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Mindfulness plays a key role in helping all of us stay in the present moment and reduce stress, which can help us focus on daily tasks. The same goes for children. Our children experience stress just like us, even if it looks different than ours. All the more reason to start teaching them some mindfulness skills as they learn to navigate their emotions, daily routines, and interactions with others. Here are just a few mindfulness exercises that your kids will love.
Kids love eating, and no wonder: their bodies and minds are growing constantly, and they need the energy to keep up with themselves! Mindful eating not only emphasizes the value of what the child has on their plate but can further develop all the senses. You can start with something as simple as a Cutie orange. Hold the orange and experience its weight. What does the rind smell like? Take a moment to take in the color and all its dimples. How does the rind, pith, and skin feel as they start peeling it? Finally, it is time to taste! Have them pay attention to the flavor, texture, and juiciness.
Even from a young age, emotions can be tricky to navigate. The idea of this exercise is not to invalidate a child’s negative feelings if they are having a bad day. Rather, this practice helps them focus on a few things they enjoy so they can start developing perspective. If your child is feeling anxious, moody, or upset, start by checking in with them before proceeding to their “three good things”. These can be something small like a favorite marble or something big like dad’s spaghetti dinners. A good way to implement this is within a routine, like naming three good things on the way to child care, before dinner, or before bed.
Breathing is one of the biggest keystones of any mindful practice. If your child is not ready for meditation or yoga, simple breathing exercises are easy and even fun. Our bodies are big, big fans of oxygen, so no wonder breathing can help settle a flustered heart, tightening chest, or a racing mind. There are plenty of breathing exercises out there, but start simple and work your way from there with your child. An easy one can help pilot stress or heightened emotions. If your child feels like they’re drowning, tell them to imagine they are floating on the water instead. Take a deep breath on a three-count, and exhale on a three-count. Each time they exhale, help them imagine the water drops a little more each time until it is eventually washed away.
Mindfulness takes practice, which is why it is called “a practice”, so there is no pressure if they don’t pick mindfulness right away. The point isn’t that your mind should stay focused the entire time, our minds always wander—that’s just what they do. Mindfulness is what helps guide your mind back when it does inevitably wander. Practice with your child and unlock your own mindfulness along with them!
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Image: The Nest On York Preschool