Instill mindfulness in your child from an early age.

Child practicing mindfulnessMindfulness means being aware of what’s happening in the present as life unfolds. Practicing mindfulness helps strengthen a child’s focused attention and full awareness of experiences in the moment.

“Both parents and children can benefit from learning to be mindful,” says Ilana Luft-Barrett, PhD, a clinical psychologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Parents who exercise mindfulness respond more appropriately to a child’s misbehavior. Children who are mindful can better regulate their emotions and behaviors and develop greater empathy and compassion toward others.”

Try It Out

Dr. Luft-Barrett recommends trying the following mindfulness activities with your kids:

Tune In

Lie down outside on a blanket with your child on a nice day. Set a timer for a few minutes and each of you close your eyes. Listen for any sounds: bird chirps, passing cars or insects buzzing. Afterward, share the sounds each of you noticed.

Sending Good Wishes

Teach your child empathy and how to respond to another person’s misfortune or loss. When your child learns of upsetting news, have him either silently or audibly send kind wishes to another. Some phrases to say are:

  • “May you be healthy and well.”
  • “May you be free from sorrow and pain.”
  • “May you have peace and safety.”

Focus on the 5 Senses

Help your child be mindful during daily activities, such as brushing teeth, tying shoes or eating lunch. Instead of rushing through the activity, have your child pay close attention to his five senses. For example, while brushing teeth, ask him the following:

Sight: What does the toothpaste look like before and after running it under water?

Hearing: What do the bristles sound like rubbing against teeth?

Smell: What does the toothpaste smell like? 

Taste: Is the toothpaste flavor strong when it touches your tongue?

Touch: Do your teeth feel clean and smooth?

“You don’t need a lot of time or special resources to practice mindfulness,” Dr. Luft-Barrett says. “It only takes a few minutes of practice a day to develop these skills.”