51 Mindfulness Exercises for Kids in the Classroom - Waterford.org (2023)

These days, the answer to the question, “Should we prioritize academics or social-emotional learning in schools?” is a firm, “Yes to both.” Academic skills are of course essential for children’s lifelong success. But without intentional social-emotional development, students may not learn how to process their emotions and connect with others in healthy ways. That’s where mindfulness can come in.

If you’re not sure exactly what mindfulness is, here’s a quick recap. Mindfulness involves both an awareness and an acceptance of both the world around us and our internal experiences.[3] Mindful people tend to focus more on the present instead of ruminating on the past or future, and they cultivate a curiosity towards their thoughts, emotions, or physical sensations.

Let’s go over some of the benefits of mindfulness and how it relates to social-emotional learning (SEL). Then, we’ll share 51 tips and activities for teaching elementary students how to practice mindfulness.

Why Mindfulness? Consider the Social-Emotional Benefits

Why teach mindfulness in our schools? The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has linked mindfulness to two core social-emotional skills: self-regulation and self-awareness. These skills teach students not only how to recognize their thoughts, emotions, and actions, but also how to react in positive ways.

According to brain imaging research, practicing mindfulness can alter brain structure in a way that can improve a student’s reaction to stress.[1] It thickens the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for perception and reasoning, and increases blood flow in the brain.[2] And not only does mindfulness training reduce stress levels, it can also help alleviate anxiety or depression.[4,5]

A final reason to try mindfulness in your classroom? It can be especially helpful for children with learning disabilities, particularly attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). One study found that children with learning disabilities who received mindfulness training earned better grades and had fewer behavioral issues compared to before they started the program.[6] Children in special education programs better connected with their peers after mindfulness training.[7]

Overall, mindfulness has something to offer for every child in your class. It can relieve student stress, reduce bullying rates, and help children with learning disabilities or special needs develop stronger SEL skills. If you haven’t yet tried mindfulness activities with your class, now may be the time to see just how much they can benefit your students.

29 Individual Activities for Teaching Mindfulness to Children

51 Mindfulness Exercises for Kids in the Classroom - Waterford.org (1)The best way to show students how to be mindful is to practice it in class. These 51 engaging mindfulness activities can help your students develop self-awareness and self-regulation skills.

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1. Heartbeat Exercise: As your students monitor their heartbeat and breathing after exercise, they’ll learn to become mindful of how their body feels.

2. Pinwheel Breathing: This exercise helps students practice deep breaths by using a pinwheel to show them how.

3. Muscle Relaxation: How often are we truly mindful of the muscles in our body? With this activity, children can start practicing mindfulness around how they tense or relax their muscles.

4. Five Senses Exercise: Did you know that you can use all five of your senses while being mindful? This activity can show you how!

5. The Present Moment Worksheet: This free mindfulness worksheet teaches young students all about what it means to be present.

6. Making Mindful Observations: Add a little social-emotional learning to your science lessons by teaching students to make mindful observations.

7. Teaching STOP Mindfulness: Teach kids the core components of mindfulness through the acronym STOP: Stop, Take a breath, Observe, and Proceed.

8. Breathing Boards: Have your students follow the line with their fingers as they take calm, measured breaths.

9. Mindful Glitter Jar: This adorable craft can give students a visual example of how their thoughts settle down after practicing mindfulness.

10. Mindful Eating: What student doesn’t love a lesson that involves snacks? With this creative mindfulness exercise, students can learn to be more aware of what they’re eating.

11. Smiling Minds App: Try out this free mindfulness app for kids with your students to practice short meditations and other exercises.

12. Quiet Time: Adding a little quiet time to your classroom schedule can give students room to de-stress and focus on the present.

13. Nature Walk: Embark on an outdoor walk that will encourage your students to engage all of their five senses in observation.

14. Rainbow Bubble Breathing Story: For younger students, this “story” about a rainbow bubble can be a great visual for practicing controlled breathing.

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15. Positive Affirmations: Check out this list of 125 positive mantras your students can use while meditating or reflecting on their strengths.

