4 August 2022

Experienced Breathworks Teacher (and former Head of Training), Ginny Wall, shares her Top 10 Mindfulness Games to both help liven-up your practice and keep the kids entertained!


Can Mindfulness Be Fun?

Throughout August, our online mindfulness community is reflecting on the question: Can Mindfulness Be Fun? 

My answer to that would be YES! And I’ve come up with a collection of mindfulness games to prove it ūüėĀ. These games can be played by adults, but they’re also very suitable for kids. Perhaps you could try one or two of these games with them…or on your own! They can be a great thing to have in your mindful parenting toolkit.

A lot of these games sound really basic and you might read the description and think ‘Pah! That’s a bit silly!’, but I’d really encourage you to try them out! As you know from your general mindfulness practice, it’s the actual doing or experiencing of the experience that makes the difference. Reading about following your breath with awareness doesn’t sound very exciting, but doing the practice can reveal all kinds of experiences and insights that help us live happier lives.

So, go ahead and try one or two of these out…

1. TRACE YOUR BREATH

For this game, you hold up one hand in front of you, palm facing away from you. You then trace the outline of that hand with your index finger from the other hand – as if you were tracing around it with a pencil. And the trick is that you do this in time with your breath.  So, as you breathe in, you trace up the outer side of the thumb and then as you breathe out, your trace down the inner side of it, then, breathing in, you trace up one side of the next finger and, breathing out, you trace down the other side of it, and so on until you reach the outer side of the little finger on that hand. Then you come back again in the opposite direction. Really pay attention to all the sensations in the fingertip that is doing the tracing, and around the edge of the hand that you’re tracing the outline of.

This little game can be very calming, and is great for times when you feel anxious, or for people who find paying attention to the movement of breath in their chest or belly makes them feel a bit panicky.

 

2. THE THOUGHT SUNGLASSES

For this game, you need a big pair of sunglasses – the sillier the design of them the better! Now, imagine that the sunglasses are a thought that is troubling you in some way eg. ‘Today is a really rubbish day’ or ‘I am useless’. Put the sunglasses on and see how everything you look at in the world is ‘coloured’ by that thought. What’s it like to take the sunglasses off again now and look around, imagining that you simply stop looking at everything ‘through’ that thought? The sunglasses are still there – in your hand or on the table – but what’s it like to look at the sunglasses/thought and see that you don’t have to believe it? Notice any change in how you feel in your body when you put the sunglasses on (and believe the thought) and when you take them off (and stop believing it). Maybe have a look at yourself in the mirror with the sunglasses on, and have a laugh too.

3. THE THOUGHT BATH MAT

Another version of this game is to do it with a bathmat (or rug, big cushion or even the dog’s bed!). Place the bathmat on the floor and imagine that the bathmat is that tricky thought eg. ‘Everyone thinks I’m stupid.’ Now, stand on the bathmat and see what it’s like to be right inside that thought – what does it feel like in your body? You might notice that your shoulders hunch over or you feel a heavy or nasty feeling in your tummy, for example. Now, step off the bathmat and see what it’s like to step right out of that thought! How does that feel in your body? You might think that this is all very well for a game, but would it work in ‘real life’. Try it and see – notice that you are not actually your thoughts, and see how differently you feel when you step out of a thought and try looking at the world from a different perspective. You might surprise yourself!

Kids are often very good at learning with their bodies things that are hard to learn in other ways, so this ‘thought bathmat’ game can be a really helpful way for them to get a felt experience of not having to believe every tricky thought that comes into their head.

 

4. STROKE THE DOG / HUG A TREE

When did you last stroke your dog? Have you ever hugged a tree? What can you find that feels interesting to touch – maybe the wallpaper or a blanket or bubbles in the bath? Now smile at anyone who says that this a bit silly and go ahead and stroke the dog, hug the tree, stroke your hand along the wallpaper/blanket/bubbles and really tune into the feelings in your hand. What’s that like? Is it rough or smooth, tickly or soothing, soft or hard? And can you notice any response anywhere else in your body when you do this? What impact does it have on your mood? Take some time to tune in to your experience.

5. MY TOES AREN'T UPSET

Wriggle your toes like you used to when you were a kid / much littler than you are now. Try one foot then the other. Do you feel anything different in one foot or the other? Can you feel the little stretchy feelings in between your toes, or the feeling of your socks / the carpet against your skin? Can you feel the sole of your foot moving against the floor or inside your shoes when you wriggle the toes? Do you toes ever get upset? Most people find that their toes are just toes, getting on with the business of being toes, whatever mood we’re in!

