The “Take Five” exercise is super simple to remember and can be used on-the-spot when we’re overwhelmed, need some space to think, and when we want to calm down to make better choices.
You can use it pretty much anywhere, at any time. The exercise anchors our awareness back to the present moment. The idea is to use the five fingers to count each breath cycle.
I highly recommend to try it out and to make it one of your go-to tools for those difficult moments.
Try out this exercise before you introduce it to your children. This will prepare you to better assist your children when they begin. If they run into any snags, you will be able to help from a place of your own experience.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the way you present mindfulness. If you’re relaxed and happy, your children will associate mindfulness with good, connected feelings that they will remember their whole lives. You wouldn’t want to make mindfulness feel like a chore or, worse, a consequence for negative behavior, because the associations would then not be positive.
The best way to introduce mindfulness is by practicing it in the moments when your child is calm. Practice when your child is in a good mood and tell him that the exercise can help him calm down the next time he feels overwhelmed. Model the process yourself to show the child exactly what to do.
Here’s the exercise.
Mindfulness For Children – Take Five Exercise
Purpose: Emotional regulation / Calm / Focus
Best for: 4+
What you need: Nothing!
After a few tries, the child can use this calming strategy independently. Here’s how it works:
1. Tell the child to fan out his hand “like a star,” and place it atop a table, on a knee, or other surface.
2. Next, direct him to take his pointer finger from the opposite hand and begin to trace along the hand that is fanned out. Tell him to inhale through the nose as he traces the outside of his thumb, then exhale through the mouth as he traces along the inside of his thumb. Inhale as he traces the outside of his pointer finger, exhale as he traces the inside of his pointer finger…and so on and so forth until all of his fingers have been traced.
3. As he traces each finger, encourage him to not only focus on every breath, but also have him consider how the small movements feel on his hands. Conscious attention applied slowly has a calming, awareness building, and relaxing effect.
When he is finished, ask him about his emotions. Is there a difference in how he feels afterwards?
Simply start with tracing if combining breathing with tracing of the fingers feels like too much at once. Even the simple act of tracing can help your child to focus and calm down.
Here’s a really nice video from Childhood 101 explaining it all:
Older children and adults can use the same technique in a simpler more subtle way. Simply make a fist of your preferred hand and open one finger at a time when you’ve completed following one breath cycle (one in breath and one out breath). When you’ve opened your palm fully you know you’re done! You can do this before a test, with your hand hidden under the table if you wish, or at a meeting before your presentation to find your center.
Here’s a guided audio version of the exercise by Mindfulness Without Borders:
I hope that your family will enjoy this exercise. May you be happy and healthy!
If you are new to mindfulness with children we recommend that you read our guide: How To Practice Mindfulness With Children – The Essential Guide
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.