Times are tough for kids these days. There are so many issues that are completely out of their control—it really takes a toll on learning. Teaching mindfulness is a great antidote to the stress and anxiety a lot of our kids are feeling. Here are 50 mindfulness activities for kids in preschool through high school to support their well-being.
Mindfulness Activities for Kids in Preschool
1. Fly like an eagle
Combine movement with deep breathing in this exercise. As students walk slowly around the classroom, they breathe in as their wings go up and breathe out as their wings go down.
Try it: Early Impact Learning
2. Bring on the glitter
To calm down, shake up a glitter jar and then watch and breathe until the glitter settles in the bottom of the jar.
Make your own: Happy Hooligans
3. Paint nature
Nothing calms kids like connecting with nature. Collect an assortment of leaves, sticks, and rocks, then let kids use poster paint to embellish their finds.
4. Take a golden moment
Sound is a powerful tool in resetting the nervous system. Ask students to sit at their desks, close their eyes, and listen carefully. Ring a chime and ask students to raise their hand when they hear the sound subside.
Try it: Attentive Teaching
5. Try teddy breathing
Teach your students how to use slow, mindful breathing. Have them lie down on the floor with a stuffed animal on their chest. Instruct them to breathe in deeply and watch their stuffy rise, then breathe out and watch it fall. See what happens when you breath slower or faster or hold your breath.
Try it: Early Impact Learning
6. Read books
7. Take a listening walk
Teach children to focus and listen carefully as you take them on a listening walk.
Try it: Children’s Learning Institute
8. Engage all five senses
Help your students focus on the present moment as you lead them through observing what they see, smell, hear, taste, and feel.
Try it: Zero to Three
9. Blow bubbles
Nothing clears the mind (and encourages deep breathing) like good old bubble blowing. Blow bubbles, then watch how far they go before they pop!
10. Get grounded
Do a “mindful feet” body scan with students. Standing (or sitting) with eyes closed and feet firmly planted, ask students to observe how they feel as you lead them through a series of questions.
Try it: Blissful Kids
11. Practice finger tracing
Have students sit quietly and put one hand out in front of them, palm facing in. Starting at the base of the thumb, show them how to trace the outline of their hand up around their thumb and around each finger. As they trace upward, ask them to breathe in. As they trace downward, breathe out.
12. Play in water
Water is an age-old remedy for stress and worry. Set up a water table in your classroom and let students rotate through at center time.
Mindfulness Activities for Kids in Elementary School
13. Use mantras
Mantras are a simple way to encourage positive behavior, help kids focus and relax, and build positive self-esteem.
Try it: The Daily Meditation
14. Breathe deeply
Teach kids to calm their thoughts and bodies with mindful breathing. Ask students to sit quietly at their desks and direct their attention toward you. Have them breathe in as you slowly pull a Hoberman sphere apart until it reaches its full size. As you collapse the sphere, have them breathe out.
15. Create a calm-down corner
Designate a safe and cozy space for students to recenter and refocus.
16. Practice mindful art
Taking time to create is one of the best mindfulness activities for kids. Many children find peace and relaxation in art. It focuses their minds and helps them look at the world around them in a much more engaged way.
Try it: 18 Mindfulness Art Activities
17. Read stories with a mindfulness theme
Help your students develop their social-emotional awareness with these 15 wonderful stories.
18. Try guided imagery
Help students redirect their busy minds with guided imagery. Choose a quiet place that’s free from interruptions. Ask students to sit quietly and close their eyes. Read a guided imagery script slowly as soft, relaxing music plays in the background.
Try it: Calming Mind-Body Exercises
19. Master belly-breathing
Have students lie down, with arms relaxed at their sides and eyes closed. Have them imagine their abdomen is a balloon that inflates as they inhale deeply. As they exhale, they should feel the balloon deflate. Repeat.
Try it: Balancing Elephants
20. Just listen
Have students sit quietly with eyes closed. Ask them to quiet their minds and focus on listening to what’s going on around them. Set a timer for one minute. They may hear birds outside, the hum of the radiator, or the sound of their own breath. Encourage them to keep thoughts from interrupting their listening. When time is up, have them open their eyes. Ask how their minds and bodies feel compared to before the activity.
21. Stand and stretch
It’s amazing how effective just taking a moment to ask everyone to get up out of their seat and silently stretch their bodies is.
22. Go on a color search
Give each student a copy of this printable and have them search the classroom (or library, hallway, 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.
23. Use drawing prompts
Drawing and doodling are great ways to relax the mind and calm the nerves. In addition to free time for drawing, offer drawing prompts. For instance, “Draw your happy place,” or “Draw your favorite person.”
