Mindful Movement for Kids
The unprecedented changes to daily life brought on by COVID-19 has the potential to cause a lot of stress, depression, frustration and uncertainty to children. The disruption to their daily routine, isolation from their friends, frustration towards cancelled social events and holidays, and the energy they pick up from those around them.
It is so important during this time to dedicate time towards their self-care and ensuring this uncertain time has as little impact as possible.
Not only will it benefit them it will benefit us as parents. I am already having days like.....
What is mindful movement?
We have all heard about mindfulness, which is defined as a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. It can be defined in more simple terms for kids, mindfulness expert David Gelles defines it as “the simple practice of bringing a gentle, accepting attitude to the present moment” (n.d.).
Mindful movement for kids is a unique approach to mindfulness through activities that kids love. Positive Psychology.com states,
Research confirms that for children, mindfulness can:
Mitigate the effects of bullying (Zhou, Liu, Niu, Sun, & Fan, 2016);
Enhance focus in children with ADHD (Zhang et al., 2016);
Reduce attention problems (Crescentini, Capurso, Furlan, & Fabbro, 2016);
Improves mental health and wellbeing;
Improves social skills when well taught and practiced in children and adolescents.
Mindful movement relates closely with Qigong. The aim of Qigong is to promote the movement of Qi (energy) in the body; this is done by opening certain gates and stretching and twisting energy channels. A key point in Qigong practice is relaxation and deep breathing, both of which are prerequisites to allow Qi to flow. Qigong is translated as “life energy”.
Qigong for Kids
Why Use Qigong for Children?
Janice Tucker, founder of Space to Relax states the movements involved in Qigong exercises can help children to quickly improve their balance, flexibility, coordination, strength, agility, stamina and muscle tone.
The meditative aspects of Qigong can help children to reduce anxiety and worry, calm their minds, improve focus and concentration, release tension and improve mental clarity.
Two Qigong Methods for Children
The two simple methods below will be a good introduction for your children to Qigong.
Ask them to hold hands out in front of them at shoulder level with elbows straight. Make fists and then open and close quickly. Do this as fast as they can without losing tension. They often think this is good fun to try to move as fast as possible. This moves lots of Qi into the hands.
Next hold palms facing each other and close eyes. Move hands towards and away from each other slowly. Feel anything between the hands. Often they will feel some “resistance” or a “magnetic feeling” like the hands are being pulled together. They can also feel tingling, like their hands are swollen, heat and many other sensations. This is the Qi they are feeling in and between their hands. Children think this is magic!
Ask children to lie on the floor with eyes closed. Place one hand flat on their belly. Breathe in and out through the nose feeling the belly rise as they inhale in and sink as they exhale. Encourage them to focus on the hand that is on the belly and to feel it moving up towards the ceiling and down towards the floor. Ask them to observe how they feel after doing this for 5 minutes. They should be calmer, more relaxed and at ease.
5 Mindful Movements for Students – A video of Qi Gong movements to help kids bring more relationship to their bodies.
Positive Psychology is an amazing website full of article on 25 Mindfulness Activities for Children and Teens here. They have free PDF downloads and activities such as mindful posing, spidey-senses, and my favorite, the mindful jar. I did this activity with my nieces and nephews the other day and they loved it. It’s great for kids of all ages!
The Mindful Jar
This activity can teach children how strong emotions can take hold, and how to find peace when these strong emotions feel overwhelming.
First, get a clear jar (like a Mason jar) and fill it almost all the way with water. Next, add a big spoonful of glitter glue or glue and dry glitter to the jar. Put the lid back on the jar and shake it to make the glitter swirl.
Finally, use the following script or take inspiration from it to form your own mini-lesson:
“Imagine that the glitter is like your thoughts when you’re stressed, mad or upset. See how they whirl around and make it really hard to see clearly? That’s why it’s so easy to make silly decisions when you’re upset – because you’re not thinking clearly. Don’t worry this is normal and it happens in all of us (yep, grownups too).
[Now put the jar down in front of them.]
Now watch what happens when
you’re still for a couple of moments. Keep watching. See how the glitter starts to settle and the water clears? Your mind works the same way. When you’re calm for a little while, your thoughts start to settle and you start to see things much clearer. Deep breaths during this calming process can help us settle when we feel a lot of emotions” (Karen Young, 2017).
This exercise not only helps children learn about how their emotions can cloud their thoughts, but it also facilitates the practice of mindfulness while focusing on the swirling glitter in the jar.
Try having the kids focus on one emotion at a time, such as anger, and discuss how the shaken verse settling glitter is like that emotion.
They also have age specific mindfulness activities such as
3 Mindfulness Activities for Preschoolers and Toddlers
4 Tips to Teach Mindfulness in Kindergarten
5 Mindfulness Games for Kids
4 Mindfulness Worksheets for Kids (Incl. PDF)
4 Mindfulness Meditation Scripts for All Ages
5 Mindfulness Exercises and Activities for Teens
GoNoodle engages kids with movement and mindfulness videos created by child development experts.
Active Screen Time
GoNoodle gets kids up and moving to fun, engaging content and games. Every dance party, yoga session, mindfulness activity, and game session is an opportunity for kids to wake up their bodies, engage their minds, and be their best.
Videos and games are created by their team of child development experts working with choreographers, athletes, mindfulness experts, and developers who specialize in kid content.
Good Energy at Home
A free online resource for parents, caregivers, teachers, and kids. It offers free movement, yoga, and mindfulness videos, downloadable curricular activities, and off-screen home activities. These resources span a variety of abilities, interests, ages, and subjects.