Fun activities and mindful breathing exercises for kids
Empower your kids with these simple activities to keep them occupied, relaxed and grounded in what they can control.
Cathy Whitt knows first-hand the power of mindful movement. As part of her work as a Community Wellness Specialist for Holy Cross Hospital’s Growing Healthy Kids program in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, she brings mindful movement and meditation programs to lower income elementary schools.
More recently, her training in mindfulness and as a STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor, ZEN•GA® Qualified Instructor and Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT 200), has become even more important at home.
“My son and his girlfriend work at a big grocery store chain. I’ve noticed that [since the outbreak of COVID-19] their stress levels are much higher than normal. They’re usually really calm people, but this has changed things. They’re dealing with crowd control, anxious and angry shoppers who yell at them when they’re out of stock,” she says.
To counter the stress they experience during the day, in the evenings, they’ve been doing family yoga sessions. “My son was never really into mindfulness or mindful movement before, he thought it was kind of weird, but now he asks me, ‘Can we do yoga tonight?’”
For those who are new to mindfulness, like Cathy’s son, it’s best to ease them into it.
3 mindful breathing exercises for kids (and for everyone)
1. Ocean breath
Cover your ears with your hands. Count in for four counts, pause, and then breathe out for four counts. With your hands over your ears, your breath may remind you of the ocean or the wind, calming you down.
2. Counting breaths during transitions or while washing hands
Little kids get mindfulness, Cathy says. Try getting them to count their breaths, maybe when they first wake-up, during transitions between activities or when they’re washing their hands. Ask them how many deep breaths they took or when they want to play the mindfulness game. “Give them ownership over this experience, empower them and let it be their idea,” she says.
3. Soft belly exercise
If counting doesn’t work, try something tactile. This connects the mind to the body. Put your hands on your belly and feel it moving in and out. As you inhale, say ‘soft’ and as you exhale, say ‘belly’. This grounds you in the moment.
4 fun and mindful activities to do with the kids at home
While technology delivers that much-needed sense of connection during this time of physical distancing, try to take a break from your devices. Go do something offline. Read a book or comic, write in a journal, draw the things around you, paint rocks or do other crafting activities, play board games or cards, run around the house, play music and dance or sing.
- Go outside
Take a fresh air break free from technology. Walk around your neighborhood or in your backyard if you can. Play I Spy, try to notice things you’ve never noticed before, observe the birds and flowers and try to identify them once you get home. Describe your walk when you get home. What do you remember, what did you notice?
- Grow something
You can propagate herbs from the grocery store or other vegetable scraps, like avocado pits and sweet potatoes by sticking toothpicks in them to prop them halfway out of a cup of water. It’s fulfilling to watch something sprout roots, and it’s also fun to do something with your hands, like planting in a pot of soil or in the backyard.
- Gratefulness game
Check in with your kids and family members about what they’re thankful for. It’s a good reminder of the many positive things happening in the world.
“Mindfulness grounds you and takes that stress level down so you don’t feel like you have to do everything immediately; it’s okay to slow down, it’s okay to take a minute to breathe and calm yourself down,” Cathy says.
“The benefits of mindfulness are better sleep, helping your digestion and managing your stress levels so you’re not in a constant state of fight-or-flight. All of those things are going to boost your immune system, and by taking deep breaths, you’re going to strengthen your lungs, two things we really need right now.”