Inside: Find seven simple, effective classroom mindfulness exercises to use with your students.
Interest in mindfulness in schools has certainly increased in recent years, and for good reason. With children being exposed to greater numbers of environmental stressors, it is important that they develop positive coping skills as they learn to navigate the busy social landscape of modern day life, and accompany them into adulthood.
Not only do mindfulness exercises help students learn to deal with difficult situations in the moment, they also have the potential to benefit them for years to come, helping them learn to cope as adults. Which is precisely why mindfulness has become so popular.
Mindfulness can be practiced in the classroom with all students, or one-on-one with individual students. And mindfulness exercises don’t have to take much time at all, as you will see, most of the ideas listed here can be completed in less than 5 minutes.
7 Classroom Mindfulness Exercises for Children
1. Keep Mindfulness Journals
Invite everyone to find a comfortable spot to sit and write about how they are feeling at that exact moment.
If students struggle to write about how they are feeling, suggest they focus on what they can hear, see, and smell, focusing their attention on each of the five senses individually and recording their thoughts for each. You might suggest the student list 5 items they can see, 4 ways their body feels right now (for example, the floor feels hard or the air conditioning feels cool on my skin), 3 sounds they hear, 2 things they can smell and 1 taste.
2. Feel Your Heartbeat
Invite students to feel their heartbeat by either placing their hands on their chest over their heart, or placing the pointer and middle fingers of one hand over the underside of the opposite wrist. They should focus on feeling their heartbeat for a moment, whilst breathing slowly in and out.
Then invite students to stand to do 10-20 jumping jacks to raise their heart rate. Once they sit back down, students can place their hands over their heart or fingers on their wrist and resume breathing slowly. They should remain this way and notice their heart rate slowing back down to its original pace.
3. Practice Breathing a Rainbow
Students close their eyes and focus on breathing slowly in and out. As they breathe, invite students to think about their favourite colour. Then suggest they focus their attention on imagining or visualising items in the world that are that color to help keep them in a calm and mindful mood. This practice should take 3-5 minutes, depending upon the age of students.
Invite two or three willing students to share their colour and some of the items that came to mind at the conclusion of the exercise.
4. Make a Gratitude List
Invite students to make a list of ten things that they are grateful for. Students can do this orally with a partner, or make a written record. This is a great exercise to repeat monthly, or even weekly.
5. Can You Hear Me Now?
Invite students to close their eyes and listen closely as you ring a bell (meditation chimes or bowls like these are great for this, or you can try a rain stick). Instruct students to listen closely and raise their hands once they can no longer hear the ringing/raining sound.
This makes a great transition exercise to focus attention at the beginning of a lesson.
6. Take 5 Breathing
When emotions run high, breathing deeply helps to reduce anxiety, and practising deep breathing when students are calm can help them to master this technique before the need to apply it arises. There are many ways to engage children to breathe deeply.
One simple and highly portable breathing technique suitable for children is Take 5 Breathing demonstrated in the video below.
Once they have mastered Take 5 Breathing, be sure to check out the rest of our collection of Breathing Exercises for Kids (this collection includes a free, printable set of cards outlining each exercise).
7. The Mindful Close
Reflection is so important and a simple reflection exercise is something we should all make time to do with students each day.
At the end of the day, give students two minutes to close their eyes and reflect upon one new concept they have learned over the course of the lesson or day. If time permits, they can share what they learned.
Check out our brand new Coping Skills for Kids Cards and Poster.
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