With the current lockdown in the UK lasting another few weeks at least, schools remain closed and kids continue to be cooped up at home. This change in routine and being around others in close quarters all day, every day, can lead to children getting agitated, restless and bored. Many children may also be feeling frightened and confused at the unusual challenges the world is facing.

It’s an anxious time for many of us, never having experienced anything like this before, so it’s not hard to imagine what our little ones are feeling, who may not truly understand what is going on. It can be difficult for children to manage these new emotions, but also for parents who need to keep their children occupied, happy and entertained while also managing their own feelings.

Headspace has launched resources to help guide parents on having conversations with children around stress and anxiety and helping us all be kind to ourselves in this current climate. The app has also launched a “Weathering the storm” collection of meditation and mindfulness content, free for all users globally to help people manage anxious thoughts, build mental resilience and navigate through this uncertainty.

Dr Megan Jones Bell, Chief Science Officer at Headspace has shared some of her top tips on mindful activities that parents can do with children during lockdown to help them stay calm, occupied and entertained.

Tip 1: Mindful games

With children homebound, they can get bored with the same toys and games they usually play. It can be hard to stay inventive and bring fun, new ways of occupying their time.

Playing simple mindful games that involve the senses is a way to keep children busy, while also helping them feel more relaxed, bringing their attention back to the present moment and counteracting the body’s fight or flight mechanism.

Here are some quick, simple, mindful games you can get your children involved in at home:

  • Touch: Put a bunch of mystery items in a paper bag and take turns feeling one object at a time and guess what it is as you describe the texture and shape
  • Taste: Take a small piece of food, such as a piece of fruit, and use all five senses to describe it (taste, smell, what it looks like, if it makes a sound when you rub it)
  • Sight: Look around the room in silence for one minute, and point out all of the things you never noticed before

Tip 2: Baking with a mindful twist

With the children home for all three meals each day, there is bound to be more cooking and more mouths to feed. This offers the perfect opportunity to get children stuck into some mindful baking, to help them use their senses and remain calm, while learning multiple new skills at the same time.

Baking can be a grounding and therapeutic experience for parents and children to do together, while also being fun and active. Children can focus their attention on tasks such as stirring, mixing and weighing. The repetitive actions and gentle rhythms can help relax the mind and ease stressful thoughts by focusing concentration and being in the present. This is a similar process to focusing on your breath during guided meditation sessions.

To further use the senses, encourage your children to describe the colours of the ingredients, the texture of the food during different parts of the process, and notice the different forms the food has taken, from the individual ingredients at the start, to a finished meal.

It is also very rewarding and satisfying when children have finished baking and can see and eat the end result. They can then share the food they have made with the rest of the family, with the simple act of sharing great for mental wellbeing, as well as bringing the family closer together through the exercise.

One of the best parts of this mindful activity is also the delicious aroma of the baked goods filling the house, creating a lovely cosy atmosphere, perfect for the family to unwind in.

Tip 3: Monster Meditations

Headspace, alongside Sesame Street, has released new online content to encourage children to practice meditation and mindfulness as a way to combat stress and anxiety during these challenging times of school closures and lockdown.

Launching biweekly on YouTube and YouTube Kids, the six animated shorts will help children learn the fundamentals of mindfulness, meditation, and social and emotional learning to manage difficult emotions, whilst also keeping them entertained.

The shorts, roughly three minutes in length, feature animated versions of the beloved Sesame Street characters including Cookie Monster, Elmo and Grover, having feelings of frustration, impatience, being overwhelmed, nervousness, disappointment, and excitement. Headspace co-founder and former Buddhist monk, Andy Puddicombe, will help each monster, and the children watching from home, learn various breathing and sensory activities and other mindfulness techniques to better manage relatable, everyday scenarios.

Watch the first video, now available for all parents and children to enjoy and learn from here!

Artice by Dr Megan Jones Bell, Chief Science Officer, Headspace

Download Headspace on the App Store or Google Play, and visit Headspace for more information.

Headspace for Kids, available to all subscribers, offers exercises for kids to enjoy fun, engaging activities that teach them the basics of mindfulness. The sessions are customised for three age groups: 5 and under, 6-8 and 9-12. Different themes for kids to explore include sleep & relaxation, cooling off & calming down, kindness & appreciation, and staying positive.

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