Benefits of Mindfulness for Kids
Mindfulness exercises involve focusing on the here and now, instead of challenging our energy and worrying about mistakes of the past or uncertainties of the future.
What are Benefits of Mindfulness for Children?
Today’s youth has a much more sheltered and solitary life than those of our parents or grandparents. Safety concerns prevent parents from allowing their kids to spend time outside without supervision, which practically every single generation before was able to enjoy. An article on whitedot.org stated that “the fundamental nature of American childhood has changed in a single generation. The unstructured outdoor childhood - days of pick-up baseball games, treehouses and ‘be home for dinner’ - has all but vanished.”
Instead, children are overscheduled with activities, from school to music classes, sports leagues, language lessons, etc. To see other kids outside of daycare, preschool or school, parents have to schedule play dates, where children are allowed to play with one another in someone’s house, indoor playground or park for a specific amount of time with parents watching them.
Many children don’t spend time outdoors, at least not the way children of yesteryear were allowed to. Whitedog.org cites that bike riding has become 31 percent less popular in the last 21 years (National Sporting Goods Association and American Sports Data.) Children are six times more likely to play video games than ride bikes (Kaiser Family Foundation and the CDC), and only 6 percent of American kids play baseball on their own on a given day (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although not many people would argue with the need to keep our children safe and secure, especially in today’s day and age, this lack of freedom to spend time outside with friends unsupervised, using their imagination and practicing free play, is causing children to lack a connection with others and the world in general. Kids are not able to concentrate or entertain themselves; the most common complaint today is “I’m bored.” Since they are overstimulated by television, the Internet and video games, children are losing their ability to be entertained by other, simpler things. As a result, learning disabilities and behavioral disorders, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are on the rise.
Another problem is that since parents are the ones choosing playdates, kids are surrounded by others of similar race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status, failing to learn and appreciate diversity. This problem leads to a lack of empathy, understanding and acceptance of others, and ability to connect with people different from them.
What is the answer to this growing problem? In a word - mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
It originated as part of the Buddhist religion but became a secular practice known all over the world with time. Practicing mindfulness involves being aware of the given moment, and accepting our mental processes (emotions, thoughts, reactions, feelings) and bodily sensations without classifying them as right or wrong or judging them. Mindfulness exercises involve focusing on the here and now, instead of challenging our energy and worrying about mistakes of the past or uncertainties of the future.
Mindfulness techniques require us to concentrate on the present, and become aware of how and what we feel at the given time. Mindfulness teaches that the past is gone, and the future hasn’t occurred yet, which provides us with the “purpose of staying with our experience.”
By letting go of worries and concentrating on the here and now, we let go of anger, frustration, irritation annoyance and worries, and attempt to reach “‘equanimity’ — stillness and balance of mind,” according to wildmind.org.
Why should we teach our kids mindfulness?
There are amazing benefits of mindfulness for children, such as:
- Improved concentration
- Stress reduction
- Increased empathy
- Better mood
- Happier life
- Improved sleep
- More compassion
- Better self-awareness
- Decreased depression and anxiety
- Overall sense of well-being
- A deeper connection to nature
- Better understanding of energy
- Clearer thinking
- Loving kindness
- Seeing beauty in others
What are Tips on How to Practice Mindfulness for Children?
Start Simply - What is mindfulness in plain English? It is a hard subject for most adults to understand fully, so don’t try to confuse and overwhelm your kids. Start simply, by asking your little ones to practice meditation by focusing on what they are feeling and thinking about at the moment. How fast are they breathing? What emotions do they feel? What are thoughts going through their minds?
Incorporate Daily Activities - When having a family meal, encourage your kids to be present in that moment instead of scarfing down their dinner. Ask them to smell and really taste their food so that they can describe the flavors and aromas. By slowing down and taking the time to enjoy their meals, children will learn how to slow down and concentrate better.
Use Toys - Huffington Post recommends using toys that a child can place on their stomach while lying down. To see Meddy Teddy featured in the Huff Post click here. As they breathe in and out, they can concentrate on how the toy moves up and down. Instead of using any old toy, give your little one the gift of an actual mindfulness, meditation and yoga teddy bear, Meddy Teddy. This plush, bendable and washable teddy bear helps parents broach the subject of the importance of mindfulness, and how it can play a role in the child’s life. Plus, this small bear has a big message - he shares his positive thoughts on his very own Instagram account.