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4 Fun Activities to Help Kids Cultivate Mental Health

Arya FrouzaanFar

Arya FrouzaanFar

Mental health is just as important for children as it is for adults. Like every other habit, good mental health habits can start at a young age and bring lifelong benefits.

So, in the spirit of Mental Health Awareness Month, we have four activities that can help kids build resilience, navigate their minds and emotions, and develop the tools for a fulfilling life.

You already know that kids painting and playing around is great for them, so we have focused on other angles of mental health you might not have explored.

Let’s dive in!

1. Get Mindful

Kids are already more present in the moment than grownups, but even they don’t know everything that goes on in their tiny little bodies. So, mindfulness is as powerful for kids as it is for us.

If you’ve never done any meditation or mindfulness exercises, it’s best to try some before guiding your kids through them. (There are a ton of free meditation apps out there.) Otherwise, try these three exercises together when you have an undisturbed couple of minutes!

Breathing Exercise (5 Minutes or Longer)

Sit comfortably in a chair or on a soft surface. Gradually deepen your breaths, focusing on the sheer sensations of air going into and out of your body. Feel the air as it goes in the nose or how the belly or chest expands. It can also be extremely relaxing to lengthen the outbreath or even let out an audible sigh!

Mindful Body Scan (5 to 10 Minutes or Longer)

You should probably be more alert than the kids for this one. Preferably lying down, guide them through focusing their attention on different parts of their bodies with their eyes closed. Start at the toes and go onto the shins, the upper legs, the hips, the belly, etc., all the way up to the top of the head.

You could also get drowsy, which is totally fine! Just open your eyes until it goes away. The goal of a body scan isn’t to judge or think about the sensations but to simply feel them. You might find that you can feel the pulse in your hands!

Sleep Meditation (Until Sleep)

A neat meditation technique is to give thoughts a sleepy voice. It will also work on you, but it’s a definite winner with the kids because it’s fun! It doesn’t matter what the thoughts say; you’re happy and relaxed as long as they say it with a drowsy voice. Use a drowsy voice by the bed as you explain the technique, too!

2. Move & Groove

Physical activity is an excellent release for the mind, and it helps us develop a healthier relationship with the body. The sooner we tell our kids that, the better!

We have two kid-friendly movement activities for you: freeform dance and yoga. Ready for some endorphins?

Dance (Possibly Without Music)

When was the last time you danced? Many of us wouldn’t say “yesterday” or “this morning” in answer! The busyness of life can make us forget how liberating and fun it can be just to move around. You don’t even need to prep the kids for this one. Just get in there moving to your heart’s content, and most kids will match your energy! Encourage them to move freely, paying attention to how their bodies want to sway, jump, or twirl.

Kids’ Yoga

This rather ancient practice is still relevant today, making us more aware of the connection between the body and the mind. The kids don’t need to know all about it, so don’t lecture them! Instead, do a kid-friendly yoga video (verify it for yourself before you do anything) or teach the kids simple poses like tree pose, downward dog, cat-cows, or child’s pose.

3. Go Out in Nature

Life can be hectic, can’t it? Sometimes we’re just running from one task to the other. So, it can be refreshing to go to nature every once in a while.

Go on a Trip

Plan a trip to a nearby park or nature reserve, and take the opportunity to have a conversation about how being in nature makes them feel. Encourage them to observe the sights, sounds, and smells around them and to share their thoughts and emotions openly.

Disconnect

Kids may not know all about this, but being away from screens is another way to give your mind a well-deserved break. So, maybe stay offline for the trip. (You too, parents! You’re their heroes.) Play, read a physical book, walk, and enjoy not being attached to a monitor!

4. Play a Game

Games can be the most fun way to learn anything if you have two or more kids in your care. (We play group games at Clever Daycare all the time!)

When it comes to kids’ mental health, we have a game that’s both fun and healthy.

Guess the Emotion Game

One of the most valuable mental health skills for kids is emotional literacy – the ability to recognize, understand, and express emotions in a healthy way. This game is perfect for fostering emotional awareness in a fun and interactive manner.

Write different emotions (e.g., happy, sad, angry, scared, excited) on slips of paper. Have each child pick one and act out the emotion without using words. The other kids then try to guess the emotion being portrayed.

Pro Tip: Discussions are Fun!

After each round, engage the kids in a discussion about how they recognized the emotion and times when they felt that way. This reinforces emotional literacy and creates a safe space for kids to share their feelings and experiences. Priceless for kids and adults!

Conclusion

Mindfulness, meditation, physical movement, connecting with nature, and emotional literacy all contribute to cultivating mental health in kids. By nurturing these habits early on, we can empower children to navigate life’s challenges with resilience, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence.

Remember, it’s never too early (or late) to prioritize mental health.

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