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March 14, 2022

Spring Into Mindfulness!

Let’s face it – COVID has been here longer than most of us expected, and all of our daily lives have been interrupted. Our new normal means that the way we interact with each other has changed, and for children and adolescents, feelings of uncertainty and anxiety may be amplified. While we would love to, the reality is, we cannot remove these stressors – but we can enforce resiliency. Research has shown that individuals with higher mindfulness have greater resilience. Mindfulness has been demonstrated to improve mental health and wellbeing, enhance focus with children with ADHD, improve social skills, reduce attention problems, lower stress and anxiety, improve self-control, and has relation to better academic performance. There are countless mindfulness activities that can be fun and engaging for all ages. Here are a few ideas:

Mindful Posing – One simple way to introduce children to mindfulness is through body poses. Tell them to try one of the following poses:

  • The Superman: standing with feet just wider than the hips, fists clenched, arms reached out to the sky, stretching body as tall as possible
  • The Wonder Woman: standing tall with legs wider than hip-width apart and hands or fists places on the hips

Ask the kids how they feel after a few rounds of trying either of these poses. This is great to incorporate into OT and PT, as well.

Safari – Tell participants 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. They’ll need to focus on their senses to find them. A similar exercise for older children/adolescents and adults is the “mindfulness walk”. You may wish to provide them with a pencil and paper to write things they notice. This exercise elicits a state of awareness and grounding in the present. To complete the exercise inside, like an office setting, set a different goal for participants to pay attention to (e.g., how many office doors are open in the hallway, how many computers they see, etc.)

Mystery Bag – Have an assortment of various items at hand (but hidden from participants) like toys, a pencil, slime, an envelope, etc., whatever you can find within reason. Have one participant close their eyes and select one of the items to put in a bag. The rest of the participants can see the item, but make sure the participant reaching into the mystery bag cannot. Direct this participant to describe what they feel. Tell them to rely on their senses to attempt to figure out what they have selected.

Finish the Beat – For a group, instruct participants to sit in a circle. Essentially, one participant starts a “beat”, either by clapping their hands or stomping their feet. Instruct the first participant to keep their beat going. One by one, participants listen to the beat and add in their own segment. By the end, you should have a rhythm produced by all participants. After, have them reflect on what was hard or easy about it. Was it hard to focus on their own beat while listening to everyone else’s? How did they decide which beat to put in?

Mindful Eating – Give participants a small snack- a raisin is most common, but a cracker, orange slice, or almost anything else can do the trick. You may follow the prompts below:

  • Start by looking at what you are planning to eat. What does it look like?
  • Now, smell the food. What do you notice?
  • What does it feel like in your hand?
  • Now, put it in your mouth- keep it on your tongue, but don’t chew it yet. Do you taste anything yet?
  • Start chewing, but very slowly, only one bite at a time. Notice how the taste changes as you chew.
  • Try to notice when you swallow, see how far you can feel the food into your body.

This is a great activity for speech therapists as well, particularly those targeting picky eating and specific mouth movements (you can adapt the exercise, such as, “put your tongue on the top of the raisin, push the raisin to the front of your mouth, etc.).

For more great ideas, visit:

http://positivepsychology.com/mindfulness-for-children-kids-activities

http://www.mentalup.co/blog/mindfulness-activities-for-teens

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