This simple mindfulness exercise helps kids calm down and relax. The body scan is a fun exercise for building more body awareness and emotional attunement.
It’s terrific for adults as well. I use this exercise weekly. The body scan is a great tool to use when anxious or when you need to release tension.
Cultivate awareness of both body and emotions
The reason why I love this exercise is that it helps us get in touch with our bodies and our emotions.
Emotions are not just experienced as an attitude; they can be felt in the body.
Have you ever had a sinking feeling in your stomach? Have you felt the weight of stress on your shoulders?
When we are busy, we often forget to pay attention to our emotions – we become out of touch with our emotional experience.
Often by the time we find out that we’re in a bad mood it’s already too late, but you can learn to notice negative moods before they escalate. This way you can do something about it before it’s too late.
If stress tends to show up in your shoulders, you can counteract it by checking your shoulders to catch the signals of surging stress.
The more we pay attention to how our body feels, the more we can pick up on subtle moods. The body scan teaches us to do this.
You can also learn to notice, nurture, and enjoy positive feelings.
If you notice a good feeling in your body, an expansive feeling in your chest, or a general lightness in your body, you can tune in to it and stay with it for a while. Allow yourself time to really recognise these moments.
Below the children’s version of the body scan, you’ll find a short guided body scan for adults.
Here’s the children’s version of the mindfulness exercise:
Mindfulness For Children – Body Scan For Kids
Purpose: Mindfulness / Relaxation
Best for: Ages 6+
What you need: Nothing!
This activity asks the child to think about parts of his body that he otherwise probably doesn’t notice. Some of the questions may seem “silly” to little ones, so it’s a great idea to model the activity first while thinking aloud.
The first time the child attempts a body scan, make sure he’s wearing comfortable clothes and the room isn’t too hot or too cold, and then ask him to lie down.
Start at the top of his head, and tell him to think about how different parts of his body “feel,” moving down the body from his head to his toes as the activity progresses.
You might ask things like: How does your hair feel? What about your forehead? What’s happening with your ears today? Are they feeling like ears?
Then suggest he bring his attention to his shoulders. Tell him to think about how they might move a little as he breathes in and out. And so on and so forth, all the way down to his toes.
Some of these questions may elicit giggles from the child; he’s probably never thought about what his hair “feels like.” This is why it’s a fantastic idea to provide a model of your own before asking him to participate. As you think aloud, use relatable words. For example, you might say, “My hair feels soft and twisty” or “Today my forehead is a little tingly in the middle.”
When it’s over, ask the child how it felt during the exercise and how he feels now.
You can introduce mindfulness to your child with the “Squish And Let Go” exercise to get used to sensations in different parts of the body.
Try It Yourself – Body Scan For Adults
The body scan is a classic mindfulness meditation included in the University of Massachusetts Medical School Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program. The body scan helps you relax, be aware of the different parts of your body, and essentially get in touch with your body. It trains attention and is a great way to release pent-up emotions.
“When we practice the body scan, we are systematically and intentionally moving our attention through the body, attending to the various sensations in the different regions. That we can attend to these body sensations at all is quite remarkable.”
Here’s a 5-minute adult version of the body scan by Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. for you to try out before you share the simplified practice with your child.
If you are new to mindfulness with children we recommend that you read our guide: How To Practice Mindfulness With Children – The Essential Guide
May you be happy and healthy!
Chris Bergstrom is a dad who is thrilled to practice mindfulness with his son. He is trained by Mindful Schools to teach mindfulness to students in K-12 (but not associated with MS) and a member of the American Mindfulness Research Association. He’s also an executive consultant, and has taught meditation for more than 10 years.