Keep Calm and Carry On: Exercises for Kids
With Florida schools out for the rest of the year, moms, dads, and kids have suddenly found themselves in a cozy and possibly chaotic new situation. Children look to their parents to model how to handle such a big change in daily life. Here are some ideas to help adults and kids keep calm and find a sense of inner peace.
Anthony Profeta, Meditation Teacher at Aquarian Dreams, shares that meditative exercises including mindful listening and breathing exercises can help kids relax and focus. Practicing mindfulness can reduce stress and cultivate creativity and learning mindfulness techniques can lead to social, emotional and cognitive benefits.
Profeta encourages parents to try this mindful listening exercise by inviting their kid(s) to sit up and close their eyes. Then ring a singing bowl, or a bell. Ask them to listen very carefully, and when they can no longer hear the sound to raise their hand. To practice without a bell ask the children to listen to the sounds around them. Which are closest? Which are far away?
When the body is under stress breathing can become shallower. Deep breathing helps get more oxygen into the bloodstream and physically helps the body to calm down and lower stress.
Andrea Pearson, owner of Tranquility Haven Center shares “My favorite breathing exercise or pranayama is bumblebee breath, sometimes known as sound breath or humming breath.” To try bumblebee breath with kids simply find a comfortable seated position or lotus pose and start by placing thumbs in ears, fingers over eyelids we breath in and out through the nose, on the out breath make a humming sound.
“Slowing the breath will slow down the mind,” says Profeta. “Invite your kid(s) to breathe with you inhaling for five and exhaling for five.”
According to the Chopra Center, a study done in the San Francisco Unified School District with more than 3,000 students found dramatic improvement in overall academic performance, including a spike in math test scores for students who practiced mindfulness meditation and “quiet time.”
Profeta recommends starting slow and with shorter sessions and don’t expect children to sit for 20 minutes. Make the time fun, often, sitting in silence is not the best way to start with children. “We need to make the sessions interesting,” says Profeta. “You can look into methods such as balloon breath, birthday breath, or mindful listening exercises.”
Pearson often uses a children’s meditation called Peace Begins with Me. “From a seated position, resting palms on thighs bring thumb to pointer, middle, ring and then pinky,” says Pearson. “Recite the mantra “peace begins with me” 4 times out loud, then 4 times quietly and lastly 4 times in your mind with eyes closed.”
Expression through art is a way to help kids feel a sense of normalcy without judgment, while allowing them to show their individual personality and bring attention to their strengths. ArtReach of Vero Beach owner Marcy Purdy suggests that parents help children create a Feelings Journal, using art and words. “Children can identify a word that helps express their emotions, then draw, paint, sketch or even cut-out from magazines pictures and graphics that illustrate that emotion,” says Purdy. “For younger children this can be done by identifying emoji's, choosing one of the feelings, and creating a picture to represent that feeling.”
Learn more by watching our Healthy Kids video series.