Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of our thoughts, feelings, actions, and environment. It is characterized by eliminating the act of judgment from the various aspects of mindfulness. The thoughts, feelings, actions or environment are neither positive or negative; they simply are. Mindfulness has been popularized in recent years by apps, corporate trainings, schools, and yoga studios.
Practicing mindfulness is a great way to get a handle on your emotional well-being. It allows you to focus on being patient with yourself, and to evaluate every emotion and situation from a holistic point of view.
The million dollar question is, “Is it possible for my toddler to practice mindfulness?”. The short answer? Yes! It is absolutely possible for your little one to start practicing mindfulness.
Will it be easy? Not always. Toddlers are notorious for emotional meltdowns, pushing boundaries, and short fuses. There will be moments when you (and your little one) feel like mindfulness simply isn’t in the cards. The good news is that it IS possible, and your toddler is completely capable of being mindful. How is this possible?
Plant The Seed
The first step is to discuss the concept of mindfulness with your toddler. You can do this by talking to your little one about the importance of using their mind. Their mind is the most powerful tool that they have. They use it every single second of every day to make decisions. They even use their mind to make decisions that they might not be aware of; think bodily functions like breathing, blinking, sleeping, smiling, or smelling. Each of those functions is powered by their minds, which is pretty cool stuff!
To help illustrate the concept of mindfulness to your toddler, ask them to notice their surroundings. Where are they? What do they see? Can they smell anything in particular? Ask them to list all of the things that they see, smell or hear. Once they have listed these things, discuss how they just used mindfulness to become aware of their surroundings.
Maybe they noticed the chair in the corner or the box of toys next to the bookshelf. Being aware of these things allows them to use them to their advantage. They can sit in the chair. They can go to the toy box, and begin playing.
Once they have begun to understand mindfulness of physical items that can be seen, touched, or smelled, they may have an easier time understanding more abstract concepts like emotions. Since having emotions is often the most difficult part of being a toddler, practicing mindfulness can be an immense help in an emotional situation.
The best way to begin fostering emotional mindfulness is to discuss it when your toddler is having a good day. Use creative opportunities to talk about emotions with your little once, such as through play or another activity. Pretend playing emotions like happy, sad, upset, or frustrated helps your little one to know the difference between the various emotions. You can make an emotion guessing game, a dance, or a painting.
Get creative with what your little one likes to do. If they are an active child, a dance or an exercise game is a good option. If they are drawn to arts and crafts, painting or drawing is a great way to discover what an emotion might look or feel like.
Watch Them Grow
It’s also important to discuss strategies for being mindful of their feelings. If they start to feel anxious, what is the best way to handle it? Could they take a few deep breaths, or maybe run in place as fast as they can? Or if they are feeling happy about something, what is the best way to express that? It could be doing a dance, singing a song, painting a picture, giving someone a hug, or telling someone “I’m happy today. I hope you are happy too.”
Be sure to ask your child what THEY think is the best way to be mindful of their emotions. When they come up with their own strategy, they take full ownership of their emotions and how they will react to them. When they start to have a hard time, you can gently remind them to implement their mindfulness strategy. You can say, “Remember when we created our emotions painting? Can you remind me how you wanted to respond when you start to feel angry? Let’s practice that right now.”
Using play as a tool to identify feelings allows your little one to have a better grasp of what to expect when experiencing those emotions. These concepts might seem complicated for a little one to grasp, but repetition and consistency is key when implementing the practice of mindfulness. Keep talking to your little one about being mindful, and see how they respond. You might be surprised at how quickly they begin to implement their own mindfulness strategies.
How do you plan to practice mindfulness with your toddler?