Mindfulness can best be described as a state of active, open attention on the present. It is now being used increasingly as an integral part of social-emotional learning in classrooms across North America to help children become more self-aware, focused and observant of their internal and external landscape.
This exercise engages children with their current surroundings, shifting their mental energy away from distraction towards present time awareness. Doing this activates their ability to observe their experience instead of becoming overwhelmed by it. It reinforces the habit of reflection rather than reactivity, and can help them to fully accept the feelings they may be having—no matter how difficult.
- Have your child compare what it’s like when they’re stressed to what it must be like in the eye of a storm. They might be running late for school and can’t find their shoes, backpack or homework – that’s like being on the outside of the storm, getting tossed around. When we’re in the eye of the storm, all kinds of information just swirls around us but we remain mostly calm and focused. Explain that you’re going to teach them a way to remain in the eye of the storm, simply watching until it passes.
- Let your child know that you’re going to count down things they can notice using their five senses, starting with their eyes. Ask them to look around and name five different objects in the room. Have them describe what the objects look like: their shape, texture, color, and so on. Notice what their eye is most drawn to and let their natural curiosity lead the way to finding out more. (“What feeling comes up when you look at that? What do you notice most about it?”) With young children, you might want to take turns noticing and describing things, to help keep them engaged.
- Next, allow your child to reach into a bag containing items with various textures. Have them notice four things they can feel with their hands or body, and describe the experience to you. Ask them to focus on each item as if they are experiencing it for the first time.
- Next, have them identify three things they can hear. Experiment by listening with your eyes open and then closed. Notice how closed-eye listening can help quiet the mind, giving us more mental focus.
- Allow your child to explore several items you’ve brought that have a distinct scent. Ask them to share two things they can smell.
- Finish up with one thing they can taste. Invite them to close their eyes, chew mindfully, and taste fully.