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Teaching mindfulness to kids doesn’t have to be to just boring sitting still and breathing.
In fact, mindfulness should be engaging and fun for kids to get excited about it.
It should feel like it’s something they can relate to.
I have taught mindfulness to kids at my school for several years.
Every class always mentions these mindful games and activities as some of their favorite lessons.
It helps to play each mindful game a couple of times throughout the year so that you can reference back how it felt when they tried it the first time versus the second time.
Use mindful games and yoga games together to help teach kids self awareness, self regulation, and calming strategies.
How Start Teaching Mindfulness to Kids
Teaching mindfulness to kids should start small.
You can teach them about breathing techniques when they are calm to use when they feel frustrated. We use a method of tracing our fingers and breathing in and out while tracing up and down each finger. I have also taught them breathing with a Hoberman Sphere.
I go into a little more detail in this post here, How to Calm a Class or Kid Using Mindfulness.
Another great technique for mindfulness is teaching kids how to be aware of their surroundings and actions by changing your language. This practice of honing your attention to details helps you notice when things change and help you anticipate your reactions to situations.
Just by be BEING more
Mindfulness in a Class
Teaching a whole class of kids to be mindful and quiet and listen to specific sounds can be a little more tricky. It honestly sometimes creates a great space for making fart sounds. Which doesn’t feel like mindfulness :-/
One way to combat this is to use a beautiful sounding bell, like this Tibetan singing bowl.
I have taught my students to come into class, rest in child’s pose for 1 minute, and then sit up and listen when I ring the bell.
As we are listening I will be modeling a breathing technique and they can choose their own or copy mine (we learn about 14 different techniques in the first few weeks, they are listed in this post:
Also, grab your free printables of mindfulness breathing poems with images from my Free Resources Library here! Plus tons of other free resources for kids yoga and mindfulness.
Calm Down Mindful Glitter Jar
One of the absolute best ways to keep my kiddos focused and calm before, during or after a meltdown is what I call a Glitter Jar. They are actually plastic bottles now, but the first few times I used mason jars and those worked okay too.
Check out my recipe for making your own glitter jars in this post here:
Once they are made (and you can have your kids help you too for added learning and focus) teach your kids how to use the glitter jar by shaking it up and then slowly watching the glitter settle.
I model taking deep breaths, thinking aloud about what I see and how I am feeling.
Partner and Group Mindful Games
Another way to get kids more interested in being mindful and developing focusing skills is to play some partner or group mindfulness games. Model exactly what you’d like to see and hear while you are showing them the game.
Once they have watched you and a partner show, let them practice together with a partner.
If you are in a class, make sure you walk around and give them praise, but specifically say out loud what you notice them doing that is mindful: “I see Miranda has her eyes closed and is breathing slowly,” or “I notice that Juan is watching his cotton ball closely and not worried about anyone else’s.” This helps them to internalize what they are doing that is specifically related to mindfulness.
Our favorite partner mindful games are listed here!
Cotton Ball Tennis (or soccer)
Group students into pair or groups of 4. Each kid gets a straw. Give out a cotton ball to each group, and a piece of string (or a small stick like from pick-up sticks). The game is to carefully blow the ball back and forth over the string, or into a small “goal” like a cup. Encourage them to keep the cotton ball in the boundaries
Cotton Ball Relay
All students start on one side of the room, in teams. Place tape on the floor, or a similar way to mark a line.
Students must hold a cotton ball on a spoon and carefully walk to the end of the line, turn around and come back. If their cotton ball falls off, they should go back to the beginning and start again. Encourage slow and steady walking!
A classic game to look around the room and try to figure out what the “spy” sees! I play this game by giving an extra clue after a couple guesses. If I just say “I spy something round” they could keep guessing for several minutes and never get it right.
Instead, I’ll add extra clues like, “I spy something round and up high.” “I spy something round, up high, and that has black.” So on and so forth. Then make sure you let them have a turn!
Guided Block Walk
If you have enough yoga blocks, this is a great balancing and mindfulness game!
Line up a bunch of blocks in stepping distance across the room. Students get into pairs. One child is blindfolded, and the other child has to hold their hand and help them walk across the blocks without looking.
They should be using encouraging and descriptive language to guide their partner safely to the other side of the “creek”.
This is a good copying game. Students get into pairs and one person is the leader. The follower has to move in exactly the same way as the leader as if they were looking at their reflection in the mirror.
Model this first several times so they know to go slow and to help the partner by being predictable at first. I even use slow and calming music to encourage a leisurely pace.
Hula Hoop Pass
A fun cooperative game for a large group, the hula hoop pass game is a good challenge. Stand in a large circle and link hands. Instruct the kids not let go of each other’s hands. Insert a hula hoop into the game by putting it on your arm and then re-linking hands with the child next to you.
The goal is to pass the hoop around the whole circle by sliding it down your arms, ducking through, and stepping through. Encourage helping each other, talking partners through the hoop, etc. For an added challenge add more hoops of various sizes!
Keep the balloon up
Another great game for a group, start with one balloon and all students in a defined area (like on a rug or in a circle space). Tell them they should HELP the team by keeping the balloon up the air.
With kindergarten, they are instructed to stay in their own spot and only use one finger to push the balloon back up. You can alter the instructions for older kids and make the designated space a little bigger.
Add in more balloons for a greater challenge, or have specific students on specific teams according to which color balloon they have.
Kids sit with a partner, one person is facing the other person’s back. Either from a list of prompts spoken or written on the board, or using their imagination, the child facing their partner will gently and silently draw a picture on the other person’s back. They can do the same drawing a couple times and let their partner guess what they drew!
Partners can change roles after every picture or only when they get it right. Older students can write words, too (though this is harder to monitor in a class if they decide to be inappropriate). The partner guessing should put a thumbs up or raise a hand when they have a guess to keep things calm and structured in a class.
This is a great “calm down” mindfulness game. Students sit back to back with a partner and try to match each other’s breathing. No voices or communication needed, just notice each other’s breath.
Tell one partner to breathe normally and the other should listen and try to match. They should put their thumbs up on their knees when they think they have matched each other. Then make sure you come over to confirm!
Well, there you have it, my favorite partner and group mindful games for kids!
Don’t forget to talk up the mindful actions and really build positivity. Even in the slightly competitive games, make sure you tell kids to be helpful and work as a team!
Check out these kids yoga games that are also excellent for classes working on mindfulness.
Mindful movement is a great way to add some exercise and concentration to your day!