So, next time you feel upset, take your awareness down into your feet (imagine your awareness going right down inside your body all the way down to your toes) and give them a wriggle. Notice the sensations in your toes, and notice that your toes aren’t upset. Enjoy having a little holiday from your bad mood or upset by visiting your toes. By the time you bring your attention back to whatever you were doing or thinking about beforehand, you might find that actually you’re feeling a lot calmer! This can be a really handy game to play whenever you start feeling upset.

6. THE IMPATIENCE DANCE

Do you get impatient sometimes? Or do you feel all wound up at the end of a busy day? All of that energy pent up in our bodies can make it hard to relax, enjoy our dinner or get to sleep. So, how about trying out a little ‘impatience dance’ at times like this? It’s a bit like the one that dogs do after they’ve got all excited at meeting a friend or all scared at meeting a hissing cat (or maybe that’s just my dog!). You simply stand, sit or lie down and gently jiggle or shake out different parts of your body. Try moving gradually through your body from top to bottom, or the other way up, jiggling and shaking each part as you go. How does that feel? Now, if you want, you could do both arms or legs at once, or even your whole body. Can you let your bum join in this jiggling and shaking? It does it really well! Notice how different you feel after you’ve done this little ‘impatience dance’.

7. SLEEPING TIGERS

This was one of my family’s favourite games when we were kids. Everyone has to lie down – the floor is fine for this – except one or more people whose job it is to keep watch over them. The people on the floor are ‘sleeping tigers’ and they have to try to lie as still as possible (they’re allowed to breathe!). The people watching have to spot if anyone moves. For some reason, adults usually like to be the watchers in this game. It’s a great awareness game because the ‘tigers’ can just pay attention to the movement of their chest or belly as they breathe, to help them stay calm and still, while the ‘watchers’ are gently paying attention to the tigers.

8. MINDFUL DESTRUCTION

This is one of my own personal favourite mindfulness games! Find something that is already rubbish or recycling (such as scrap paper) or that it’s safe for you to destroy. Then gently tear it, snip it, or pull it apart, enjoying the feeling of the paper ripping or pieces coming off the object. How small can you make the pieces? You could unravel an old jumper that is full of holes by snipping it at the bottom to create a loose thread then just pulling until you have no jumper left! You could all the leaves off a branch that has been pruned off a bush in your garden, before it goes in the compost bin. It can be fun to play this game with another person. Notice the sensations, sounds etc as you destroy the object, and also the feelings in your body, and mood as you go.

9. WHAT'S THE BEST SMELL?

This is a great bath-time game, which I used to play with my kids all the time when they were little. It also works really well in the kitchen. You can play it on your own, or with others and see if you have different ‘best smells’. Simply look through the bottles and jars in your bathroom or kitchen and smell them one by one (of course make sure not to include cleaning products or anything else that wouldn’t be safe to sniff!). Notice which ones you like or don’t like so much. Go back to ones that you do like and take a longer sniff. Really tune into those lovely olfactory sensations and see how the rest of your body is responding to this moment of pleasure. If you like, you could choose a favourite – what’s the ‘best smell’ for you today?

10. WHAT MADE YOU SMILE TODAY?

Sometime towards the end of your day – during the evening meal or around bedtime are good times - cast your mind back over the day and find three things, if possible, that made you smile. They don’t need to be anything big at all, but big things are also allowed! Now, if possible, share them with someone else. Maybe there’s someone with you and you can tell each other three smiles from you day. Or perhaps you can text them to someone? This makes it a really nice game for kids to play with a parent who they don’t live with all the time, or with grandparents.

As always, notice how playing this game makes you feel in your body in this moment as you recall today’s smiles. If today has been a really difficult or sad day and you can’t find any smiles, then just go back to another time when something made you smile and play the game with that memory.


I hope you enjoy experimenting with these mindfulness games and feel inspired to design your own. I'll be back later in the month with part 2 of this article, sharing another 10 of my favourite mindfulness games . You'll find this exclusively over on the Breathworks Community of Practice - why not sign up today?  

Ginny x

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Did you know that Breathworks have their own online mindfulness community? The Community of Practice is FREE to join, and offers not only a space to connect with like-minded others, but a wealth of helpful resources including MP3 meditations, exclusive articles and self-guided courses. We also host regular free online events, including a monthly Meditation Support Clinic, hosted by Ginny Wall (author of this article). Sign-up is quick and easy - click here to get started.