24. Make time for reflective journaling
Give students time to free-write. 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 poems or essays or letters they would like to send, or simply jot down words or phrases.
25. Use mindfulness writing prompts
Sometimes kids have a hard time coming up with ideas for what to write about. Offer thought-provoking prompts like “Things that make me happy (or sad or angry)” or “If I had five wishes.” Or have them simply make lists of favorite things (people, animals, games, places).
Try it: First Grade Writing Prompts
26. Make worry monsters
Teach your students how to make a worry monster. Then, whenever they have something that makes them sad or worried, they can write it down and feed it to their worry monster.
Try it: Early Impact Learning
Mindfulness Activities for Kids in Middle School
27. Read storybooks
Think middle schoolers are too old for picture books? Well, think again. Even big kids like to be read to. And many picture books come with excellent mindfulness lessons.
28. Make a happiness collage
Reflecting on what makes us happy helps us develop a feeling of gratitude for our lives. Ask students to bring in photos, drawings, writings, or other mementos that make them happy. Have them glue their items onto a large piece of construction paper and decorate.
29. Play Mindfulness Bingo
Games can be a useful, shared experience in mindfulness, and who doesn’t love bingo? This bingo game helps students stop and look around their environment to be more present, do something nice for others, and improve their mood.
Try it: Beauty and the Bump NYC
30. Dig in the garden
One of the best mindfulness activities for kids is connecting with the earth and watching things grow. Why not create a school garden? This would be especially great for city kids, who may not have the opportunity to garden very often.
31. Go on a mindfulness scavenger hunt
Take your kids outside and let them wander as they use these cards to learn to focus.
Try it: Elkhorn Slough Reserve
32. Stack rocks
Although the practice of rock stacking in nature is discouraged by some, it’s a great activity to replicate indoors. Simply buy a supply of stones from your local craft store and let kids build on a square of cardboard.
Try it: Rhythms of Play
33. Relax your muscles
Lead your students through a progressive muscle relaxation.
34. Create self-portraits
This terrific art project encourages kids to think about what makes them unique. After drawing a portrait, ask them to add words that describe their personality.
Try it: Kids Activities
35. Set intentions
When kids take time to set a simple intention for their day, it helps them be more productive.
36. Enter peacefully
As students line up to enter your classroom, have each one stop and take a full breath in and out before they come in. This will provide a mindful transition from the chaos of the hallway to a calm learning environment.
37. Introduce meditation
Meditation is an incredible tool for managing stress and anxiety. Introduce your kids to a kid-appropriate version.
Try it: Anahana
38. Practice loving kindness toward yourself
Teach kids to cultivate compassion toward themselves with mantras.
Try it: Mindful Littles
39. Practice loving kindness toward others
Spread a little love to those around you with buddy wishes.
Try it: Mindful Littles
Mindfulness Activities for Kids in High School
40. Keep a mindfulness journal
Expressing your thoughts and emotions in a journal is a lifelong strategy that promotes mindfulness.
41. Practice five-finger gratitude
Have students simply take a moment to count out one thing they’re grateful for on each finger. You’ll be surprised how it changes their attitude to one of gratitude.
42. Support mindfulness with good books
Check out Be More Yoda: Mindful Thinking From a Galaxy Far Far Away by Christian Blauvelt or The Self-Compassionate Teen by Karen Bluth, PhD.
43. Color mandalas
It’s true! Mandala coloring can be therapeutic. The activity is known to promote relaxation and foster concentration.
Try it: Calm Sage
44. Have a lava lamp on hand
We all know the trance-inducing effects of lava lamps. Pick a quiet corner in your classroom for students to retreat to and take a few moments to simply sit and stare. Or better yet, make your own!
Try it: DIY Lava Lamp at PBS.org
45. Adapt students’ screen time
It’s hard to be mindful when you’re constantly bombarded with input. From tracking screen time to phone-free Fridays, there are many ways to encourage our teens to disconnect from screen time.
46. Try dance therapy
Dancing brings important mental health benefits such as stress reduction and symptom relief for anxiety and depression.
Try it: Very Well Mind
47. Download mindfulness apps
Try it: Raising Teens Today
48. Soothe the senses with music
Music has many benefits for the mind. Play classical music during work time in the classroom. Or look up Zen playlists on Spotify to help students focus and create.
Try it: Classical Music Songs for Kids
49. Set daily goals
Starting your day or school period with a positive intention promotes focus and concentration.
Try it: Shape.com
50. Use guided imagery
Ask your students to sit quietly and close their eyes. Then guide them through a mindful visualization in a calm and gentle voice.
Try it: Compassionate Counseling