Mindfulness has many benefits for children
Practicing mindfulness can help children regulate their emotions and enhance their observational skills.
The practice of mindfulness isn’t just for adults. Learning mindfulness techniques can give children many social, emotional and cognitive benefits. Over the last 20 years, hundreds of studies and research projects have been demonstrating the benefits of mindfulness for all age groups. Not only are individuals taking up the practice, but huge companies like Google, Target and General Mills are making the practice of mindfulness available to their employees to reduce stress and cultivate creativity. Schools across the United States are using mindfulness practices and curriculums to help students succeed. It only makes sense to begin teaching children at young ages these useful skills.
Teaching children mindfulness - the art of paying attention to, and focusing on body sensations and feelings as they happen - gives children the ability to adjust and deal with the stressors that they can often face every day. The practice of mindfulness actually increases the connectivity between the amygdala and several regions of the brain responsible for successful emotional regulation, the ability to think constructively and cope with feelings. When these connections are made, the qualities of kindness, patience, compassion, impulse control and attention spans are enhanced. This also includes the ability to recognize and soothe oneself from strong feelings. The result is more resilient children, less likely to feel overwhelmed by their feelings. Mindfulness also helps develop observational skills that lead to problem-solving and concentration skills, both very important for learning.
Mindfulness books for children include:
- Moody Cow Meditates by Kerry Lee MacLean. A wise grandfather teaches his grandson how to deal with a bad day. Instructions for making a Moody Cow Mind Jar are included in the back of the book.
- The Lemonade Hurricane: A story of mindfulness and meditation by Licia Morelli. A story of a big sister teaching her busy brother how to calm himself. The book includes instructions and illustrations for meditating.
- The Listening Walk by Paul Showers. The emphasis of this book is on mindful listening and as the title tells us, this listening takes place during a walk of a young girl, her father and their dog.
- Listening to my Body by Gabi Garcia. This book teaches children to understand the connection between sensations and feelings. Included are practice activities to reinforce the concepts.
- Master of Mindfulness: How to be your own superhero in times of stress by Laurie Grossman, Angelina Alverez and Mr. Musumeci’s 5th-grade class. The book, written by a class of 5th graders from East Oakland, California explains what mindfulness is and how it can be used through examples of real-life happenings. It also includes scripts for mindful listening, breathing and instructions for a body scan relaxation activity.
Mindfulness is a very popular topic and it may be difficult to know where to begin to find resources. If you’re interested in resources for children then these books are a great place to start. To find other mindfulness resources and programs visit Michigan State University Extension.