16. Build-a-Face Story Stones: This activity can help students learn to observe and recognize different emotions.

17. Blindfolded Taste Test: Taste is a powerful sensation, and this activity can be especially helpful for teaching students to analyze different sensations.

18. Being Mindful of Anger: Anger can be difficult for kids to process and even tougher for them to react to in a healthy way. Use this quick meditation script to help students calm down when they feel overwhelmed.

19. Mindful Journaling Prompts: Try some of these journaling prompts with older students to help them reflect on internal and external experiences.

20. Emotion Octopus Craft: Learning about our emotions has never looked so adorable! Let each child put together an emotion octopus, then have a class discussion on feelings.

21. Today I Feel…: Hang this Muppet-themed chart in your classroom and teach students how to recognize the emotions they feel each day.

22. Square Breaths: Square breathing is a simple yet effective way to help students calm down when they’re feeling overwhelmed.

23. Stop and Think Worksheet: Every action we do can cause a positive or negative reaction in others. Pass this worksheet out to your students, then discuss why it matters to consider others’ reactions.

24. Raisin Exercise: Hand out a raisin to each of your students, then practice observing it using each of the five senses. Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center recommends doing this exercise multiple times to get the full effect, but even once can be a helpful experience for your students.

25. Draw Your Breath: This art exercise can help students gain self-awareness of their breath and use that knowledge to move towards relaxation.

26. Melt or Freeze?: Mindfulness is a great way to help students manage their impulses. This activity helps students sort possible actions into impulsive (“melt”) and responsible (“freeze”).

27. Tuning into Different Moods: If we’re overwhelmed or distracted, it can be hard to remember to stay mindful of our emotions. This exercise requires just a few minutes as you teach students to observe what they’re feeling in the moment.

28. Emotions Bottles: While we definitely don’t want students to “bottle up” their feelings, this activity uses the Pixar movie Inside Out to help children name and claim their emotions.

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29. Mindful Coloring: Did you know that coloring is a great way to practice mindfulness for both children and adults?[8] Use these printable coloring pages for a quiet activity to relax and focus on the present.

21 Group Activities for Teaching Mindfulness to Children

Group mindfulness activities can help children practice what they have learned and discuss what it means to be grounded in the present. These 21 activities—including classroom ideas as well as home activities for families—are a great place to start.

30. Yoga for Kids: Check out this video of mindfulness exercises that will help elementary students practice yoga through age-appropriate and imaginative games.

31. Rainbow Walk: Go on a walk with your students and encourage them to find something red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet as a quick way to practice mindfulness.

32. Mindful Quote Jar: This DIY craft (#3 on the list) will help you make a jar full of mindfulness quotes so you can share little insights with your students every day.

33. Mindfulness Bingo: Give your students the challenge of completing as many activities as possible on the mindfulness bingo sheet. Then, hold a class discussion on how many they did and how the mindfulness activities made them feel.

34. Red Light, Green Light: This game is a classic P.E. staple, but did you know that you can use it to teach observation—a core part of mindfulness?

35. What Would You Do?: Use this worksheet to help children become more aware of their actions and emotions in real-life situations.

36. Root to Rise Activity: This activity combines yoga and meditation to help students mindfully practice self-confidence and peace.

37. Assessing vs. Judging Others: Do you know the difference between observing and judging another person? Teach your students how to assess others mindfully with this social-emotional learning activity.

38. Freeze Dance Mindfulness: Have a freeze dance party with your class as a fun way to engage and teach your students about mindfulness.

39. Body Scan: Try this quick body scan meditation as a class to focus on emotions and physical sensations.

40. Gift of You: This festive activity is a great way to teach mindfulness around the holidays.

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41. What Are You Doing? Activity: This activity teaches students both how to listen mindfully and pay better attention to their actions.

42. Lots of Feelings: Share this take-home activity with families so they can help children practice recognizing and processing emotions.

43. Read a Book About Mindfulness: Put together a story-time read aloud with this list of 11 best mindfulness books for young learners from Read Brightly.

44. Who Am I? Game: This classic game encourages students to pay attention and make observations, which can be helpful for developing mindfulness.

