How can we help children to feel calmer?
Being a primary school pupil in 2018 is without a doubt an exciting stage to be at with more opportunities than ever to try new subjects and learn in innovative ways. However, with a jam-packed academic curriculum, our children are at risk of experiencing anxiety in their daily lives.
Government funding in 2017 has seen more than 200 schools in the UK introduce mindfulness into their curriculum to tackle the rise in mental health issues seen in young children. With over 5000 teachers nationwide now trained in teaching mindfulness, it’s fantastic to see that the awareness of mental wellbeing is firmly in the forefront of our minds.
However, for those without funding for additional training or for teachers who are searching for new ideas to implement in their classes, here are ten simple exercises in mindfulness for children. It’s all too apparent that practising mindfulness is just as important for teachers, so to reduce any additional workload, all of these activities involve zero preparation time.
10 Mindfulness Tips
As simple as it sounds, asking children to take the time to focus on nothing but their breathing will help to clear their mind. Try experimenting with breaths (breathe in for 2, exhale for 4) to allow children to find their own natural rhythm.
2. Muscle relaxation
When tensions are running high, ask your children to lie on the floor and starting from their toes, tense their muscles for 5 seconds – squeezing as tightly as they can – before releasing again. Continue all the way up the body, even scrunching their facial muscles to relieve any tension from the day.
3. Sensing the senses!
Encourage your children to tap into their senses by pausing for a moment and noticing exactly what they can see, hear and smell in that particular moment. Being in the present can help to alleviate worries that children may have had about previous lessons.
4. Noticing emotions
Mindfulness teaches children that it’s ok not to be ok. Recognising the emotion that they are experiencing is the most important thing, as well as understanding that this emotion will fade over time.
5. Time on your hands
For those needing some breathing space, a simple yet effective exercise is asking children to hold out their hand in a high five pose, then as slowly as they can, trace round each finger with their other hand. Taking the attention away from what has made them feel frustrated or upset, even if only for a matter of seconds, might be all it takes for them to calm down.
6. Strike a pose
When thinking of mindfulness, yoga is the first exercise that springs to most peoples’ minds. Complicated downward dogs may be attempted, but a simple crossed legged position or standing tall with arms stretched out wide can help children to refocus.
Have your pupils job on the spot for 30 seconds to release some much needed endorphins, then ask them to put their hands on their heart, noticing the speed of the beats. This simple exercise is effective in improving children’s focus.
8. Practise gratitude
When a day or a lesson seems to have been a complete disaster for a pupil, take the time to have a quick circle time, asking the children to share one positive thing about their day. Hearing what others are grateful for will foster an environment of positivity.
9. Youtube meditation
There are so many fantastic guided meditation channels on Youtube now, such as “Peace out” which lead children through a relaxation sequence. Ideal for improving concentration before a long writing session.
10. The sound of music
Using a bell, tambourine or maracas, make sound for while the children close their eyes. Ask the children to open their eyes when they notice that the sound has completely gone and silence has been restored.
Mindfulness has been proven to reduce anxiety among children as well improve their abilities to maintain positive relationships. These simple exercises will also help to increase focus and attention, meaning that progress can also be seen academically. As always, as teachers we should be mindful to practise what we preach, so here’s to a relaxing, well deserved half term break!