You may think that your preschool students are too young to benefit from mindfulness, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Students are never too young to enjoy the gift of mindfulness. This skill can benefit them in their current development, but perhaps more importantly, it provides them with important skills that will help them navigate life as they grow older.
But teachers might need to make some adjustments to their mindfulness curriculum to be appropriate — and enjoyable — for their preschoolers. Here are 5 preschool-friendly mindfulness activities that your students will love.
How Preschool Kids Can Benefit From Mindfulness
Research suggests that kids of all ages can benefit from mindfulness. Some of the biggest benefits of mindfulness for your preschool students include:
- Helps kids learn to stay calm during stressful moments
- Better focus
- Being able to stay in the present moment
- Lower stress and anxiety
- Reduces “bad” or negative behaviors in the classroom
- Strengthens cognitive skills and executive functions (like working memory)
- Improves sleep
- Improves self-esteem
- Greater well-being
- More empathy
- Greater self-awareness
Preschool students’ brains are in the middle of enormous leaps of development. Research shows that it’s easier for kids under the age of 5 to pick up certain new skills, like learning a second language. Teaching mindfulness to kids during this critical time could help their brain development in a positive way.
5 Preschool Mindfulness Activities
Mindfulness has many benefits for preschool kids, but the way you teach this skill to them may need to be adjusted. If you’re a preschool teacher, then you already know that kids in this age group won’t sit quietly in meditation for long periods of time. But there are ways to teach mindfulness in ways that are fun and engaging for them.
Here are 5 easy mindfulness activities you can try with your preschool class.
One easy mindfulness activity for preschool students is to conduct a feelings circle.
Invite your students to sit in a circle, and ask each one to express how they’re feeling today. Encourage them to expand past basic emotional vocabulary like “good” or “fine.” It might be helpful to have a feelings poster so young students can simply point to the emotion they identify with, even if they don’t have the words to describe it.
If they don’t know or get stuck, take this as an excellent opportunity to put mindfulness skills to use. Invite the student to close their eyes and pay close attention to how they’re feeling. If they still can’t answer, then guess at their emotions based on their behavior, and wait for an acknowledgment. (For example: “Bobby, to me, it looks like you might be feeling silly. I think this might be true because you’re giggling and making funny faces. What do you think, Bobby? Might you be feeling silly?”)
You can deepen this activity by asking the other students to act each of these emotions out. For example, if one student says they are angry, make an exaggerated angry face and ask your students to put on their own angry face, too. This has the added element of teaching your students about empathy — how to identify with how someone else is feeling.
A great way to teach mindfulness to young children is through their senses. One sensory activity you can do with your preschool students is a nature sounds game. Take your students outside; if the weather is uncooperative, invite them to sit near an open window, where they can hear sounds outside.
Invite your students to close their eyes if they feel comfortable. Ask them what sounds they hear. The idea is to get “underneath” the sounds that are obvious on the surface. For example, there may be a group of children loudly playing outside. But besides this primary noise, what other sounds are there? What sounds can they hear nature making?
Remind your students that they need to be very still and quiet to be able to hear every sound.
This activity can be completed in many ways. For example, you can invite your students to mimic the sounds that they hear outside. They can also draw a picture of what they imagine to be making each sound (for example, if there is a “whooshing” sound, they may choose to draw a picture of wind blowing a tree).
Sensory texture activity
Another way to use sensory experiences to teach mindfulness to preschoolers is by using textures. Gather several objects of different textures in paper bags. For example, you might include a smooth round ball, a bumpy plastic toy, a soft mound of Play-Doh, and so on.
Now, pass each bag around, and allow the students to experience the various textures with only their sense of touch. Caution them not to use their eyesight to experience the object, but to feel it without looking at it. Invite them to describe how the objects feel. Is it warm to the touch? Cold? Is it bumpy or smooth? Is it soft or hard?
You can easily turn this activity into a game by inviting students to guess what’s in each bag.
This activity is especially useful if you have a physical education component in your schedule, or if your students have a lot of physical energy that they need to get out. Mindful stretching is a way for both children and adults to get grounded in their bodies. You can teach this practice to young preschoolers by using “animal poses.”
Fortunately, similar mind-body practices like yoga already incorporate animal names into many poses. For example, try the “cat” yoga pose with your students. Make the image of a stretching cat come to life for them by telling them a story. Invite them to stretch their bodies in this pose, and imagine themselves as cats waking up from a nap.
What does it feel like to be a stretching cat? Where do they feel the stretch in their bodies?
Lastly, belly breathing (also known as deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing) is a proven way to reduce stress and promote relaxation. This can be a great technique to use before your students’ nap time.
One popular way to teach kids the belly breathing technique is through the use of stuffed animals.
If you’re a preschool teacher, your classroom is probably already equipped with stuffed animals and toys. Provide one stuffed “buddy” to each student. Invite your students to lie down if they feel comfortable. Ask them to place their “buddies” on their lower belly, right below their belly buttons.
Tell your students to take a deep breath in. But instead of breathing into their chests, they should breathe into their bellies. They’ll know they’re doing it right because, as they breathe in, their “buddy” will rise up. And, as they breathe out, their “buddy” will go back down.
It’s okay if the exercise doesn’t go perfectly. But if you incorporate this practice regularly in your classroom, you will equip your students with an important life skill that will serve them for many years.
Do you need more ideas or support for implementing mindfulness in your preschool classroom? Calm Classroom can help; get in touch with us today.