45. Mindful or Unmindful? Worksheet: To make sure your students grasp what mindfulness is and is not, fill out this worksheet as a class.

46. Mindful Listening: Listening is an essential part of mindfulness. Use this resource to show your students how to become mindful listeners in school and elsewhere.

47. Guided Meditation: Demonstrating how to meditate to your little learners can be tough. With this guided meditation designed for children, you can help them learn how.

48. Mindfulness Safari: With this mindfulness safari, you can learn to pay attention to the world around you from the comfort of your schoolyard.

49. What Mood Are You Generating in Others?: Using this lesson plan as a guide, discuss with your students how everyday actions affect their classmates and what they can do to put themselves in another person’s shoes.

50. Mindfulness Scavenger Hunt: As students check off each box in this modified scavenger hunt, they will get closer and closer to practicing mindfulness.

51. Mindful Gratitude Exercise: When students learn to be mindful of what they’re thankful for, they can find greater contentment in their lives.


  1. Davidson, R. and Lutz, A. Buddha’s brain: neuroplasticity and meditation. IEEE Signal Process Magazine, 2008, 25(1), pp. 174–176.
  2. Weare, K. Evidence for the Impact of Mindfulness on Children and Young People. The Mindfulness in Schools Project, April 2012, pp. 1-12.
  3. Greater Good Magazine. Mindfulness Definition: What Is Mindfulness? Retrieved from berkeley.edu: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition.
  4. Napoli, M.N., Krech, P.R., and Holley, L.C. Mindfulness Training for Elementary School Students. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 2005, 21(1), pp. 99-125.
  5. Meiklejohn, J. et. al. Integrating Mindfulness Training into K-12 Education: Fostering the Resilience of Teachers and Students. Mindfulness, 3(4), pp. 291-307.
  6. Leland, M. Mindfulness and Student Success. Journal of Adult Education, 2015, 44(1), pp. 19-24.
  7. Benn, R., Akiva, T., Arel, S., and Roeser, R. W. Mindfulness training effects for parents and educators of children with special needs. Developmental Psychology, 2012, 48(5), pp. 1476-87.
  8. Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials. 3 Reasons Adult Coloring Can Actually Relax Your Brain. May 27, 2020. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/3-reasons-adult-coloring-can-actually-relax-brain/.


What are 5 mindfulness exercises you can do with students? ›

Mindful activities for learners
  • Mindful breathing. This activity is great for bringing the mind back to the importance of our breath. ...
  • Color breathing. Ask your students to think of a relaxing color and another color that represents anger, frustration, or sadness. ...
  • The five senses. ...
  • Body scan. ...
  • Breaktime bell. ...
  • Daily gratitude.
Jan 16, 2020

What are some mindfulness activities for kids? ›

8 Mindfulness Activities & Exercises for Kids
  • Practice intentional breathing.
  • Focus on the five senses.
  • Create mandalas.
  • Get in touch with the outside.
  • Engage and explore the senses.
  • Create a sensory surprise bag.
  • Practice yoga.
  • Download mindfulness apps.
Jun 28, 2022

How do you practice mindfulness in the classroom? ›

In addition to traditional sitting meditation, students can try body-scan meditation and walking meditation. Targeted mindfulness techniques, such as uncurling a finger with each breath, are especially helpful for older students who are stressed because they are about to take an exam.

What are some mindfulness questions? ›

20 Mindful Questions to Ask Yourself
  • What makes me feel alive?
  • What are my core values?
  • How does anger/grief/anxiety/happiness present in my body?
  • What is the fear beneath one of my surface fears?
  • What choice or decision feels most authentic to me right now?
  • At the end of my life, what will I hope to have experienced?

What are the 5 basics of mindfulness practice? ›

  • Five Steps to Mindfulness.
  • First Mindfulness Exercise: Mindful Breathing.
  • Second Mindfulness Exercise: Concentration.
  • Third Mindfulness Exercise: Awareness of Your Body.
  • Fourth Mindfulness Exercise: Releasing Tension.
  • Fifth Exercise: Walking Meditation.

