It’s been almost 6 years since I first started facilitating mindfulness for children. I created a Mindfulness for Kids Group in early 2015 when my colleagues wanted to share mindfulness with their children. I volunteered to guide them, and slowly we formed a joyful group of kids and adults from France, India, Canada, the Philippines, the Netherlands, the United States and Vietnam. We have had many joyful moments together cultivating peace and happiness through some mindfulness activities.
What are some of the favourite activities for our group? Singing songs, creating our own songs, moving the body when paying attention to breathing, lying down while focussing on breathing, sitting up while paying attention to all the sounds around us, and mindful eating. In one of the recent sessions just after Halloween, I also brought along some pumpkin seeds and candies for mindful eating. We had such a wonderful time!
Following is a description of some of these activities in detail.
I enjoy using mindful songs to introduce mindfulness to children in a simple yet fun manner. There are two songs that we sing most often in our group. The first one is called “Breathing in, breathing out” and the second one is called “We are the leaves of one tree” by Plum Village.
The lyrics of these songs have inspired me to create many meaningful and interesting exercises for the children.
“Breathing in, breathing outBreathing in, breathing outI am blooming as a flowerI am fresh as a dewI am solid as a mountainI am firm as the EarthI am free.
Breathing in, breathing outBreathing in, breathing outI am water reflectingWhat is real, what is trueAnd I feel there is space Deep inside of meI am freeI am freeI am free.”
We usually sing this song a few times and with some hand movements as a warm up activity. After that, I give the children some flowers and we practice observing the flowers and breathing in and out, following the breathing gatha:
“Breathing in, I see myself as a flower.Breathing out, I feel fresh.Breathing in, I smell a flower. Breathing out, I smile.”
After that I invite the children to observe the flowers carefully and arrange them in any shape that they like. Each child comes up with a different shape. When I ask the children about the meaning of this activity, some of them give such a wonderful answer: “Each of us is beautiful in our own way and we also have our own perspectives. It’s important to recognise our own goodness and respect others’ differences.”
Many children also enjoy singing the song “We are the leaves of our trees”
“We are the leaves of one treeWe are the leaves of one treeThe time has come for all to live as oneWe are the leaves of one tree.
We are the waves of one seaWe are the waves of one seaThe time has come for all to live as oneWe are the waves of one sea.
We are the stars of one skyWe are the stars of one skyThe time has come for all to live as oneWe are the stars of one sky.”
This song usually comes with some hand movements, so we can all practice singing, following our breathing and moving our hands mindfully. After singing the song a few times, I invite the students to sit quietly, put their hands on their hearts and think of some images that evoke a sense of harmony in them. After that, they create new lyrics for this same song. Many children come up with excellent verses such as:
“We are the flowers of one garden.””We are the teachers of one school.””We are the children of one family.””We are the birds of one tree.””We are the fish of one school.””We are the rays of one Sun.””We are the planets of one Space.”
Mindfulness of sounds
Another activity that helps cultivate mindful listening is mindfulness of sounds. I usually invite the students to stand still, put their hands on their hearts and listen to the sound of a mindfulness bell, and count their breaths until the sound fades away. When they no longer hear any sound of the bell, they raise their fingers with the equivalence of the number of breaths they take. After that, the children close their eyes and listen to all the sounds they can hear around them within 10 breaths. Many students share that they can hear the sounds of birds, the wind, the leaves, people talking, footsteps, traffic, and even sounds they don’t usually pay attention to such as their own breathing and their friends’ breathing!
I usually bring to class many types of food for the children to practice mindful eating, such as tangerine, longan, lychee, cookies, and chocolate. In one of the recent sessions I brought them some pumpkin seeds and candies, as it was around Halloween time. We first started by sitting up right and being in touch with our breaths in the belly. After that each child was given a pumpkin seed in their hands. With their eyes closed, the children needed to feel the seed, smell it, listen to it, and guess what seed it was. Once they got the correct answer, the children started peeling the seed slowly and gently and observing the changes in the smell, the shape and the colour of the seed without breaking it apart. Once they finished peeling the seed, they could choose to put it into their mouth (if they like to try) and chew it very well. After that they shared about their experiences of tasting the seed and also the journey of the seed from a tiny seed in the soil to a roasted seed in their hand today. Many students expressed their gratitude to the soil, the rain, the sun, the farmers, etc. for helping them enjoy the seed today.