All children can benefit from mind-body activities like mindful breathing and visualization, but especially children who are dealing with something really significant like a recent move, a divorce or a death in the family. Mind-body exercises can help kids learn to calm their minds and regulate their emotions. Some of the many benefits of introducing mind-body exercises into your classroom include students learning better self-control, anxiety management, concentration and mental focus.
Breathing and Movement
children in breathing and movement activity helps them to become more
aware of their bodies and the sensations within their bodies. It teaches
them how to use their breath to focus their attention and calm
themselves. The goal is for kids to learn techniques that they can later
use when they need help regulating their emotions or behaviors. The
more they practice, the easier it will be for them to call on these
resources during uncomfortable or overwhelming situations.
A simple lesson to begin with is deep belly breathing.
In this activity, students will stand up straight with their feet
shoulder-width apart, their bodies relaxed and their eyes closed. You
will read the instructions for them to follow as they observe the breath
as it flows through their body.
Progressive muscle relaxation is
another great activity for helping students becoming aware of their
bodies as you guide them through tightening and then releasing their
muscles from their heads to their toes.
exercises give kids the opportunity to be fully present in the moment.
Being mindful and focused on a task can provide relief from revisiting
past stress and trauma, like abuse or an absent family member, or from
worrying about the future.
Try this simple listening activity.
Have your students sit quietly at their desks with their eyes closed.
Ask them to quiet their minds and listen very carefully to what is going
on around them. Then set a timer for one minute. They may hear the tick
of a clock or the hum of a computer, the sound of their own breath
entering and leaving their body or birds chirping outside the classroom.
Encourage them to try and keep thoughts from interrupting their
listening. When time is up, ask students to notice what their bodies and
minds feel like compared to before the activity.
A more active exercise you can try is leading your students on a color search. Make one copy of this printable
for each student and have them search the classroom (or library, or
hallway, or outdoor space, etc.) to find one item for each color listed
on the sheet. The only catch? They must search independently and
silently so that everyone can work mindfully.
Guided Imagery and Relaxation
imagery is a great strategy to help kids learn to interrupt intrusive
thoughts. Guided visualizations are usually directed by a script and can
be recorded or read aloud. Read the script slowly in a quiet place,
free from interruptions. You may want to have soft, relaxing music
playing in the background while you read the script. Do whatever works
best for your kids.
Try this simple relaxation exercise/guided visualization.
Have your kids sit quietly and comfortably in their chairs. Tell them
to close their eyes and listen to the rhythm of their breathing as they
follow your directions, which will focus their attention on noticing and
relaxing one part of their body at a time. Afterward, encourage them to
remember what this relaxed state feels like whenever they feel tension
or worry, like before a big test or when they have to visit a family
member in the hospital.
Create or find scripts for other scenarios
you might use for guided imagery—for example, going on a hot air
balloon ride, taking a walk in the woods, or sitting beside a babbling
Drawing and Coloring
coloring can be a wonderful calming and focusing activity. Take a break
from the chaos of a full day and put on soft music, dim the lights, and
let your kids enjoy creating something beautiful. You may even want to
join in! Being able to tap into the quiet concentration that creating
art requires will build your students’ capacity for self-calming in
upsetting situations, such as when they are in a fight with a friend or
are worrying about not finishing an assignment.
You can give your students drawing prompts such as, “Draw a picture of yourself,” or “Draw a favorite pet or animal,” or “Draw your happy place.” Or give them copies of mandalas to color or interesting printables like this one.
can be a fun and relaxing activity for your students. Journaling has
the added benefit of giving kids an opportunity to work out problems
they are experiencing—loss, worries, disputes, dilemmas—as well as the
chance to remember good experiences. Don’t set limits on the content or
format of their writing, just encourage them to express themselves any
way they choose: They can make lists, write simple poems or essays or
letters they would like to send, or simply jot down words or phrases.
Sometimes kids have a hard time knowing where to begin. If this is the case, they may appreciate being given prompts
like “Things that make me happy (or sad or angry) are…” or “One of the
best stories I’ve ever heard or read is…” or “My favorite place in the
world is…” Download this printable to help get students started with
lists of 10 favorite things.
As teachers, we want to help our students when they’re scared or
stressed, but sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what to do or how we
can take on the big emotions in the short time we have with our students each day. Here
are seven quick, easy activities from The National Institute for Trauma
and Loss in Children, a program of Starr Global Learning Network that can help kids manage uncomfortable or overwhelming emotions.
How it works: Give each student a Worry Bead Printable.
Ask them to label each bead with something that they worry about, then
color in the beads that represent their biggest worries. When they
finish, share with them, “Now, instead of carrying all of your worries
around in your head, you can store them right here on paper.”
How it works:
Brainstorm ideas with your students about how they might help a friend
who is upset or overwhelmed. Then, give them time to make a list of
things they could do or say to that friend. At the end of the session, help them understand that they can do and say the same things to themselves when they are feeling hurt—they can be their own best friend!
How it works: Ask your students this question: “If you had a mask to hide behind from your fears, what would it look like?” Pass out a mask printable
to each student and give them time to decorate it any way they choose.
Then ask: “Since we can’t always hide, what are some other things we can
do when we are really scared? What would make you feel a little bit
less scared?” Give students time to respond to the questions in their
How it works: Pass out copies of the printable shown below.
Ask students to think about things that really make them angry and
write them on the lines provided. Have a conversation about the harmful
effects of holding onto anger—not only for ourselves, but for
relationships we have with others. Together, come up with a list of
strategies for coping with anger.
How it works: Use this printable or download other mandalas for free at ColoringCastle.com.
Put on soft, soothing background music, dim the lights, get out the art
supplies and give students time to let their bodies de-stress and their
minds wander as they color.
How it works: Ask
your students to think about a happy memory from their past. Invite
them to close their eyes and picture the details—the colors and shapes,
sounds, smells, and people that were part of this happy time. Then give
them time to capture all of the details on the printable.
How it works: Ask your
students to think about their hopes, dreams and goals for the future,
either short-term or long-term. Give them a copy of this rainbow printable
to write a hope, dream or goal on each stripe of the rainbow and then
color it in. Now they have a tangible reminder of all the happy things
they have to look forward to in the future!