Encouraging Mindfulness In Children

Promotion for Save the Children

Save the Children and Peppa Pig are dedicating October to encouraging mindfulness in children with a free storybook yoga event for kids hosted by Kidspot and more than 50 free online resources to help learn new techniques. But what does mindfulness mean when you’re the mother of a four-year-old, asks Save the Children’s Elisabeth Fraser?

Parenting and mindfulness were not something that went hand-in-hand for me. A Type-A perfectionist mum and daughter combo – slowing down? Not going to happen, not for us.  However it took being plunged into Tāmaki Makaurau’s lockdown and my daughter Sophie ending up in a leg cast in week two, that made me realise, I only have to look to my daughter to learn about mindfulness.

Learning about mindfulness

Mindfulness with children is often perceived as sitting them down to enjoy some quiet time … appealing, but way too hard, right? But what I’ve learned is that it isn’t about a particular activity. It’s not about being quiet or still – it’s a state of mind, a way of thinking, and a way of responding to the world, events, and the people around you. It gives children strategies for coping with stress and anxiety. It prepares them for what is to come in life. And fostering this in the early years can create habits that last a lifetime.

When my daughter broke a bone in her foot during lockdown, my response was panic. Immediate worries were how we were going to get through the next six weeks, stuck at home with a four-year-old in a leg cast. I was horrified. But Sophie just got on with it. She adapted, she crawled, she asked how long it would be, and accepted this. One day when I was holding her hand as she hopped painfully and slowly to the toilet, I looked down at the smile (no frustration at her pace). “Wow,” I thought. “She is so present, living in the moment.” This got me wondering over the next few days that maybe our tamariki are naturally mindful, and that it is just our pace of life and expectations that erode this state of mind away.

Part of daily life

Looking back, I see how today’s children are being raised with mindful strategies as a part of daily life in a way that I was not. When my daughter was about two she suddenly stopped me in a moment of rushing. “Smell the flowers,” she said as she took a beautiful slow breath in, and “blow out the candles,” followed by a long exhale. These kinds of strategies are becoming the norm in early childhood settings and I wonder how I would have handled challenges in my life differently if I too had learned these techniques in school.

Another moment that stands out is a few months ago when my daughter was becoming frustrated that she couldn’t kick her ball into a ‘goal.’ Witnessing things unfold, I went to intervene and offer some support to my red-faced, screaming, stomping girl and she stopped. In a low breath she said, “Take a moment, take a breath, make a plan and try your best.” Eyes shut, she visualised what she needed to do. She opened her eyes, breathed again, and calmly kicked the ball into the goal. Wow!

Fostering mindfulness

Mindfulness Walk with Peppa Pig
Download a Mindfulness Walk

So how can we foster this? Give children time to engage in mindful moments – one size doesn’t fit all.

What activities help your child stay present and focussed, and facilitate mindfulness? For some it will be collecting interesting objects from the garden, for others it will be getting lost in a book, some it will be dancing or drumming, painting, laughing.

The new Save the Children Education Hub has some great resources developed by our partners at Twinkl. What brings a mindful moment will be different for everyone.

Think aloud when you are dealing with a difficult situation so that your child can see your thought processes, and model enjoying the small things and talk about these moments at the end of your day. A new lockdown ritual that works for my daughter and I, after we have switched off the lights at bedtime, is to tell each other what we are grateful for in our day. Her answers vary from hearing a tūī, to eating an ice-cream, to seeing her family. And I share mine, which is good for both of us.

Part of us

The last few years have been quite a journey, not only in becoming a mother, but battling chronic illness and the pandemic, where anxiety and adrenaline seems to take over. I wonder how I would have responded to these events differently if mindfulness habits had been a part of my education and upbringing; but for now, my daughter and I learn together.

Written by Elisabeth Fraser for Kidspot NZ. Elisabeth is Save the Children’s Child Youth and Schools Engagement Co-ordinator, teacher and mother to Sophie. 

Register Now!

Peppa Pig Practices Mindfulness Storybook Yoga

Join children’s yoga expert Michaela Sangl, of YogiKids, for a fun and interactive storybook yoga session like no other, as she journeys to find Peppa Pig – and meets many friends along the way!

Gather the little ones, tell your friends and whānau and join us for a YogiKids ride through our beautiful Aotearoa, learning breathing and yoga techniques that you can practice at home with your tamariki.

Register for this free virtual event and receive an exclusive downloadable Peppa Pig colouring book to help support your child’s mindfulness journey.

Register now for FREE!

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