Why mindful activities?
Mindfulness has been shown to contribute directly to the development of cognitive and performance skills in the young. When children and young people learn to be more ‘present’ and less anxious, they often find they can pay attention better and improve the quality of their performance, in the classroom, on the sports field, and in the performing arts for example. They often become more focused, more able to approach situations from a fresh perspective, use existing knowledge more effectively, and pay attention more.
Here are 15 great activities to encourage a break from screen time.
- Go for a bike ride: When cycling you become more aware of your senses, bike riding is not only good for you and your child but it is also a fun activity. You can plan a route before you leave home, maybe pack a picnic. This can give you a great chance to be in nature also and ground yourself. Take in all the different sights and ask your child questions. Such as what are all the different noises you can hear? Birds singing, wind brushing through the trees, children laughing and so fourth. You could bring a notepad and some colouring pens and take time to have you and your child draw everything around you. This also make’s a great keepsake for future scrapbooks!
- Go to a park: Getting kids outside and having unstructured play promotes a wide range of skills. In a playground not everyone gets to go down the slide first. Going to a playground with your kids is not just about running around and being active, but it’s also about learning social skills, executive functions and behavioural skills as well through play.
- Bell ringing: Ring a bell and ask the kids to listen closely to the vibration of the ringing sound. Tell them to remain silent and raise their hands when they no longer hear the sound of the bell. Then tell them to remain silent for one minute and pay close attention to the other sounds they hear once the ringing has stopped. After, go around in a circle and ask the kids to tell you every sound they noticed during that minute. This exercise is not only fun and gets the kids excited about sharing their experiences with others, but really helps them connect to the present moment and the sensitivity of their perceptions.
- Go bird watching: Plan a little trip to your local park and before you set off research and keep note of what local bird life is around your area. Get a notepad and pen and set off on a journey with your little ones searching for the birds on your list.
- Planting flowers: Not just planting flowers but gardening in a whole is a very mindful activity. Gardening is a healthy, fun activity for children, Children develop new skills and learn about science and nature from growing their own food.
- Create a time capsule: I used to love doing this as a child, I would grab a few items that represented me the most, something of my favourite colour, cut outs of magazine’s, picture’s and I would put this all in an old shoe box and write a letter to the future, then I would have fun burying somewhere in my grandmother’s farm! You could have your child make there capsule and you could plan a day out going for a walk or a hike finding the perfect (and legal) spot to bury this capsule. I Have seen representations of this in movies where nostalgic people have gone back ten years later and dug up there box with there present family and friends.
- Play breathing buddies: Hand out a stuffed animal to each child (or another small object). If room allows, have the children lie down on the floor and place the stuffed animals on their bellies. Tell them to breathe in silence for one minute and notice how their Breathing Buddy moves up and down, and any other sensations that they notice. Tell them to imagine that the thoughts that come into their minds turn into bubbles and float away.
- Treasure hunt: Put together your own personalised treasure hunt. This also work’s as a great part game. Great way to get the children having fun and forget all about the TV!
- Superhero meditation: While you’re on the subject of superheroes, there is a fun and easy way to introduce your kids to paying attention to the present.Instruct your kids to turn on their “Spidey senses”, the super-focused senses of smell, sight, hearing, taste, and touch that Spider man uses to keep tabs on the world around him. This will encourage them to pause and focus their attention on the present, opening their awareness to the information their senses bring in.
- Gratitude jar: Get an empty jam jar and get your child/children to write down everything they are grateful for in the last 24 hours. Then shake it about and take turns to pick each one out and read it out loud. This is a great way of expressing gratitude and becoming a lot more present. It is also a great activity to help bring family together.
- Heartbeat exercise: Have the kids jump up and down in place for one minute. Then have them sit back down and place their hands on their hearts. Tell them to close their eyes and feel their heartbeats, their breath, and see what else they notice about their bodies.
- Colouring: Colouring is one of the most mindful activities a child can do. Not just for kid’s but this is great for mums who need to wind down at the end of the day! If you do not have colouring pens and a colouring pad make the most of what you have. There is nothing wrong grabbing a scrap bit of paper and a pencil and sketching whatever flows out of your mind.
- Safari: The Safari exercise is another fun way to help kids learn mindfulness. This activity turns an average, everyday walk outside into an exciting new adventure.Tell your kids that you will be going on a safari, and their goal is to notice as many birds, bugs, creepy-crawlies, and any other animals as they can.
- Mini golf: Mini golf can be a great family day out, it is also very mindful!
- Vision Board: Visualisation is one of the most powerful mind exercises you can do and the power of a child’s imagination is amazing. Adult’s often have vision board’s but there is no reason a child can’t either. Creating a sacred space that displays what you want actually does bring it to life. What we focus on expands. When you create a vision board and place it in a space where you see it often, you essentially end up doing short visualisation exercises throughout the day. So grab some card and some magazines and print out whatever your child want’s and love’s and have them stick everything that they want in the future on that card. Then everyday have your child look at it before bed or whenever is convenient and every week take time for your child to add, to there vision board.
Literary specialist Sue Palmer is a former headteacher and author of Toxic Childhood: How Modern Life Is Damaging Our Children. She says: ‘Children today get far less chance to experience what I call real play.
‘A recent survey by online retailer Ao.com revealed children spending on average 17 hours a week in front of a screen, almost double the time spent playing outside.
‘This is deeply concerning. Children need to experience the real, live world to understand it – not see it on a screen.
‘We know from research that real play develops initiative, problem-solving skills and many other positive traits, such as a can-do attitude, perseverance and emotional resilience. It’s vital for social skills, too.
‘By playing together, youngsters learn to get along with other people. They discover how others’ minds work, developing empathy.
‘The first seven years of a child’s life are particularly vital to their learning and development. For example, by this age they must master physical co-ordination of large and small movements, such as focusing their eyes in different positions.
‘The rate of myopia, or short-sightedness, among young people in the UK has doubled in the past 50 years, and this has been linked to too much screen time. I believe this is a tragedy we must address urgently.’