What most of us wish for our children is a childhood full of curiosity, discovery and wonder. Of fun, friendships and play. Yet, the world can be an overwhelming place for a child and it’s up to us, as parents, to help them process it. Practising mindfulness and gratitude can help children to slow down and take time to understand all those new emotions.
Nobody can expect children to sit still and meditate, it’s hard enough for most adults, but there are some wonderful ways to harness focus using calming mindful techniques.
Here are a few of my tried and tested calming activities for children:
Drawing and Doodling
It’s not only artists who can use art to express themselves. We are all able to do it and it doesn’t matter if the finished work is ‘good’, only that it’s helped us focus on the activity. When we dedicate our minds to one act completely we tap into an almost meditative state which has a calming and stress releasing effect. This works particularly well for children because, with limited frames of reference, it can be more challenging for them to articulate their feelings.
All you need is a piece of paper and some pencils. The important thing is not to provide too much structure but to allow your child to draw freely. However, the decision of what to draw can be a barrier in getting to the benefits of the activity. So, if this is a challenge then a doodle book may be a good solution.
Our Doodle Book is a children’s activity book full of positive drawing and colouring exercises, designed to calm and promote gratitude.
Affirmations have been used for centuries to help us believe in ourselves and realign our mindset. Many highly successful people claim to owe a debt of gratitude to affirmation practises. For children, a simple stripped down version of affirmations can be used to fuel positivity and gratitude.
Why not create a positivity jar with your child? Simply decorate an old coffee or mason jar and cut up post-it note size squares of coloured card. On each card write a message that expresses optimism, is a reminder of something to be grateful for, or an uplifting thought or fact. This can be a wonderful activity to do with your child to start a discussion about the things that make us happy and what we have to be grateful for. Fold each card with a message within and fill up the jar with them. Your child can pick out a message a day, perhaps in the morning to help start the day with optimism, or you may resolve to use the jar at times when your child needs an emotional pick-up.
If the idea of coming up with your own messages fills you with dread then you’re not the only one, which is our Mind Cards are so popular. A beautiful box of decorated cards, each with a positive message. These cards are designed to help children to keep calm, focus on the present and process their feelings.
Five Finger Breathing
This is a very simple technique that helps children who are feeling overwhelmed or anxious to calm down by focusing on their breath and movement.
For this technique to be effective when most needed, it’s a good idea to practise this calming activity every now and then. Simply stretch out one hand and, with the pointed finger of your other hand, trace slowly up and down around each finger from your thumb to your little finger and back again. As you move upwards, breathe in through your nose, and as you move downwards, breathe out through your mouth. Trace the outline of your hand at least once, more if necessary. Teaching your child this exercise will help them to focus on their breathing, restoring a rhythm that is fluid, mindful and calming. Slowing our breathing also slows our heart rate, thereby switching off stress responses.
Many parents would agree that sometimes distraction is the best method of avoiding difficult situations. Generally, and it’s always difficult to generalise when it comes to kids, children have fairly short attention spans. As frustrating as this can be it can also be a godsend. Especially when you sense your child might be overstimulated or getting upset. A wonderful way to divert their focus is to play what I call the Rainbow Walk game.
This works best outdoors. Simply ask your child to look around them and spot objects that match each colour of the rainbow - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet and indigo. This brings them back to the present and is a quick and fun calming activity for children.
Nature Treasure Hunt
Nature has some amazing calming effects. Being in the fresh air helps us to breathe deeper and detoxify our lungs. Sunshine is not only full of vitamin D but also promotes serotonin release. Plus, with our increasing reliance on digital screens, it’s important to stretch not just the muscles, but also our eyesight. Yes, spending time in nature is undoubtedly good for health. So it’s no surprise that some of the best calming activities for children take place outdoors.
A Nature Treasure Hunt encourages children to really immerse themselves in their surroundings. Download our Nature Treasure Hunt or create your own and head out for a stroll to seek out nature's creations on our doorstep.
Alternatively, download the Geocaching App and join the worldwide adventure to seek out the geocaches. This one will get you walking and exploring out in nature, but it also connects you to complete strangers through a shared adventure. Read more about geocaching here
We all know it’s important to instil gratitude in our children. Yet, gratitude isn’t really about teaching children to say thank you, even if they don’t mean it, and guilt-tripping them into finishing dinner by telling them there are starving children in the world. Real gratitude is about living in the present and genuinely feeling grateful without the condition of comparing ourselves with others.
Gratitude has enormous benefits for children, In fact, the Journal of Happiness Studies reported in 2019 that gratitude is linked to happiness in children by age five. Showing kindness also has a butterfly effect. Even if it’s just smiling at a stranger. You never know what difference a little kindness might make to someone’s day. Plus, it makes you feel good too.
So show your children the power of kindness. Ask them what small act of kindness they can carry out each week, or each day even. It could be as simple as holding the door for someone at the shop or making a card for a neighbour. Practising gratitude through acts of kindness can encourage friendships, increase confidence and boost positivity. All things that are valuable components of happiness in children.
Crafting For Calm
Crafting is another calming activity for children that helps to bring them into the present. Focusing on one activity has a detoxifying effect on the mind and the ability to tune in on a task is a valuable skill to learn in childhood.
There are plenty of simple, eco-friendly, minimum fuss crafting ideas online. Use items from your recycling bin or utilise what’s around you.
These funky cactus pots are just painted stones:
Or, you could order an eco-friendly craft kit, such as our Create A Glider Kit or our Create A Dragonfly Kit
If you’re looking for calming activities for children that can also alleviate anxieties, then making worry dolls which your child can then use to communicate their worries to, could be a perfect idea.
Calming Yoga For Kids
Yoga has such a positive effect on children that it’s even being introduced in schools. Combining movement with breathwork, yoga is a practice that teaches us to live in the present and releases stress and tension.
Yoga classes for children are one area that the digital world can really assist with, since ‘yoga on demand’ is a big advantage. There are some great yoga classes for children on YouTube, but a real favourite is Cosmic Kids , which incorporates popular children’s stories and film themes.
Clam Brain , available on Sky or to stream from NowTV, is a great programme for teaching children some mindfulness basics, calming techniques and a bit of yoga too.
But First, Your Oxygen Mask
So, are you fitting your oxygen mask before helping others?
It’s a wonderful but fairly busy world that children are having to navigate. Accumulating methods and techniques to manage that, and to harness the most happiness possible from life, is going to be important. Yet it’s far harder to teach this if you are not practising self-care and finding ways to stay calm in your own storm. So, our final tip for calming activities for children is to make time to implement your own stress-reducing practices too.