Mindfulness Exercises for Children:
Short, Simple Mindful Minutes
The Need for Mindfulness Exercises for Children
Right before the start of the school year, I was speaking with my friend Kerry, a brilliant, innovative educator, who was once my Cooperating Teacher while I was student teaching. Kerry was talking about the logistics of teaching thirty sixth graders in her classroom. She said she wished she had a Mindfulness practice for her students. However, it could only be a couple minutes long due to such limited time. Also, it would also need to be guided. Mindfulness would be ideal for students to practice upon entering the classroom after recess to help them calm down, and set them up for optimal focus and productivity for the upcoming lesson. So, Kerry gave me the idea to create Mindfulness exercises for children.
Mindfulness: Proactive Instead of Reactive
As I describe in my previous Mindfulness blogpost, in order to diminish my overwhelm as both a teacher and student, I choose a Mindfulness strategy. I view Mindfulness as a way to be proactive instead of reactive. Students can feel it when teachers are stressed, and the stress transfers to them. It’s a cycle. However, we can also radiate calm and positivity to others around us. When overwhelm has us functioning at an anxious, distracted level, it’s time to pause. Recalibrate. We’re able to better focus, retain information, and have willpower to sustain difficult tasks after we’ve taken a calming break.
The Science Behind Mindfulness
Benefits of Mindfulness include: decreased anxiety levels and lower heart rate and blood pressure; and increased self-control, focus, productivity, problem-solving, clarity, and immune function. Many studies even report that Mindfulness improves cognition. (Check out Forbes’ article, “6 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation”.) The Dalai Lama said, “If every eight year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”
Inspiration from Yogi Smoke Breaks
Several months before this conversation with Kerry, I had started recording Yogi Smoke Breaks, 7-10 minute affirmation-based, adaptive yoga Mindful breaks, which started as Facebook lives with a lot of positive feedback. So, the idea for Mindful Minutes was born when Kerry acknowledged the power of short, simple, guided wellness videos. Mindful Minutes are short, 1-5 minute videos made by us teachers for students of all ages (and ourselves) to take a break to be present. Each video shares a Mindfulness strategy we can use to evoke calm and focus. We created a list of topics we wanted to address with students on the spot.
Super Fun Wrist Break
The first person I enlisted was my colleague and friend Julie, a retired elementary teacher extraordinaire, who now teaches yoga and forest therapy. Julie eagerly several suggestions of fun Mindfulness practices she’s used with elementary classes repeatedly. For example, I found myself giggling during the minute of the wrist break. I wished a teacher had introduced me to such a fun break when I was a perfectionist child writing excessively in school: Mindful Minutes: Wrist Break
Settle the Breath
The majority of our breathing during the day is quite shallow. Often greater emphasis is put on inhaling than exhaling. Fortunately, we can change our brain chemistry when we slow down the breath, with the length of the inhale matching the length of the exhale. As a result, this makes us calmer and happier. This “Settle the Breath” exercise has the visual and movement of the hands to match the movement of the breath: Mindful Minutes: Settle the Breath
Square/ Box Breathing
“Box Breathing is the Navy SEAL Technique for Reducing Stress and Staying Calm”, says Curiosity.com. It’s called “Square Breathing” or “Box Breathing” because it has four equal breathing parts. It’s often recommended to start with four seconds for each part. Then, increase to what’s comfortable for you. 1) Inhale for four seconds. 2) Hold the breath for four seconds. 3) Exhale for four seconds. 4) Hold out the breath for four seconds. Try Mindful Minutes: Square/Box Breathing.
Dr. Brené Brown–a research professor, speaker, author, and authority on courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy– explains, “Practicing gratitude is how we acknowledge that there’s enough and that we’re enough.” Additionally, benefits of gratitude include engagement, connection, community, and academic skills, among many others (which I explain in my Gratitude blogpost). Therefore, gratitude is a frequent topic in Mindfulness. Try Mindful Minutes: I am Grateful!
These mindfulness exercises of a few minutes inspired several short mindfulness exercises with empowering affirmations. Visit my YouTube channel: Katarina Gleisberg, Mindful Teaching, for new mindfulness exercises and other teaching resources.
Do you use Mindfulness in your classroom? Do you have any suggestions for topics that can be solved with Mindfulness exercises for children?