The cool thing about mindfulness is that you can practice during ordinary activities and even make familiar games a mindfulness practice.
Any routine activity can be made into a mindfulness practice when you bring your full attention to it, but these games are perfect for nurturing mindfulness.
You can introduce the concept of mindfulness to kids with games like Jenga and Simon Says. Now that sounds like a lot of fun, right?
When I teach mindfulness to adults, I like to mix in some kids activities to make it playful on occasion.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be so serious.
Especially with kids you want to make it fun and engaging to keep your practice going.
The following games help children to learn:
and how to calm down.
Ready, set, PLAY!
5 Awareness building games to nurture mindfulness
1. Mindful game: Balancing on one foot
Purpose: Body awareness, Focus, Awareness, Mindful seeing
Best For: Ages 3+, groups or one-on-one
What you need: Nothing
This is a simple game to develop focus and body awareness. It can be used to combat boredom while standing in a line, for example.
Ask your child to focus her gaze on a point slightly below eye level. Then ask her to stand on one leg and keep her gaze on the focal point. How long can she balance like this?
Try the other leg. To make it more difficult, engage your child in conversation. Ask her to sing something or to balance with her eyes closed. With a group of kids, you can see who can balance the longest time.
See if balancing becomes easier when you add mindful breathing to it.
2. Mindful game: Jenga
Purpose: Body awareness, Focus, Awareness, Understanding emotions
Best For: Ages 6+, one-on-one
What you need: Jenga the game
Jenga isn’t just for kids–it’s a lot of fun for everyone. It teaches you how to pay attention, too. You can make it mindful by asking your child to pay attention to whatever it is that distracts her from the game.
Is she able to notice what made her lose focus?
Did thoughts or emotions make her lose concentration?
How about if you ask her tough questions as you play?
See how the game changes when you find a calm and clear mind. Try a few mindful breaths and see how it affects the results. Get Jenga here.
3. Mindful game: Pennies game
Purpose: Detail Awareness, Focus, Awareness
Best For: Ages 3+, groups or one-on-one
What you need: One penny for each player, a basket
Everyone gets a penny and a minute to study it in detail. The pennies are then placed back in the basket. Each player has to pick their penny out of all the pennies and say how they knew it was theirs. This game can be played with different objects.
4. Mindful game: Balancing relay
Purpose: Body awareness, Focus, Awareness
Best For: Ages 5+, groups or one-on-one
What you need: A spoon and some water (or a spoon and a potato) per team
Similar to the egg-and-spoon race, this game teaches both focus and body awareness. The idea is to carry a spoon full of water to the next kid without spilling a drop. You can make it into a relay race if you are playing with a group of kids. To take it to the next level, ask your child to walk backwards or sideways while balancing the spoon.
5. Mindful game: Simon Says
Purpose: Mindful listening and seeing, Focus, Awareness
Best For: Ages 4+, groups or one-on-one
What you need: Room to move
The classic Simon Says game uses both mindful seeing and listening skills. When the leader (the designated Simon) issues her command verbally and shows what to do visually, kids are challenged to pay attention to both visual and auditory input and discern whether or not to act.
The clue is that there’s a conflict between what they see visually and what they are instructed to do verbally.
Remember, you are only allowed to act when the leader says “Simon says” before the instruction.
We tend to act without thinking, and this game demonstrates just that.
Simon Says is a fun way to practice mindfulness by paying attention to outer experiences.
Here’s how the game works.
Choose who will take the role of Simon. It’s best if you model first. Next, Simon stands in front of the player(s) and issues instructions for physical actions and shows how to do them.
The instructions should be followed only if prefaced with the phrase “Simon says”.
Players win when they follow an instruction that is preceded by the phrase “Simon says”.
Players fail if they perform the action without the “Simon says” phrase or if they fail to perform the action when the phrase “Simon says” is used before the instruction.
If you want keep the game less competitive, you don’t have to eliminate players when they fail.
When you play with just one child, you can decide to switch roles when the player fails three times.
It doesn’t matter if you can actually perform the physical tasks, an attempt is enough. The ability to distinguish fake commands is what matters in this fun game.
Here are some amusing examples:
Simon says play air guitar. Simon demonstrates playing air guitar.
Simons says waddle like a penguin. Simon does a penguin impression.
Simon says cry like a baby. Simon cries like a baby.
Simon says tickle your feet. Simon tickles his feet.
Simon says giggle. Simon giggles.
Simon says freeze. Simon freezes.
Simon says spin around once. Simon spins around.
Simon says spin around twice. Simon spins around twice.
Spin around three times. Simon spins around thrice.
Did you attempt to spin around after this last command?
If you spun around, you failed. Simon didn’t say “Simon says” before the command. :-)
When you are done playing, talk about the experience. Ask your child if it was hard or easy to pay attention to the instructions. Was it hard to pay attention to the instructions when they were excited and having fun?
Discuss how paying attention to what we see and hear could be helpful.
What other games could be used to nurture mindfulness? Let us know!
I hope you enjoyed these ideas. May you be happy and healthy!
Chris Bergstrom is the co-founder of BlissfulKids.com and a dad who is thrilled to practice mindfulness with his son. He is a certified mindfulness facilitator, and trained to teach mindfulness to students in K-12. He’s also an executive consultant, and has taught meditation for more than 10 years.