3 Mindfulness Activities for Preschoolers and Toddlers
Breathing exercises are a great way to introduce very young children to mindfulness practice. Give one of these three breathing exercises a try with your toddler or preschooler.
1. Breathe with a Pinwheel
First, grab two pinwheels—one for yourself and one for your child. Next, follow these five steps:
- Sit with your backs straight and your bodies relaxed.
- Blow on your pinwheels together using long, deep breaths. Notice how you feel—calm and relaxed? Having trouble sitting still?
- Next, blow on your pinwheels with short, quick breaths. Notice how you feel again—do you feel the same as you did when using long, deep breaths?
- Blow on the pinwheels as you normally would. Again, notice how you feel.
- Think about the different types of breathing you engaged in, and discuss how the different breaths made you feel (Gelles, n.d.).
2. Square Breath
A square breath is a breath that is even on all sides, and it can be useful as a mindfulness exercise for both you and your child.
Here’s what to do:
- Breathe in, to the count of four.
- Hold the breath for four seconds.
- Breathe out to the count of four.
- Wait for four seconds before taking in your next breath.
To help your child keep track, show them how to draw a square in the air with their finger, taking four seconds on each side (Roman, n.d.).
3. Darth Vader Breath
This fun breathing exercise will keep your child engaged and interested.
Follow these steps to give it a try:
- Breathe in deeply through your nose.
- Keep your mouth closed and exhale from the back of your throat, making a “Darth Vader”-style noise as you do.
- Show your child how to do it, then practice it with them.
This simple exercise will help your child focus on their breath and stay fully anchored in the present (Roman, n.d.).
5 Mindfulness Games for Kids
These five games from Chris Bergstrom (2017) at BlissfullKids.com provide you with an excellent opportunity to introduce your children to mindfulness and help them practice it.
1. Balancing on One Foot
This exercise is for children 3 and up, and all you need for it is your body!
Here’s what to do:
- Tell your child to focus her gaze slightly below eye level.
- Tell her to stand on one leg and keep her gaze fixed on that focal point.
- Challenge her to see how long she can stand on one leg like this.
- Tell her to try the other leg.
- Challenge her to stay focused while you engage her in conversation, ask her to sing a song, or tell her to close her eyes.
This is a simple game that can help your child develop her focus and improve her body awareness as well as giving her a chance to practice mindfulness.
Have you ever played Jenga? If so, you know that it can be a lot of fun but that it also requires concentrated attention and awareness. Take advantage of that fact and use Jenga to build your child’s mindfulness.
To make the game into an exercise, play two ways:
- First, play the game while your child is distracted. Allow his mind to wander and engage him in conversation or activities that take away from his focus on the game.
- Next, help your child cultivate a calm and clear mind through mindful breathing, and play again.
After you play the distracted version, engage your child in a discussion about it; does he know what made him lose focus? Did certain thoughts or emotions distract him and ruin his concentration?
After you play the calm and clear-minded version, discuss again; did he have an easier time paying attention? Did the mindful breathing contribute to better focus?
This game will help your child see the advantages of being mindful and encourage him to work on his own mindfulness.
3. Pennies Game
This game is good for children 3 and up and can be played one-on-one or with a group. All you’ll need to play is a penny for each player and a basket.
Here’s how to play:
- Give everyone a penny and allow them one minute to study it, focusing on the details.
- Put all the pennies in the basket.
- Have each player pick their penny out of the basket.
- Once a player chooses their penny from the basket, have them explain how they knew it was their penny.
The penny game can be played with other objects too; the important part is that the children playing are able to focus in on something and pay attention to detail.
4. Balancing Relay
The balancing relay game is good for children 5 and older. If you’ve ever seen or participated in an egg and spoon race, you’ll recognize this game.
You will need a spoon and some water or a spoon and a potato for each team playing.
Split your group into teams (two teams might work best, but you can always do a few smaller teams) and give a spoon full of water to each team. Challenge them to carry their spoon to the next person on their team without spilling any of the water.
To make it even more difficult for older children, have them walk backward or sideways instead of forward.
This game will encourage your children to develop greater awareness, enhance their focus, and stay grounded in the present moment and in their own body.
5. Simon Says
An old classic, this game can help children practice mindful seeing, mindful listening, and greater awareness. It’s good for children 4 and up and all you need is some space to move around in.
Here’s how to play Simon Says:
- Designate a “Simon” to lead everyone (it might be best for an adult to play Simon first).
- Simon stands in front of the other players and instructs them to do physical movements (e.g., touch your nose, balance on one foot).
- The players should only do what Simon instructs them to do if he or she says “Simon says” at the beginning.
- If a player follows one of Simon’s instructions that is not prefaced by “Simon says,” he or she is eliminated from the game.
- The last player standing wins.
Once you finish the game, talk to your child(ren) about how hard or easy it was to follow the instructions and pay attention to the “Simon Says” at the beginning. Discuss the importance of paying attention and being present.