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Mindfulness Activities You Can Do with Young Children

June 21, 2023

Today is International Yoga Day – a wonderful opportunity to ground ourselves, move our bodies in intentional ways, and introduce young children to the world of mindfulness. While today may serve as a reminder to be mindful, the best outcomes will come from integrating mindfulness opportunities into children’s everyday routines.  

Mindfulness is all about focusing your awareness on the present moment. When practiced regularly, it can help us learn to manage stress, anxiety, and other challenging emotions. Practicing mindfulness with children teaches them regulation techniques like being aware of and controlling their breathing, which can have a calming effect on both the body and mind.  

When children are given the tools to connect with and manage their emotions, they are better able to cope in the face of frustration and challenges, leading to increased perseverance, resilience, and self-esteem. Practicing mindfulness regularly in regulated moments gives children a strategy to reach for when they are experiencing heightened emotions, making it easier for them to calm down when executive function and learning may be more difficult. 

Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness with Young Children 

Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness

  1. Improved Focus and Attention. When children’s emotions are heightened and they are dysregulated, learning and accessing executive functioning skills like paying attention, following directions, and focusing on tasks are nearly impossible. Therefore, helping children to become more aware of their emotions and manage them through mindfulness can lead to improved academic performance and learning outcomes. 
  2. Reduced Stress and Anxiety. Mindfulness allows us to focus on our breathing and the present moment, a strategy that has been clinically proven to reduce stress and anxiety levels, which can positively affect children’s mental and physical health. 
  3. Increased Self-Awareness. Mindfulness helps children develop a stronger sense of self-awareness and self-regulation, which can lead to better decision-making skills and improved interpersonal relationships. 
  4. Improved Sleep. With outcomes like stress and anxiety reduction, mindfulness can also contribute to the development of better sleep habits and reduce sleep-related problems like nightmares and insomnia. 
  5. Improved Emotional Regulation. Mindfulness practices teach children how to identify and manage their emotions in a healthy way, which can lead to improved emotional regulation and resilience. 
  6. Improved Social Skills. Practicing mindfulness both individually and as a group can help children develop better social skills, such as empathy, compassion, and kindness, which can lead to improved relationships with peers and adults. 
  7. Improved Physical Health. Mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation can also improve physical health outcomes like improved respiratory function, lower blood pressure, and improved immune function. 

Examples of Child-Appropriate Mindfulness Activities 

Examples of Child-Appropriate Mindfulness Activities

  1. Mindful breathing. Teach children to focus on their breath by having them place their hands on their bellies and feel their breath moving in and out. For younger children, guiding deep breathing in and out with visual cues can be helpful. For example, “Breathe in to smell the flower, breathe out to blow out the candle.” 
  2. Yoga poses. Introduce children to simple yoga poses like downward dog, tree pose, and child's pose. Encourage them to focus on their breath while holding each pose. 
  3. Mindful movement. “Mindful Movements” can look different for everyone! Help children start moving mindfully by sitting down and stretching in different ways, walking slowly and deliberately, or balancing objects on their hands while they walk. 
  4. Gratitude practice. Encourage children to think of things they are grateful for and ways they can express gratitude through words or actions. 
  5. Guided meditation. Use guided meditations to help children visualize peaceful scenes or calming experiences to help them feel grounded, centered, and present in the moment. This is a great group activity to do when the day seems a little too chaotic. 

ECSEL Tips for Making Mindful Moments Fun and Effective 

ECSEL is an acronym that stands for Emotional, Cognitive, and Social Early Learning. The ECSEL approach aims to help children develop the skills of emotional intelligence and self-regulation, and prosocial behaviors through learning how to identify, understand, express, and regulate their own emotions and those of others. 

Mindfulness is an important part of the ECSEL approach, as it can help children to better connect with, understand, and manage their emotions, making it easier for them to self-regulate and deal with stress. Through the begin to ECSEL training program, educators learn to utilize and weave mindfulness and social-emotional strategies and activities into everyday learning opportunities. 

When teaching young children something new, it can be beneficial to pull from what they already know and what they are interested in. Observe their interests as they play and ask questions to find out more about what they already know to activate their prior knowledge. 

Then, combine mindfulness techniques with these interests to make learning more meaningful! Here are some examples: 

ABC Breathing (Toddlers)

toddler activity

This activity begins with reading Breathe Baby Breathe An ABC Guide to Mindfulness by Amanda Lynch and asking children guiding questions to help them better understand their emotions, how to breathe, and how yoga can help calm their bodies and minds. Practice the mindfulness activities on each page with children to give them real-life regulation strategies! Find the full activity here.

Rainforest Yoga (Preschool)

Preschool Prekinder activity

This rainforest animal-themed yoga activity taps into children’s interests while teaching them to move mindfully and connect to their bodies and breathing. Play rainforest sounds to set the tone, turn off the lights, and guide children through the different poses. Check-in with children’s feelings throughout the activity to support their growing emotional intelligence! Find the full activity here.

Animal Tracks: Painting with Our Feet (Infant)

Infant activity

This sensorimotor activity supports the development of many important skills for your littlest learners. Support children in walking through paint on paper to put a creative and sensory twist on gross motor development while teaching them about different animal tracks! Find the full activity here.

Guided Meditations to Do with Kids: 


Do you have a favorite mindfulness activity? Comment below⬇️!

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