If you’re reading this blog post, I’m guessing you’re at least a little bit interested in mindfulness for kids. Maybe you’re wanting to teach mindfulness to your kids. Or maybe you want to expand on your practice a little bit and add a few more tools to your arsenal. But I’m also guessing that your kids are pretty similar to mine, and sitting down to quietly meditate for 30 minutes (or even 10 minutes!) every day is not their idea of a good time. But do they like craft? Are you nodding right now? Awesome! What about mindfulness crafts?
You see, the great thing about mindfulness, is that is doesn’t have to involve quiet meditation at all. In fact, when teaching mindfulness to kids, we want to make it as fun as possible! Mindfulness for kids can be active, and noisy, and messy. And it works best when we incorporate all of their senses and really make it a whole body experience for them. Which is why craft is a great way to practice mindfulness with your kids.
For those of you not familiar with the concept of mindfulness, it is simply the practice of being aware of our internal and external environments, in order to be fully present in a moment. If mindfulness is still new to you, this blog post will help you understand the basics. Otherwise, read on for 5 super fun, super easy mindfulness crafts for your kids.
Focusing on the breath is a simple and quick way to introduce little ones to mindfulness. Deep breathing resets our nervous system and acts as a trigger to switch off the stress response. When we breathe slowly and deeply, we send a message to our brain that we are calm, and safe. And so our brain feels calm and safe. Pretty cool, huh?!
When you introduce breathing techniques to children, have them start by just noticing and exploring their breathing. Encourage curiosity. Get them to put a hand on their belly and feel the way it goes up and down as they breathe. Get them to do some star jumps and notice how their breathing changes, Talk to them about how our breathing also changes in response to our emotions – we breathe faster when we’re scared or anxious and slower and deeper when relaxed.
Little people do really well with breathing techniques when they have something to focus on and direct their breath towards. Using things like pinwheels, bubbles, or even dandelions is a super helpful (and fun!) way to help kids practice mindful breathing. But if you enjoy getting crafty, you can also make your own special breathing tool!
I saw these “breathing wands” while I was browsing on Pinterest a little while ago, which then lead me to discover Kristina Marcelli Sargent’s awesome blog! Like me, Kristina is also a mental health therapist working with kids and families, and her blog is full of creative activities for developing social and emotional skills in kids. You can see her original post about the breathing wands here.
Cut a small strip off the top of one toilet paper roll. Stick it to the top of the other in the shape of an arch, and then attach your ribbons to the arch and decorate your wand. When they breathe out, have the kids focus on moving the ribbons on their wand.
My son keeps his in his calm down box and uses it when he needs to manage big emotions. It works really well!! Check out this video to see Finn’s wand in action.
Mandalas have been used for meditation in Eastern Cultures for centuries. Circular in shape and usually containing geometric patterns, they are ritualistic symbols of the universe in both Hinduism and Buddhism.
Their often complex and intricate patterns also make them a great mindfulness tool. You can of course, create mandalas with just about anything, but we chose to use items from nature for ours. The natural elements made it a peaceful, grounding experience.
Simply have the children engage their senses as they work. Notice the weight of the stone in their hand. The smell of the leaf or flower. The texture of the shell. The colour of the feather. It’s a lovely way to connect with the earth and the environment around you in a mindful way.
Just gather your supplies together and get creative! Mandalas are typically symmetrical, with a repetitive pattern or sequence of some sort. But of course, this isn’t vital to this particular exercise! Encourage the children to suspend their judgment about whether their mandala looks good, or “right” and just focus on the process of creating and being aware as they work.
I first saw this fabulous idea from Ciaran over at Mindful Kids London , and I absolutely loved it! In fact, I loved it so much, I introduced the strategy to my own kids, who each painted one of the “traffic lights”.
Each of the stones and colours represents a different action and step in the process towards your child managing their emotions.
Red = STOP and notice what is happening in your body. Is your heart pounding, do you feel tense, are there butterflies in your tummy?
Orange = ACCEPT and acknowledge how you’re feeling and what you are thinking about. For example, my heart is pounding and I’m feeling nervous. I’m having the thought that others will laugh at me.
Green = ACTION. What’s the plan now? Which tools can you use to help you calm down or manage how you feel? Can you go to your calm down space? Do some mindful breathing? Talk to someone about how you’re feeling?
When children first start using this method, they’ll need some assistance from you. But eventually, they’ll be able to do it on their own, possibly even with a simple “traffic lights” prompt from you. Check out Ciaran’s original post here to see what she has to say about the strategy!
Simply paint each stone to match the colours of traffic lights, and then leave them somewhere easy for your child to spot so they can act as a visual cue when your child needs them!
A Mind Jar is a super fun way to try mindfulness with children. Ask your child to imagine that the jar and glitter are their thoughts inside their head. When they shake the jar the glitter swirls around, just like their thoughts when they are sad or angry. This makes it hard to see inside the jar -their emotions take over and they cannot think clearly.
But when they place the jar down and just watch it quietly, the glitter settles to the bottom and the water becomes clear again. The same thing happens to their thoughts when they calm their body and simply notice how they are feeling. The feeling passes, and they can think clearly again.
Fill the jar most of the way with water. Add a few spoonfuls of glitter glue, and some extra glitter if you’re using some. Place some hot glue on the inside of the lid and pop it back onto the bottle to prevent any leakage. And voila! One mind jar. These work very well in calm down spaces.
Colouring is not inherently mindful, but we can certainly do it mindfully if we choose to! As with any mindfulness activity, mindful colouring involves focusing only on the here and now, and what you are doing while you complete it. So when we are colouring, we are taking note of the way the pencil moves on the paper. Perhaps the smell of the pencil or the paper. The feel of the pencil in our hand, the way our hand makes contact with the paper as we move it along.
To help children complete this activity, encourage them to talk about what they’re doing. We are not making any judgements about the quality of the colouring. We are just focusing on the activity itself. Encourage them to simply say out loud what it is they are doing eg “I am colouring the grass green. I am picking up my blue pencil and colouring in the sky. I am using yellow to colour in the sun.” This keeps them focused only on the task.
They will inevitably start to make judgements about their colouring, things like, “Oh no, I’ve gone outside the lines”, or “this colouring is not my best work, it’s messy”. If this happens, we simply encourage them to continue describing what they are doing. If their mind wanders and they start to think of other things, again, we just gently remind them to focus on the action of colouring and say out loud what they are doing. As they get used to this process, they will be able to do this in their heads rather than out loud.
So that’s it – our 5 favourite mindfulness crafts for kids! I hope you have lots of fun getting creative and completing these activities with your kids. If you try any of these mindfulness crafts, I’d love for you to share a pic of your creations over on my Instagram or Facebook page! And if you’d like even more mindfulness activities and games to play with your children, be sure to check out my Mindfulness Activity Book for Kids here.