Primary Schools

4 Mindfulness Activities to Make Kids’ Movements Meaningful!

Buzzwords come and go in the classroom just as they do in any other social environment. Flipped teaching, kinaesthetic learning, peer assessment: teachers are constantly investigating 'the next big thing' in education. In 2019, the word on everybody's lips is mindfulness. But what does it mean? Why is it so popular with schools? And should you be using it in your classroom?

Mindfulness describes a type of living and behaving. It's commonly associated with slower paced, reflective activities like yoga, meditation and conscious breathing. However, it can be applied to any physical activity, action, movement or process, including those already on your school curricula. Its objective is to teach children the value of being present in each and every moment of their day.

For mindfulness programmes, self awareness is the key to better mental and emotional health.

While mindfulness is still relatively new for schools, many are already seeing improvements in classroom behaviour and emotional wellbeing after adopting mindful habits. By encouraging children to find value in all activities - from eating lunch to kicking footballs, doing yoga or just sitting quietly - we teach them to find happiness in all aspects of life. And when children are happy, they're capable of extraordinary things. 

4 Mindfulness Games You Can Play in Class

1. Body Squeezing

Body scanning and squeezing activities are used to strengthen the mind-body connection. Instruct pupils to lie on the floor. (This activity can be done sitting but works better if supine). Children need enough space to lie face up - arms and legs close to the body - and untouched by anybody else. Tell them to close their eyes. When settled, they should squeeze every muscle as tight as they can as if their bodies were made of stone. 

After 10-30 seconds, instruct them to progressively release the tension in their body parts - legs, then arms, feet, hands, etc. As they relax each body part, tell them to focus on how it feels (compare tense and relaxed) and take note of any interesting sensations. Body scanning and queezing activities are particularly useful for helping Early Years pupils develop greater body awareness.

2. What's in the Bag?

This is a sensory exploration game that some children may have played before. It's a good mindfulness activity because it narrows kids' focus to one type of sensation and the way it feels, behaves and affects experiences. To play, you need an opaque bag or a blindfold. Place several small, interestingly shaped or textured items into the bag, one at a time. 

Give every child a chance to investigate each item with hands only (no peeking). Tell them to describe, out loud, what it feels like and what they think it might be. Good items to play with are fresh fruits and veggies, dry cereals, seashells, feathers, buttons, leaves and beads.

3. Balloon Delivery

For this game, you need a balloon and enough space for pupils to move around safely. The objective is simple - don't let the balloon reach the ground! The catch is players cannot run or move too quickly. They should act as if the balloon is extremely fragile. No running or rough grabbing. Every action should be deliberate and careful. 

One way to play is to line pupils up and have them deliver the balloon from one end of the line to the other, with every child getting a chance to handle the 'fragile' object.

Experiment with different fillings. Put flour, water, sand, even dried lentils inside your balloon. Adding different fillings will change the way it moves. Encourage pupils to take notice of these differences. They could make predictions and discuss their accuracy after handling the balloon.

4. Hurricane Heartbeats

Conscious breathing is an important part of many mindfulness activities. It's easy to try and everybody can do it. The goal is to gain awareness of what's happening to your body with each new breath in or out. Breathing exercises are used for stress relief and relaxation, so they're perfect for calming distressed or disruptive kids. Start by instructing pupils to perform one minute of vigorous physical activity.

It could be hopping on the spot, running across the playground or jumping jacks: any movement to raise the heart rate. When complete, have kids sit calmly, breathe slowly and place a hand over their heart. They should try to be completely present and absorbed in its rhythms, sounds and sensations. Ask them to pay attention to the changes occurring as their bodies return to a resting state. 

Amaven Healthy Schools: don't forget to complete your Activity Checklist! It gives pupils some fun ways to experiment with mindful habits.

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