June Parenting Tip: Teaching Children Mindfulness

May 29, 2019

Is your child’s life busy and overscheduled? Do you wonder how to slow them down?

According to Kris McPhail, Curriculum Specialist at the Downtown Ebenezer Child Care Center, with other locations on Milwaukee’s south side and in, Oak Creek, and West Allis/Wauwatosa, “Mindfulness is good for us and also for our children. Research indicates that mindfulness can help children improve their abilities to pay attention, calm down when they are upset, and to make better decisions.” So, where do we start? How can we teach mindfulness to children?

Before you begin mindfulness exercises, be sure to turn off any distractions, such as television, videos, screens and cell phones. Here are some ways to teach children mindfulness, from

Mindful Breathing
Ask children to sit comfortably and close their eyes. Draw their attention to breathing, telling them to feel the sensation of breath coming into and out of the body. To help them stay focused, have them put their hands on their stomach to feel the rise and fall of each breath. Do this for about five sets of inhaling and exhaling. Guide their attention to any thoughts and feelings that may be present. Ask them to let those thoughts and feelings go as they return their focus to their breathing. Repeat the breathing cycle as many times as feels appropriate. 

Mindfulness Sound Game
Have children begin by focusing on their breathing, as described above. After five breathing cycles, tell them they are going to hear a sound, and that they should focus on this sound as it gets softer and softer. Tell them to raise their hand when they no longer hear the sound. For the sound you can use a soft bell, Tibetan meditation chimes, a “singing” bowl, a rain stick, or any thing that will resonate and gradually stop. Return to five breathing cycles, and repeat this exercise a couple of times, if children are open to it.

Mindful Eating Game
Next time you are sharing a meal or snack with children, tell them you are going to make it a mindfulness exercise. Start off with the breathing cycles. Ask children to be mindful of their food, of the aroma, or the feel of the food. Ask them to take a bite of the food and chew slowly. If using a utensil, ask them to put it down until they finish chewing and swallowing. Have them try to chew slowly, for 20 – 30 seconds, asking them to notice the taste and texture. Repeat the five cycles of breathing and try again with another bite.

Walking Mindfully
Go for a short walk with your children to teach them to be mindful while in motion. Have them start with focused breathing and then ask them to notice how the ground feels under their feet, as they walk. What does the body feel like when in motion? How does their clothing feel against their skin, or the wind feel against their hair?  Guide them to feel these sensations, but not to label or think about them. Return to their breathing cycles as needed to keep them in focus.

Mindful Play
Put out any activity your children can really get their hands into. Have them begin with their breathing cycles. Guide them to be fully present in the moment. Have them focus on their senses- what do they see, hear, feel and smell. End the session with the breathing cycles.

Ebenezer Child Care Centers is a not-for-profit, locally based agency committed to providing early childhood programs from the heart. The agency prides itself on being different from other child care providers in that it offers a home-like atmosphere; individualized, nurturing care; and a structured curriculum that is virtues-based for every child’s developmental stage.

Every Ebenezer Child Care Center focuses on all aspects of a child’s development: cognitive, physical, emotional, and social. In addition to providing quality care, the agency also offers other educational programming all aimed at helping parents.

The agency has locations on Milwaukee’s southside and downtown Milwaukee, Oak Creek, and West Allis/Wauwatosa. The agency’s main office is located at 1496 South 29th Street, Milwaukee. For more information, please call 414-643-5070.