What is the 3 step mindfulness exercise? ›

The 3-Step Mindfulness Exercise

Try to pause and take a comfortable but dignified posture. Notice the thoughts that come up and acknowledge your feelings, but let them pass. Attune yourself to who you are and your current state.

What is mindfulness lesson kids? ›

Mindfulness means paying full attention to something. It means slowing down to really notice what you're doing. Being mindful is the opposite of rushing or multitasking. When you're mindful, you're taking your time.

What is a mindful activity? ›

Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.

How do you create a calming classroom? ›

  1. Create a Calming Classroom Atmosphere.
  2. Build in Time for Independent Work.
  3. Practice Yoga with Your Students.
  4. Teach Calming Breathing Exercises.
  5. Read Guided Imagery to Them.
  6. Start Class by Warming Up with Brain Games.
  7. Teach Mindfulness to Assess Mood and Emotions.
  8. Play Interesting Educational Videos.

What does a mindfulness teacher do? ›

Mindful teachers teach mindfulness techniques that can improve self-regulation and focus. Mindfulness is a practice that develops attention and awareness. No matter what learning environment you teach in — public, private or home — it is a win-win for both teacher and student.

How do you do a mindfulness check? ›

Think of the mindful check-in as taking a scan of the internal weather you're experiencing: noticing physical sensations, your state of mind and any thoughts that are arising, and any emotions that are present. Try incorporating this practice into your daily routine.

What should I do immediately after meditation? ›

After sitting for a few minutes to transition out of your meditation experience, consider moving towards a mindful activity if you have the time. Journaling, mindful walking, being in nature, or simply continuing to sit quietly are all good options.

How do you score the 5 facet mindfulness questionnaire? ›

Average scores are calculated by summing the responses and dividing by the number of items, and indicate the average level of agreement with the each subscale (1 = rarely true, 5 = always true). Higher scores are indicative of someone who is more mindful in their everyday life.

What are the 7 pillars of mindfulness? ›

  • Non-judging. Be an impartial witness to your own experience. ...
  • Patience. A form of wisdom, patience demonstrates that we accept the fact that.
  • Beginner's Mind. Remaining open and curious allows us to be receptive to new.
  • Trust. Develop a basic trust with yourself and your feelings. ...
  • Non-Striving. ...
  • Acceptance. ...
  • Letting Go.

What are the 4 mindfulness techniques? ›

walking meditation. sitting meditation. mindfulness and gratitude as a combination. mindful listening.

What are the 3 qualities of mindfulness? ›

In general, they seek to develop three key characteristics of mindfulness: Intention to cultivate awareness (and return to it again and again) Attention to what is occurring in the present moment (simply observing thoughts, feelings, sensations as they arise) Attitude that is non-judgmental, curious, and kind.

What is difference between mindfulness and meditation? ›

Mindfulness is a quality; meditation is a practice

While Kabat-Zinn's definition describes a way of relating to oneself and one's environment, Walsh and Shapiro define a formal practice meant to alter or enhance one's state of mind.

How do I start a mindful Day? ›

4 Mindful Ways to Start Your Day
  1. Mindful Check-In. It's good to begin the day simply noting where you are starting the day from. ...
  2. Prime Your Mind for Good. ...
  3. Bring Presence to the Morning Activities. ...
  4. Red Light Practice.
Dec 19, 2012

How do you practice detached mindfulness? ›

observe the initial triggering thought and step back from it in your mind. see yourself as separate from that thought by noticing where you are in relation to the thought, and observe the thought in a detached way. allow the thought to come and go on its own, like clouds passing in the sky.

What is a mindfulness activity for high school students? ›

10 Mindfulness Practices for High School Students
  • Mindful Breathing. Breathing is something we do 24/7, but most often without thinking about it. ...
  • Guided Meditation. ...
  • Body Scan Meditation. ...
  • Journaling. ...
  • Mindful Movement. ...
  • Mindful Eating. ...
  • Connect with Nature. ...
  • Appreciate the Little Things in Life.
May 3, 2022

What is a mindfulness activity? ›

It involves using awareness to mindfully scan your body for sensations, like pain or tension. To practice, you simply lie down, relax the body, and tune in to what you're feeling.

