technique that’s appropriate for your child’s age and needs. 

Here are some techniques that are appropriate for children in different stages:

  • Preschoolers: At this stage, children are still developing their language skills. So simple mindfulness activities like deep breathing exercises, activities that allow them to move their bodies, and guided meditations with visual cues can be effective. For example, you can ask them to visualize a balloon filling up with air as they exhale and deflating as they exhale.
  • Elementary schoolers: Children in this stage have longer attention spans and are better able to understand abstract concepts. Teaching them techniques like the body scan, where they focus on each part of their body and notice how it feels, can be helpful at this age. They may also benefit from mindful activities like coloring or drawing.
  • Middle schoolers: It’s common for children in this stage to experience increased stress due to academic and social pressures. So mindfulness techniques like journaling, where they write down their thoughts and feelings without judgment, can be beneficial. And mindful movement activities like like yoga or tai chi can also help them manage stress and develop more mind-body awareness. 
  • High schoolers: Guided meditations can be a helpful tool for high schoolers who are experiencing feelings of anxiety or depression. Encourage them to find a quiet place where they can sit comfortably and focus on their breath, or to check out a resource like the Balance app. 

Overall, starting mindfulness practices early on can benefit children throughout their lives. And by tailoring the techniques to their developmental stage, you can help your child build a strong foundation for mindfulness that will serve them well into adulthood.

3 Mindfulness Activities for Kids To Try Right Now

If you’re eager to start teaching your child mindfulness, here are three easy mindfulness activities that you can try right away, no matter their age: 

1. Mindful Breathing

Have your child sit comfortably and take a deep breath in through their nose, and then exhale through their mouth, repeating as often as they'd like. Encourage them to focus on their breath and notice how it feels in their body. And if they're ready, you can also encourage them to make their exhales longer than their inhales, which can trigger their body's natural relaxation response.

2. Mindful Eating

Have your child choose a small snack, like a few raisins or a small piece of fruit. Encourage them to eat it slowly, focusing on the taste, texture, and smell of the food as they eat it. And if they're ready for a little more, also ask them to consider where the food came from, and express some gratitude for everything that had to happen to get it onto their plate.

3. Mindful Listening

Have your child close their eyes and listen to the sounds around them. Encourage them to notice the different sounds, and observe how they make them feel.

Pro tip: You can practice all three of these techniques with your child in the Balance app. 

How to Start Incorporating Mindfulness into Your Child’s Daily Routines

Making mindfulness a part of your child's daily routine can help them develop a strong foundation and healthy habit that will benefit them throughout their lives. Here are some ways you can incorporate mindfulness into your child's daily routine:

  • Dedicate time each day: Make mindfulness exercises a part of your child's daily routine by setting aside a specific time each day to practice them. This could be first thing in the morning, before bed, or during a break in their day. Encourage your child to use this time to focus on their breath or engage in other mindfulness techniques.
  • Encourage mindfulness during everyday activities: Mindfulness doesn't have to be limited to dedicated practice time, especially if you’re a busy family. So you can also encourage your child to practice mindfulness during everyday activities, such as brushing their teeth or taking a shower. 
  • Make it fun: Incorporate play and creativity into mindfulness exercises to make them more engaging for your child. For example, you could create a mindful coloring book or make a game out of deep breathing exercises.

How Parents Aide in Fostering Mindfulness

As a parent, you play an important role in teaching your child about mindfulness. Here are some ways you can model mindfulness and create a mindful environment at home:

  • Practice what you preach: The most effective way to teach mindfulness to your child is by modeling it yourself. Take time each day to practice mindfulness exercises (keep reading—we have a few in mind for you to try!), and encourage your child to join in.
  • Create a mindful environment: Consistently encourage your child to be present in the moment and focus on what they're doing. This can be easier said than done since many of us rush from one activity to the next, with our minds focused on what's coming rather than what's happening now. So do your best to help your child manage that instinct by reminding them to focus on the here and now.
  • Be patient and persistent: Mindfulness is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. So don't get discouraged if your child doesn't immediately take to it. Keep practicing together and encourage them to keep trying.

Being a Role Model for Mindfulness

Like we said, you can also model mindfulness for your child by practicing it yourself. And if you're wondering how to make this a priority in your busy schedule, we’ve got you covered:

  • Take breaks throughout the day: Set aside a few minutes each day to take a break and practice mindfulness exercises yourself. This can help you stay calm and focused throughout the day.
  • Focus on the present moment: When you're spending time with your child, try to be present in the moment and fully engage with them. Put away distractions like phones or computers, and give them your full attention.
  • Develop a gratitude practice: Take time each day to reflect on the things you're grateful for. This can help you stay positive and cultivate a sense of appreciation for the good things in your life.

By creating a mindful environment at home and practicing mindfulness yourself, you can help your child develop valuable skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Using the Balance App to Foster Mindfulness in Kids

The Balance app is a great tool for teaching mindfulness to kids, helping them develop emotional regulation, focus, and empathy. It features kid-friendly guided meditations and mindfulness exercises for both day and night.

To get started:

  1. Download the Balance app on iOS or Android and create an account. (It’s completely free for your entire first year!) 
  2. Then, answer a few questions to help personalize your experience.

When you're done, there are two great places to start with your kids. If it's during the daytime:

  1. Navigate to the Singles tab, and then scroll down to the Kids meditation.
  2. Tap into it, and let them choose which activity they want to try. They can choose between breathing, eating, listening, moving around, and saying thanks.
  3. Start the audio, and follow along with your child.
  4. The exercises will all change a little each time you use them, so feel free to repeat and come back to them as often as you'd like!

If you instead open Balance near bedtime:

  1. Navigate to the Sleep tab, and then scroll down to the Sleep for Kids meditation.
  2. Tap into it as your child gets into bed for the night.
  3. Start the audio, and either stay with your child as they listen, or tell them goodnight and let them follow along independently.
  4. After completing the exercise, the audio will encourage and support them as they drift naturally to sleep.

Success Stories

These kid-specific offerings in the Balance app are grounded in research-backed mindfulness techniques. But don’t just take it from us. Check out a few success stories from parents who have used the Balance app to teach mindfulness to their children:

  • “This app has helped my family and me to get a better night’s sleep over the past year through the one-year free trial that they offer. The app is unique as it offers a new customized meditation every day. They have a good variety of meditations for kids and my daughter loves to choose what to listen to based on the pictures.”
  • “I play the Sleep For Kids” meditation with my son every night and it works amazingly with him, from silly and chatty to fast asleep in less than 10 minutes.” 
  • "My kids look forward to using the Kids Single and take turns choosing which activity to do each time. They also won't go to sleep without Balance now. In fact, Balance is so much a part of their lives at this point that they've each named a stuffed animal after Coaches Ofosu and Leah!"

Start the Journey of Mindfulness with Your Child Today

Mindfulness is a powerful tool that can help children develop emotional regulation, focus, and empathy. And by teaching mindfulness to your child and practicing it yourself, you can create a mindful environment at home that helps your child manage stress and anxiety now and in years to come.

The Balance app is a great tool for teaching mindfulness to kids, and with practice, your child can develop a daily mindfulness routine that will benefit them throughout their life. So what are you waiting for? Download the Balance app on iOS or Android, get your entire first year for free, and see the difference mindfulness can make in your child. You've got this!

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