Is It Really Possible to Teach Mindfulness to Kids?

When is the right age to teach mindfulness to kids? How do you do it? Should you do it? In this podcast, Todd answers these questions and many more about teaching mindfulness to children.

While kids may not suffer from the same stresses as adults and may not need to get the same benefits as adults, mindfulness for kids comes with countless other benefits. Studies have shown that kids who learn mindfulness are less impulsive, more focused, have longer attention spans, are more patient, better behaved, have better relationships, and even their grades are better! From the child’s perspective, they’ll enjoy doing it for reasons like performing better at sports, just like how their hero Tom Brady meditates.

When it comes to learning mindfulness, the earlier the better. This helps set kids up for success throughout their whole life, both personally and professionally. These essential skills learned at an early age will do wonders for them and those around them. The habits they learn now will come easier at a young age and will last them a lifetime.

***If you prefer reading to listening, here’s the transcript of this podcast***

Can I Introduce Mindfulness to Young Kids?

It is a very important question is because kids are at the perfect age to learn mindfulness. It’s much harder for adults to grasp. It’s not impossible; in fact, it’s definitely doable and can be a joyful process.

However, adults have to unlearn decades of conditioning that teach our minds not to be present, or to only seek stimulation from hyper stimuli, food, entertainment, social interactions, or intoxicating substances. This makes the process of learning to sit down and meditate in a peaceful, joyful way a bit more difficult.

Kids, on the other hand, are ready to go. They’ve spent most of their lives in the present moment as their brains are developing, and they don’t have as much of a memory capacity. They’re much more living in the present moment. They don’t have any of those worries about the future, nor do they, at a young age, spend too much time dwelling on the past.

What Are the Benefits of Teaching Mindfulness to Kids at Young Age?

So, mindfulness is about being present, being aware, and being mindful of oneself and one’s surroundings. For the most part, this is the natural state of children; however, they may have difficulty with certain things that mindfulness can help with. That’s what we want to do: help them learn to focus, concentrate, expand their attention span, and become more mindful of their surroundings, themselves, and their internal states.

When we start at a young age, children are fortunate to be able to learn mindfulness, and rates of Attention Deficit Disorder plummet with kids who practice mindfulness. It makes sense; if a child can sit still in meditation for a few minutes, they’re not going to have the same problems.

5-Minute Mindfulness Activities for Kids

As a child who was always fidgeting and struggled to stay focused, what we aim to do for kids is help them reach a point where they can focus on their breath or learn to concentrate fully on whatever is happening in front of them.

  1. It could be as simple as blowing bubbles and encouraging them to give it their full presence.

    So much of what adults do is focused on reaching the end goal; for instance, when we do the dishes, it’s often just to get back to watching TV or whatever activity we prefer afterward. We’re often mentally in that future place while doing chores, not fully mindful of the present task at hand. We use it as a means to an end to reach some other place.

    Exactly, we’re often mentally elsewhere while engaging in tasks, missing out on the journey itself. Many people reach the end of their lives feeling like time has flown by because they’ve been focused solely on reaching outcomes or future destinations, neglecting the present moment. Unless they’ve learned mindfulness, they may feel they’ve missed out on truly living.

  2. When it comes to teaching kids meditation, it’s crucial to recognize that most children, and perhaps this is why many adults find meditation challenging initially, associate it with punishment.

    When a child misbehaves, they’re often put in timeout, essentially being told to sit and observe their thoughts and feelings—essentially, to meditate. This association with punishment can hinder their willingness to engage in meditation as adults.

    So now, you have to do this. The more we can teach children that this is a wonderful activity, an opportunity to become happier, wiser, more patient, calmer, and more aware of our internal emotional and mental states.

    Kids actually respond in amazing ways when mindfulness is taught in schools.

Typically, a troubled school, almost desperate for change, will bring in a mindfulness meditation instructor. What happens when that occurs is full detentions become empty, disciplinary problems almost disappear, grades go up, everything improves for these children’s lives, and they love it. They want to do good; they want to be able to focus. But no one has taught them how.

That’s what mindfulness is all about: directing your attention to where you choose to direct it and developing patience to sit and calm your own body and mind, to be able to pay attention to whatever you need to focus on, so that you can solve a problem.

Whether it’s math, you can focus on that writing paper, whatever it is, everything becomes in their control. Once we teach them, how to be mindful of it, every kid is going to learn at a different pace.

How Can We Introduce Mindfulness to Even Younger Kids?

So, when you have younger kids, it can be as simple as blowing bubbles. You tell the child, “Look at the bubble, look at it, look at it grow, look at it pop. Let’s do it again.” This is their meditation, their lesson to be present and observe.

How Can We Teach Mindfulness to Teens?

As they get older, you can explain that we’re going to sit and notice our thoughts. We’ll see if they’re sounds in our mind or images, and we’ll teach them to observe without judgment. We can relate it to things that matter to them as they grow older, like sports.

As teenagers, we talk about relationships and how paying attention to someone is the kindest thing you can do for them. At that age, they can learn to sit in meditation, observe their breath, and sit for longer.

At all these ages, everything they do can be a meditation—going for a walk and fully feeling every step, being present, observing the light bouncing off the trees, noticing the different shades of green, and seeing everything they can observe that we normally don’t even think twice about because we’ve labeled it as “just a tree” and don’t feel the need to look closer.

The Art of Gratitude | Short Film

“With gratitude, everyday is a gift.”

What is the Easiest Way to Teach Mindfulness to Kids & Handling Their Tantrums?

Meditation is about raising awareness and understanding beyond the word label of everything so that we develop a higher intelligence about everything around us and a deeper appreciation.

We don’t get bored at the sight of a tree because we no longer see just the word “tree.” Instead, we notice the beautiful shades of green, the light bouncing off of it, the intricate patterns of veins in the leaves—there’s no end to the beauty in nature.

When a child is having a tantrum, you can ask them what it feels like and encourage them to explore it inquisitively because they are completely lost in their thoughts, totally absorbed.

But as soon as they tap into that higher awareness of their thoughts, the thoughts don’t have as much of a grip on them. You can ask them what their body feels like when they feel this way. Is their heart rate elevated? Do they feel warm or cold? Do they feel tension or pressure anywhere?

How Can Parents Use Mindfulness to Make Their Kids Open Up?

Getting a child to open up about what they’re feeling is a crucial step in helping them develop mindfulness and emotional intelligence. can usually calm a child down.

Meals are an incredible time for children to practice mindfulness, to feel taste, and describe every flavor, what the texture feels like. To be present with every bite, everything that we’re doing is an opportunity to become present, to become mindful, to become more aware, and to raise our ability to focus and concentrate.

So much of how we feel about something is not about the thing itself, but rather about the thoughts in our head about that thing. The more we come out of our heads and become present in the doing, the more we realize how enjoyable life is and how rich the present moment is—a wonderful opportunity to see the beauty in our lives.

Children as young as two or three can play these mindfulness games, observing bubbles or feeling their breath with their hand on their chest or on the hand of a parent. The more we integrate being present and mindful into their lives, the easier it will be for them throughout their lives. It allows them to develop self-discipline by applying conscientiousness to everything they do, fostering focus, patience, and kindness and compassion that arises from the awareness that life is beautiful.

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