By Rachel Melhorn, LCSW, Registered Play Therapist
For many children, movement (bouncing, running, fidgeting, skipping) is a natural state of being. Many times, when we ask kids to “pay attention,” what we are really saying is “stop moving,” but physical movement has such a positive impact on the emotional well-being of children.
Mindful movement is a powerful tool to support grieving children as movement is linked to decreased anxiety and improved mental health. Through movement, stress hormones are processed more quickly out of the blood stream, allowing children who are grieving and often experiencing feelings of increased stress to feel more grounded and supported.
Oftentimes when we think about mindfulness, we send the message to kids that they need to “calm down.” The goal with mindful movement, though, is to support children in finding a balance of energy which will support well-being.
Here are some mindful movement ideas to try at home:
Move Like Spaghetti
Walk around the room pretending to move like uncooked spaghetti! Gradually tighten your toes, and then your feet, legs, stomach, chest, arms and face. Walk around like this for about a minute. Then pretend you are cooked spaghetti! With your body loose and free, move and wiggle around the room.
Cat & Cow
- Come on to all fours with your hands and knees on the ground. Spread your fingertips wide. Check to make sure your hands are underneath your shoulders and your knees are directly underneath your hips.
- On a breath in – arch your back, pull your shoulders down and look toward the ceiling. Cow pose!
- On a breath out – round your back and look at your belly. Cat pose!
- Repeat this as many times as you like, moving slowly and connecting your breath to movement. Inhale for cow pose (look up) and exhale for cat pose (look at your belly!)
Walk Stop Wiggle Sit
Begin by inviting children to be prepared to walk around in a circle and then provide the following directives:
Round 1: “Walk, stop, wiggle, sit.” Mix up what you say and allow children to follow your statements by moving.
Round 2: Time to switch things up! For this round, the word walk means stop, the word stop means walk. Wiggle still means to wiggle and sit still means sit.
Round 3: It’s getting harder! For this round, the word walk means stop, the word stop means walk, the word wiggle means sit and the word sit means wiggle.
This activity was created by Little Flower Yoga.
Check out this video to see it in action: https://www.littlefloweryoga.com/blog/walk-stop-wiggle-sit-a-focus-building-game-for-kids
Body Awareness Techniques
- Rub your palms together as fast as you can for thirty seconds. Pay attention to the sound your hands make and the feeling of warmth.
- Drink a glass of ice water. Notice how the cooling sensation as it moves through your body.
- Take off your shoes and wiggle your toes in the grass. How do your feet feel?
- Bring your hands to your heart and feel your heart beating. Notice how it feels. Now jump up and down for fifteen seconds. What do you notice?
- Use the pointer finger of your left hand to trace your right hand and then switch hands.
- Create “snow angels” by lying on the ground and moving your arms and legs together.
Other Resources that Support Mindful Movement:
- “Maximo” and “Empower Tools” on GoNoodle.com
- Cosmic Kids Yoga (YouTube channel)
- Yoga Pretzel Cards
- Toys such as hula hoops and jump ropes
- Games such as hopscotch, freeze dance or musical chairs