Updated: Oct 21, 2019
Mindful Chess was created out of a passion for the game, but also out of a desire to hone concentration and focus in the busy lives of today’s children.
We believe that chess itself is mindful for chess requires focus on what is going on in the present moment. That said, we also respect more general mindfulness practices as a tool for children of all ages to increase happiness and decrease anxiety. Even the simplest mindfulness activities can develop curiosity and focus while helping children let go of their worries in the classroom.
Below are some of the mindfulness activities we recommend our teachers use in the classroom to help nurture a calm and focused environment. We also recommend that you try these exercises at home.
These mindful exercises are tailored for children, but you can benefit from them too. After all, we all deserve a little time out of our stressful lives to ground ourselves in the present moment and find a moment of peace. We just wish we had known this when we were children.
Strike A Pose
A good beginner mindfulness exercise is to instruct children to strike a pose. Clear a space and encourage the children to strike a pose that makes them feel strong and empowered. The most popular poses are “The Superman” and “The Wonder Woman”.
The former involves standing in a power stance and stretching one’s arms out as if they are ready to fly. The later involves standing with your legs hip-width apart and placing hands on hips.
Using these exercises helps to put children in a stronger and more positive mindset, while getting them to use their bodies as well as their minds. When you have completed the exercise, ask the children how they feel. You will be amazed by the difference such a small exercise can have on how they feel about themselves.
The “S.T.O.P.” Tactic
Another tactic we occasionally use in our lessons is “S.T.O.P.” This is something we implement when children are upset or frustrated.
Take a breath.
The first step is to stop whatever you are doing and then take a deep breath to bring yourself back to the present moment. Next, observe what is happening around you and inside your own head.
Give your thoughts and feelings space and acknowledge them. When these steps are complete, it is OK to proceed to solving the problem or continuing with the task at hand.
The wonderful thing about “S.T.O.P.” is that it works just as well for our teachers as it does for our students. If noise levels rise or a problem occurs, we encourage our teachers to use this exercise too.
Focus on Sensations
Another popular mindfulness exercise which works well for children is to have them focus on the sensations in their body and in the world around them.
Sit the class down and encourage them to focus their attention on the present. Prompt them by asking them questions about what they smell, what they hear and what they feel in their body. This exercise helps to ground them in the present moment and focus on what is going on around them.
Meditation is one of the most effective ways to calm and focus the mind. Taking a few brief minutes to help a child let go of their worries can have enormously positive effects on their mental wellbeing.
We recommend the “Mindfulness for Children: Meditations for Kids” app for an excellent guided meditation.
Getting children into the habit of being mindful and meditating can help them built resilience to the anxieties that occur as we get older. Children are particularly receptive to mindfulness exercise and by teaching them, we have the opportunity to get them into the habit of acceptance and finding peace as they grow into young adults.