A fun mindfulness activity for kids is to take a glass jar, fill it with some hot water, mix in some school glue, and add colorful glitter. Then shake the jar and watch the glitter settle. Not only does this help bring a few moments of attention to the present moment but it can also help to visualize an abstract concept - that the agitated mind can settle on its own if only we allow it some time.
This might seem like some new age "magic trick," but really it is based in a centuries-old idea that the less we engage with our own thoughts, the less opportunity we give those thoughts to further magnify. Since emotions don't really last that long without support from negative cognitions, the mind returns to its natural state of ease much sooner in this manner.
There are many other ways to reach this state without a jar of glitter. For instance, if you are frustrated or angry, and the age old technique of counting to 10 doesn't work, try a variation of the above technique using your own breath as an anchor. Observe your breath as it enters and leaves your body while allowing any thoughts to pass. As long as you can remain present with your breath rather than getting carried away by thoughts that arise, you'll experience a remarkable shift. Your mind will start to become calmer without any additional effort.
The magical thing really is that by practicing this simple technique of observing our breath while allowing our thoughts to pass, we can literally alter the structure and functioning of the adult human brain. For the developing brain the benefits are multifold as well. In practical terms, with the age-appropriate practice of mindfulness, your child can learn to let go of thoughts that agitate his or her mind, in the process increasing frustration tolerance and developing the ability to regulate his or her emotions.
For adults, our own breath can be enough to achieve a calm, mindful state. For kids, all it may take is a clear jar, some hot H2O, a bit of glue and some glitter. In fact, try experimenting with the amount of glue -- the more the glue the more time it will take for the glitter to settle.
Yes, it is okay to try this at home or in a classroom under adult supervision.
Smita Nagpal, Ph.D. is a Licensed Psychologist and Director of Programs Development at Still Waters Counseling. She has been practicing the art of counseling for over 15 years. In addition to offering mindfulness-based therapy, she offers mindfulness workshops and psychoeducational groups to help people understand and apply mindfulness to their lives. She can be reached at (734) 944-3446 or [email protected].