What is mindfulness for middle school students? ›

Mindfulness means paying full attention to something. It means taking your time to really notice what you're doing. Mindfulness happens naturally sometimes. Let's say you're getting ready to take a foul shot in basketball.

How can I practice mindfulness with my child? ›

  1. Notice and name body sensations, thoughts, and emotions. ...
  2. Enlist a guide. ...
  3. Share a 3-breath hug. ...
  4. Move, stretch, and notice body sensations. ...
  5. Stop and be aware of surroundings. ...
  6. Describe your own process of noticing, naming, and using the breath to calm yourself. ...
  7. Eat a mindful snack. ...
  8. Count the breaths.
May 2, 2016

What makes a good mindfulness teacher? ›

Consider the interpersonal connection between individual participants and teacher. Characteristics of a good teacher include empathy, authenticity, compassion, warmth, curiosity, and respect, among others.

What is mindfulness lesson kids? ›

Mindfulness means paying full attention to something. It means slowing down to really notice what you're doing. Being mindful is the opposite of rushing or multitasking. When you're mindful, you're taking your time.

What are the 7 principles of mindfulness? ›

  • Non-judging. Be an impartial witness to your own experience. ...
  • Patience. A form of wisdom, patience demonstrates that we accept the fact that.
  • Beginner's Mind. Remaining open and curious allows us to be receptive to new.
  • Trust. Develop a basic trust with yourself and your feelings. ...
  • Non-Striving. ...
  • Acceptance. ...
  • Letting Go.

What are 3 things you can do everyday in order to improve your mindfulness? ›

Caroline Dowd-Higgins
  1. Meditate. Taking even just 5 minutes to sit quietly and follow your breath can help you feel more conscious and connected for the rest of your day.
  2. Focus On One Thing At A Time. ...
  3. Slow Down. ...
  4. Eat Mindfully. ...
  5. Keep Phone and Computer Time In Check. ...
  6. Move. ...
  7. Spend Time In Nature.

What are the 3 qualities of mindfulness? ›

In general, they seek to develop three key characteristics of mindfulness: Intention to cultivate awareness (and return to it again and again) Attention to what is occurring in the present moment (simply observing thoughts, feelings, sensations as they arise) Attitude that is non-judgmental, curious, and kind.

How do you create a mindfulness program? ›

Creating your own mindfulness exercise
  1. Establishing a routine. ...
  2. Start small. ...
  3. Choosing a place. ...
  4. Getting started – Identify an anchor. ...
  5. Focus on being present. ...
  6. Notice thoughts that appear. ...
  7. Notice feelings that are around. ...
  8. Return to your anchor when you become distracted.

How is mindfulness used in schools? ›

A new study suggests that mindfulness education — lessons on techniques to calm the mind and body — can reduce the negative effects of stress and increase students' ability to stay engaged, helping them stay on track academically and avoid behavior problems.

How do you teach mindfulness in middle school? ›

Us teachers can help by incorporating daily mindfulness practice into our lesson plans to promote mental health while improving students' concentration skills and encouraging positive emotions.
  1. Daily Journal. ...
  2. Smell Therapy. ...
  3. Counting Your Breaths. ...
  4. Breathing in Shapes. ...
  5. Hot Food Breathing. ...
  6. Mindfulness Bingo.
Jun 16, 2022

How do I teach my 8 year old mindfulness? ›

Count Breaths

A simple way to quiet your child's mind is to teach them to pay attention to their breathing. Encourage them to close their eyes and count breaths. Tell them to think “one” when they inhale and “two” when they exhale. Teach them to return to counting when their mind wanders.

What age should you teach mindfulness? ›

Starting Meditation with Young Children (aged 5-9 years)

We believe that children are never too young to begin a meditative practise. However, for those under 10, it's not practical to expect them to be able to meditate in the same way as an adult.

What age should you start mindfulness? ›

“By around age 4 they are able to learn skills that they can utilize on their own,” said Ms. Greenland. To instill these habits in children, practice is key. Don't make mindfulness something that is turned to only in times of stress.


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