Being a child can be stressful. Learning new things, building interpersonal relationships, and navigating different home, school, and care environments are exhausting experiences for many children. These experiences have been even more tiresome during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has placed many children in volatile, unpredictable situations. However, unlike adults, children rarely have a space to take a deep breath, relax, and reflect on the stressful circumstances in their lives. This is where meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness practices can help in reducing children’s stress!
Meditation, yoga, and mindfulness are excellent ways to help children relax and de-stress.
Meditation, yoga, and mindfulness also enable children to build strong cognitive and social-emotional skills. Multiple studies show that these practices strengthen children’s attentiveness and self-control, while simultaneously contributing to improved empathy and respect for peers. Meditation has also been linked to a decreased risk of stress, hyperactivity, and depression.
These practices help children respond to negative thoughts, while also improving their self-confidence, focus, and behavior. They also give children a much-needed way to relax and breathe, which can be especially important in a busy, loud childcare setting.
Many areas of the country have already begun formally adopting meditation in schools. In Ohio, the Skills for Life program teaches elementary school students about the value of deep breathing, meditation, and problem-solving skills. The results were astounding! After the program’s implementation, children felt more in control of their emotions; bullying rates fell, exciting both teachers and students. Similar studies elsewhere in the country report similar results; an experiment in San Francisco found that introducing meditation had significantly positive impacts on students’ academic performance. Introducing specified ‘quiet times’ into school curricula also had residual benefits, including improved grades, decreased suspension rates, and enhanced attention spans.
Guiding children through meditation can be easy and fun. One exercise, ‘The Balloon,’ is especially simple for young children to understand. Try this exercise out with toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children in your care.
To practice this exercise, invite children to relax and slowly inhale and exhale through the nose for several seconds as a warmup. Then, ask children to take a long, deep breath so their stomachs fill with air, mimicking a balloon. Encourage them to slowly let the air out of the ‘balloon’ by releasing their breath through their noses. Repeat this process several times. Children can even add a hissing noise as they exhale slowly, just like a real balloon would.
Younger children will especially benefit from the balloon exercise if they can add creative imagery to it. Asking children to think of the balloon’s color, size, and shape as they inhale and exhale adds to the practice, and gives children another opportunity to relax and reflect in the moment.
Want to learn more about the effects of stress on children and how to help children reduce stress in child care? Take our Care Course Early Childhood Stress: Serious Stress in Children’s Lives.
Let us know how the children responded to this activity in the comments below! Then check out our other blogs for fun activities to do with children.
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