Mindfulness-though not a new concept-seems to be a trendy term at the moment. It could not be more important given our current technology. Leaps and bounds of convenience but at a price of disconnection with the world and ourselves. Therefore, many of us are familiar with at least finding ways to disconnect through a simple walk in nature, having a face to face conversation sans smartphones, or by taking deep breaths. Some have even tried meditation, perhaps in the morning before our days get away from us. But can kids really be expected to sit still and meditate as we do???
Our canvas has changed so much in the last few decades. Children no longer play outside as much, which gives them this time to interact with other kids, nature, and use their creativity. A 2010 Kaiser Foundation study showed that elementary aged children use on average 7.5 hours per day of entertainment technology, 75 percent of these children have TV's in their bedrooms, and 50 percent of North American homes have the TV on all day! As a result of this excessive use, behavioral and health issues have seen an increase over the past several years, as as referenced here:
The good news is that your child does not have to be a mini-buddhist Monk to be able to disconnect. There are even some simple crafts and games to help. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Make a friendship bracelet. These are popular among kids, and allow them time to focus, concentrate, and slooooooow down.
2. Adult coloring (Yes for kids!). Have you seen the mandala coloring books touting for "adult mindfulness"? Guess what? Many kids find them fun too! And they love that they are doing something they deem "older"! You can pick these up in many discount retail stores or even find some freebies online via searches. Here's one of my favorites:
3. Play "I Spy". Remember that game where you chose an object in your surroundings for others to guess? It requires everyone to look, notice, engage with the world around them. To notice sights and sounds. Another great way to find that calmness and connect.
4. Get Out. Ummmm remember how we said adults take nature walks? Get.them.out. Period. End of story. Encourage them to listen to the birds communicating with other birds. Look for cool leaves. Maybe do nothing but put one foot in front of the other.
Bottom line as long as children are finding a way to re-engage with themselves, others, and you, they are reaping the benefits that came innately to us as kids. Happy mindful trails!
Interested in deepening a mindfulness practice or becoming certified to teach mindfulness? Check out this comprehensive resource at the iNLP Center.