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8 Things I Learned at a Mindful Family Retreat


“Mom, where is the tv?” my son asked as we entered our room at the Shambhala Mountain Mindful Family Retreat. We were going to learn mindful activities for kids and we were going to love it.

“There isn’t one,” I answered matter of factly.

“Well, can we at least watch something on  NetFlix?” my sons chimed in together.

“There is no wi-fi, guys.”

The air sucked violently out of the room. Suddenly it was as though my kids couldn’t breathe on their own.

“Guys, we’re here to spend time away from all that noise and to be together without all the distractions,” I explained.

My 7-year-old proceeded to tear the room apart while my 9-year-old quietly wept sitting on the edge of the bed.

I worked hard to keep my eyes still and not rolled back up into my head.

8 Mindful Activities for Kids I Learned at a Family Retreat

Mindful Activities for Families

I left the room and went for a walk. The property is beautiful, 100s of serene acres about two hours away from Boulder. The wind was warm and gentle on my skin and my hair.

I breathed in deeply and then exhaled…this is exactly where we need to be.

8 Mindful Activities for Kids I Learned at a Family Retreat

We spent three magical days at a Mindful Games Family Retreat. Although the beginning was rough going, we accepted that stepping out of your comfort zone always is difficult.

And my kids and I had become too comfortable in our little bubble. It was time to rustle things up.

I learned many things about my kids and myself over the weekend. I picked up techniques, exercises, and activities to integrate into my everyday family life so that we’re able to better manage stress and feel the joy in our lives through awareness.

I decided I needed to share a small list of the things I learned over the weekend.

Mindful family

How to Bring Mindful Activities for Kids into Your Family

#1 – Embrace the Backwards Law

Pushing through the chaos and allowing for the discomfort will reap huge rewards. This idea is all about “the harder we try, the less likely we are to succeed.” The Backwards Law, as explained by Susan Kaiser Greenland, is powerful within the context of parenting. I highly recommend checking out this meditation led by Susan demonstrating the power of the Backwards Law.

#2 – “I’ve Got This”

Pretty simple exercise: your child is having a “moment”. Stop, breath in and say “I’ve Got This”, breath out and say, “May he have wise patience.” You can also do this exercise for yourself.

#3 – Participate in the Joy

Next time your kids are “overly excited” instead of telling them to calm down, jump in…

#4 – Let the Pink Balloon Go

My 7-year-old responded to this visualization exercise beyond my wildest dreams.  When he was upset yesterday, I held him close and said, “Now close your eyes and imagine we’re walking along a warm beach together. You’re holding a pink balloon. This balloon is your “upset” and your “anger”. Now, let the balloon go and watch it float away. Wave to it until it disappears into the sky.”

#5 – Put on the Magic Glue

Kids love this mindfulness activity. Simply pretend to slap “magic glue” onto the bottoms of your feet. Now your feet cannot move but the rest of your body can. Encourage your kids to shake their bodies while staying grounded to the floor. Then once 10, 20, or 30 seconds (or whatever time period you choose) is up, place your hands on your belly and take a deep breath in, hold it for a few seconds, and then exhale.

#6 – Visualize Your Happy Place

My mom used to do this exercise with me when I was a child. So, that fact alone brought great joy and warmth to me. When you begin to feel upset, when your heart starts racing, or when the butterflies envelop your belly, close your eyes and imagine a place that brings great joy to you. This place is happiness to you. For me, as a child, it was watching my brother’s football games. A bit odd, right? Well, it is where I felt at home and at ease, with my community, watching my brother do something he enjoyed and at which he excelled.

#7 – Use Your Cow Eyes

I love this phrase and the concept. During the retreat, we did a prompt exercise and paired up. One person talked while the other listened…but I cheated, I nodded my head, I placed my hand on the person’s arms, and I spoke with my eyes. My body language communicated all I needed to during that exercise and I was satisfied. Then, our fierce leader reminded us of Cow Eyes, to listen without nodding and without body language and with big eyes. Give this approach a try! It is difficult but ridiculously effective at actually listening. I realized how much of a conversation I drove with my reactions and responses that may or may not have been relevant to my partner’s words.

#8 – Love, Kindness, & Compassion Pour

One big take away for me was to allow space and time in my life for self-compassion, kindness, love towards myself. As parents, we are so hard on ourselves. So this point hit me.

Susan introduced us to this exercise and I absolutely fell in love. It is one of the few exercises I was able to integrate immediately and seamlessly into my life once the retreat ended. The exercise is actually sourced from Thich Nhat Hahn.  When he was in Vietnam, he recalled extremely hot days where he and the other young monks would escape to the forest for some relief from the heat. They would walk to a large barrel of water that had been collected by the rainfall, take a ladle, and pour the water over their heads.

Try this mindful activity for kids: Close your eyes, imagine walking into a forest towards a barrel of water. Take your hand to the ladle, dip the ladle in the water, and fill the ladle with water. Lift the ladle up over your head and pour it onto your head. Imagine the water as love, as kindness, and as compassion.

Additional Mindful Activities for Kids Resources

Related Reads on Mindful Activities for Kids

Special thanks to Susan Kaiser Greenland and the Shambhala Mountain Center for being my muse and inspiring so many to realistically live more fulfilled and joyful lives.

I will share more soon on mindful activities for kids. There is so much to share and to learn.


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