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Mindful Moments With Kids: Simple Practices to Bring Presence

At the start and end of each Uplift lesson we suggest doing a mindful moment: Lighting a candle, singing a song, expressing gratitude, etc.

Of course, these mindful moments don’t have to be limited to the beginning or ending of a lesson. You can use them whenever you’d like — including when you don’t have enough time for a full lesson but still want to bring a sense of peace and presence in your home.

To help you integrate these moments into your life, we’ve compiled a list of practices we recommend. Choose a favorite to bookend a lesson, or do one when you’re crunched for time.

Light a Candle
This simple action helps mark time before and after an activity, whether it’s a lesson, a meditation, a song, or something else. The visual reminder of the flame can help everyone focus for the time the candle is lit, creating a “container” that sets apart your time together as something special. (You might set a timer and say that you’ll all focus while the timer is going, after which you’ll blow out the candle and be done with the activity.)

Ring a Chime or a Bell
Chimes and bells are a staple in meditation halls for good reason: They bring heightened awareness to the present moment. Rather than ask repeatedly for everyone to listen, strike the chime. The site Chimes.com has a simple chime in their meditation collection.

Meditate
Here are a few short meditations to try as a family:

1. Breathe
Choose a number of breaths to count and then count them together — in (1) and out (2). You might aim for six breaths for littles and more for older kids. It’s a simple way to mark the switch from one activity to another, whether before a meal, after getting home from school, or before bed. Our lesson on mindfulness contains an original meditation to help kids focus on the breath.

2. Notice
Set a timer (30 seconds for littles, longer for older kids) and invite each person to close their eyes and notice whatever they notice — sounds, thoughts, emotions, etc. Afterward, ask each person to say something they noticed. This practice helps kids be more aware of their surroundings. It also helps them understand that all things, including difficult emotions, eventually pass. 

3. Take a Mindful Bite
Take one mindful bite at the beginning of a meal, noticing flavor, texture, and more. See our lesson on mindful eating for more.

4. Scan Your Body
Take a few moments to notice any tension you feel in the body, starting at the top of the head, down to the eyebrows, the jaw, the shoulders, the arms, the stomach, the legs, and the feet. Release the tension and relax. This often works well before bed.

5. Be Aware of Awareness
Notice the part of yourself that is aware of everything that’s happening — the part of yourself that is a witness to thoughts, feelings, sights, sensations, and more. By being aware of awareness itself, you recognize that there’s part of you that cannot be hurt or broken. This ground of being can serve as a resting place during hard times.

Express Gratitude
Say three things you’re grateful for, write a note of gratitude, or recognize something in your life that you’ve taken for granted. Another option, named Rose and Thorn, is to say one good thing that happened during the day or week and one difficult thing that happened. See more in our gratitude lesson.

Pray
Use whatever approach that resonates most with you to connect to something beyond yourself — the divine, God, nature, ancestors, etc. Many typical aspects of prayer (closing the eyes, bowing the head, etc.) help to bring a sense of presence and gratitude. It’s also a way to connect to a guiding power in life. As professor of psychology Lisa Miller describes in her books, this connection gives kids a way to navigate periods of hopelessness.

Sing
Establish a repertoire of songs you can sing in the home together. This collection might consist of songs from a faith tradition, pop culture, or a simple chant. In any case, the songs should spark good will. See ideas and some original recordings from Uplift in our singing lesson and our music lesson.

Share Family Stories
Open a photo album, read an old journal, or watch a family video. Use the moment to reflect on how times have changed and how times have stayed the same. Point out any feelings of love and connection that arise.

Write in a Journal
Take a few moments to record something about your day — your thoughts or feelings. See our downloadable journal with daily prompts (for members).

Read or Memorize a Passage From a Wisdom Text
Select a passage from our wisdom library or “What the Wisdom Says” portion of a lesson to read as an inspirational thought. You can also print out and memorize the passage, perhaps one per month, so the message sinks in. The tool Memorize.me can help with this!

Move!
Stretch and do yoga poses to bring feelings of calm. Or throw a spontaneous dance party to bring a sense of play, laughter, and togetherness when things feel too serious.

Choose an Emotion Card
Select an emotion card at random and see how that emotion arises, if at all, during the day or week. If it does, note any wisdom the emotion conveys. What is the emotion trying to tell you? How can you honor the wisdom of the emotion without letting it overpower you?

Make a Family Recipe
Find an old family recipe and make the meal together while you tell family stories. A different take on this idea is to make a recipe from another culture related to a holiday (e.g., Holi, Ramadan, Easter, etc.) and talk about what you appreciate most from that culture.

Complete Sentence Stems
These simple prompts open people up and inspire conversations. Go around in a circle and invite each person to complete each sentence as many times as feels natural. Here are few to try:

  • I feel loved when  ___________.
  • Something you don’t know about me is  ___________.
  • People are surprised when they find out I  ___________.
  • The last time I felt wonder is  ___________.
  • I’m really curious about  ___________.
  • Someone I’m grateful for is  ___________.
  • One thing I’m lucky to have is  ___________.
  • I’m really good at ___________.
  • I’m afraid of ___________.

Pull out one of these sentence stems when you want to connect.

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Use any combination of these mindful moments to start or end a lesson — or whenever you want to be present together.

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