In my April 27th blog, I shared 5 keys to practicing mindfulness with your child. For the last key, I mentioned something called a “mindfulness excursion”. A mindfulness excursion is simply a fun trip that includes an element of mindfulness to it to reinforce the idea that mindfulness can and should be a part of our every day lives. When children can practice mindfulness in a way that engaging and exciting, they will be more prone to use it when upset or distressed. It just becomes a part of their everyday experience!
Before taking a mindfulness excursion with children, it is important to make sure you have introduced the concept of mindfulness to them already and have practiced it with them. Introducing too many new experiences at one time can be overwhelming. You will likely face resistance if you try to engage them in a mindfulness activity for the first time in an unfamiliar location. The goal is to broaden their familiarity with mindfulness into new and enjoyable experiences, not to turn those experiences into a lesson or a chore they must endure.
Some easy mindfulness activities to practice beforehand that translate well to mindfulness excursions are:
“What emotion are you feeling, and where in your body are you feeling it?”
This activity does the double duty of helping children being more aware of their emotional state and its connection to their physical body. It may be difficult for children at first to pinpoint their emotional state, so it might be helpful to use an emotion wheel with them to help them find the right words. It is also helpful to model this activity with your own emotional state and where you feel it in your body so they understand.
Describing something in detail using the 5 senses.
Find something nearby to describe in as much detail as possible using the 5 senses. Work with children to notice more than just superficial observations. The rose might be red, but what other colors can they see? What color are the thorns? Is there any damage on the leaves or the petals? Take the time to slow down and really consider the object mindfully!
This activity is actually a great mindfulness tool to help with anxiety. By slowing down and taking the time to engage the senses in the here-and-now, it breaks the spiral that we often find ourselves in that hyperfixates on the “what ifs” with anxiety. Practicing it when children are in a calm, enjoyable setting can help them utilize it when they start to get anxious.
So, now that you are ready for a mindfulness excursion, where should you go? Well, here are some ideas for some places in the KC Metro area that would be perfect for a trip! Be sure that your child knows beforehand that you want them to practice mindfulness at some point during the trip, but also remember to balance that with a healthy dose of family fun! And be sure to take some moments to be mindful yourself. After all, you need it just as much as they do!
Free or Low Cost Family Activities (under $5 per person)
- Take a stroll through the Rose Garden at Loose Park or the Children’s Garden at the Overland Park Arboretum. Take the time to truly notice the different flowers that are in season.
- Head to the Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead to explore some hands-on experiences with farm animals!
- Take some time to explore the bustling lanes at the City Market. Let your child choose one new thing to take home and experience mindfully.
- Visit the Lakeside Nature Center. See how much of the local wildlife your child has noticed visiting in your own back yard!
Mid-Range Cost Family Activities ($5-$20 per person)
- Visit some big beasts at the Kansas City Zoo. Talk about what animals your child likes or even doesn’t like.
- Take some time to mindfully grow your science mind at Union Station’s Science City!
- Explore what life was like back in 1856 with a trip to the Arabia Steamboat Museum.
- Explore the Museum of Illusions and really give those senses a workout!
Pricier Family Activities (over $20 per person)
NOTE: It’s probably a good idea to wait until mindfulness is a more common part of your daily routine before exploring these places with children. The higher cost and the excitement level of the experience will make it more difficult to pause for mindful moments. The opportunities are still there! It will just take a little more effort to find them.