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Healthy minds-ages 5 to 12
Use these activities with your family to learn about mental and emotional health, practice being mindful, learn ways to be more focused and engaged, and check out some useful tips about sleep.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a research-based tool that starts with purposefully bringing focus to thoughts, emotions, physical feelings, and environment. It allows kids to learn how to pause, which can be very beneficial for them both in school and at home.
How can mindfulness help kids?
Using mindfulness can help with increasing self-awareness, self-regulation, and impulse control. Improved focus and attention, decreased stress and anxiety, increased feelings of kindness and increased ability to manage emotions are common results of mindfulness practice in both kids and adults.
Mindfulness activities are more beneficial for kids when modeled by adults at home, so it's important to try and practice mindfulness yourself.
Mindfulness activities you can do at home
The mindful jar
This activity can teach children about how strong emotions can take hold, and how to find peace when these strong emotions come up.
The chime listening exercise
This exercise is not only fun and gets kids excited about sharing their experiences with others, but really helps them connect to the present moment and the sensitivity of their perceptions.
Ring a chime or bell and ask kids to listen closely to the vibration of the ringing sound. Ask them to remain silent and raise their hands when they no longer hear the sound of the bell. Then ask them to remain silent for one minute and pay close attention to the other sounds they hear once the ringing has stopped. Afterward, ask them to tell you every sound they noticed during that minute.
The squish and relax meditation
This is a great, fun activity for "loosening up" the body and mind, and is an accessible way to get kids to understand the art of "being present."
Have kids lie down with their eyes closed, have them squish and squeeze every muscle in their bodies as tightly as they can. Tell them to squish their toes and feet, tighten the muscles in their legs all the way up to their hips, suck in their bellies, squeeze their hands into fists and raise their shoulders up to their heads. Have them hold themselves in their squished-up positions for a few seconds, and then fully release and relax.
The feeling exercise
This fun and easy exercise helps kids focus on what they feel with their hands.
Collect a number of objects that feel interesting, such as feathers, putty or stones. Give the child an object, and ask them to spend a minute just noticing what it feels like in their hand. They can feel the texture, temperature, if their object is hard or soft, and the shape. Afterwards, ask children to describe what they felt.
Mindfulness and Take 5ive™ videos
The mindful jar activity can help teach children about how strong emotions can take hold, and how to find peace when these strong emotions come up. Watch the mindful jar video below to practice being mindful.
Using a Hoberman sphere, or breathing ball, can help teach kids mindful breathing. Watch the Hoberman sphere video below to practice mindful breathing.
These Take 5ive™ videos offer three types of guided exercises designed to develop focus and attention skills, cultivate everyday kindness strategies, compassion and gratitude and reset and attune the mind-body connection through movement. The videos feature calming natures scenes with voiced instructions throughout the practice or animations that are movement based.
What is screen time?
Screen time includes watching TV, using a cell phone or tablet, working on a computer, or playing video games. Because screen time is a sedentary activity, it can have a negative impact on overall health.
On average, kids under 6 watch about 2 hours of TV, videos and movies per day.
Kids 8-18 spend about 6 hours a day in front of a TV, watching videos or playing video games. When factoring in school-related screen time, the average increases to 7.5 hours.
Screen time guidelines
Children under 2 shouldn't have any screen time throughout the day.
For children 2 to 5 years old, try to limit screen time unrelated to school to 1 hour per day.
For kids 6 and older, parents should monitor the amount of screen time kids get and from what types of devices. As a general rule, 2 hours should be the daily limit.
Impact of screen time
Children who watch too much television have a higher risk of childhood obesity, have less energy and may have a harder time in school.
They are also more prone to exhibit aggressive behavior due to their tendency to copy what they see. In addition, they are exposed to more commercials and advertisements.
Screen time before bed
Screen time, especially in the hours before bedtime, is associated with poor quality sleep for both kids and adults. Turn off devices 30 minutes before bed to help improve sleep quality.
Bright light from screens can increase alertness, which has a negative impact on sleep. Melatonin, a hormone that is important for the sleep-wake cycle, can be impacted by bright lights.
Video: Conversation starters | Reducing screen time
Parents and adults can model good behavior by reading books or getting outside to be active instead of watching TV. Encouraging healthy behaviors and limiting unhealthy ones will help kids build healthy habits.
Set boundaries and times that kids can have screen time and try finding other activities for children, such as board games, arts and crafts or sports to take the place of screen time.
Be on the lookout for behavioral changes. Kids can become irritable, aggressive, selfish, or impatient after too much screen time.
Cut down on having screens during mealtimes and car rides. About 64% of people have their TV on during mealtimes so try turning off the TV and talk to your kids about their day.
Avoid putting TVs in bedrooms. This will reduce screen time and can help improve the quality of sleep that kids, and their parents, get!
How much sleep kids need
It is recommended that school aged kids between 6 and 13 years old get between 9 and 11 hours of sleep per night. Some kids require 7 to 8 hours or even 12 hours of sleep per night, but 9-13 hours is appropriate for most kids.
Why sleep is so important
Kids need more sleep than adults to help support their mental and physical development.
Not getting enough sleep can lead kids to feel tired or cranky and they may have difficulty thinking clearly or following directions. Growth and the immune system can also be impacted by a lack of sleep.
How to help kids get enough sleep
Try to have them go to bed at the same time every night as this helps them get into a routine. Follow a calming routine each night which may include taking a warm bath or reading a book.
Avoid foods and drinks that contain caffeine, such as some sodas and teas. Avoid scary TV shows or movies close to bedtime. Don't allow exercise just before bed. However, exercise earlier in the day does help a person sleep better.
Use beds just for sleeping instead of things like doing homework, reading, playing games and talking on the phone. This will help train their bodies to associate bed with sleep.
Making adjustments to sleep schedules
It's recommended to start making changes to a child's sleep schedule over several days. Make adjustments gradually using 15 minutes a night as a guideline. A bedtime routine can help with adjustment to a new schedule. Turn off electronics and start limiting light at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Keep kids active during the day prior to dinner and start wind down activities after dinnertime.