If your household is anything like mine, the excitement of summer break can come to a crashing halt when the cries of “I’m bored!” begin. And that can happen on day two of summer.
If you’re feeling fresh out of ideas, check out this list of 10 Mindful Summer Activities.
These mindful summer activities are mindful in the sense that they are helping our kids learn to pay attention (to their bodies and their minds) and to understand their feelings. You don’t even have to use the word mindfulness—make it a fun activity and the learning will happen organically.
1. The Popsicle Challenge
The next time you eat a popsicle on a hot day, challenge your kids to be silent until their popsicle is entirely gone. Encourage them to really notice all the different tastes (one of those three-flavor popsicles would be great for this).
What flavors do they notice? Does the popsicle start to feel different in their mouth as it starts melting? What temperature changes do they notice? Was it hard to stay quiet the whole time? There are lots of things you could talk about when you finish the challenge.
2. Sky Study
Put a blanket down on the lawn and spend some time staring at the clouds. What shapes do they see? Animals? People?
Spend at least 10-15 minutes studying the sky—and notice how the clouds gently move along. Notice how the cloud that first looked like a pig now looks like a cat. This is a great way to introduce the idea that our minds are kind of like the sky—thoughts float through on their own, and they change on their own. We can watch our thoughts in our minds like we watch the clouds.
3. Noticing Walk
Go for a walk in your neighborhood and ask your kids to try to notice 10 things they’ve never really paid attention to before—perhaps the color of the neighbor’s shutters or the flowers along the boulevard. You could also try to listen for new sounds, too. Ask them why they think they’ve never noticed them.
Start Your Mindfulness Training
Discover simple yet powerful strategies to bring mindfulness into daily life to manage stress, build resilience, and connect with your passion for teaching. Learn the science and practice of mindfulness, disrupt implicit bias, and explore practice with a trauma-sensitive lens. Educators earn credits.
With mindfulness, we practice slowing down, so we don’t feel so rushed all the time. The next time you’re at the playground, try playing “Slow-Fast-Slow.” Whatever your kids are doing — playing in the sand, running through tunnels—have them try to do it slow, then fast, and then slow again.
Talk about what it felt like to do something slowly. Did it feel different? Did you notice something you hadn’t before when you were playing fast? Did you like moving more slowly, or did you like to be quick?
5. Free Lemonade Stand
My kids LOVE having lemonade stands in the summer. But what about doing a free lemonade stand? Talk to your kids about generosity and heartfulness and the joy of doing things for others without expecting something in return.
Mindful Activities for a Rainy (or Way-Too-Hot) Day
6. Mindful Reading
The next time you read a story with your kids, take some time to engage in conversation about the feelings of the people (or animals) in the book. It can be hard for children to talk about their own emotions, so sometimes it’s easier to talk about fictional characters. You can ask questions like,”What do you think the girl is thinking about?”; “Why do you think he is sad?”; “How do you think you would feel if that happened to you?”; or, “Have you ever felt like that before?”
7. Organize Your Photos or Make a Scrapbook
Have your kids help you sort through old photos. This can spark some great conversations about their favorite memories, and, if you’ve seen Inside Out, you could ask kids what they think their “core memories” are. Create collages that represent core memories or the different “islands” that make up their personality.
Bring Mindfulness to Your K-12 School
Access the Mindful Schools K-12 Curriculum, complete teaching kit, and comprehensive training to nurture attention, focus, self-regulation, and social-emotional wellbeing.
8. Make Mind Jars
This is one of my favorite mindfulness activities for kids. Using glitter and water, you can make a “mind jar”—the glitter represents all the thoughts and emotions in their minds (and when the jar is shaken they go crazy!) But if you stop moving it and breathe for a few moments, the glitter settles and the water becomes clear.
When we color, we focus our attention on a single activity, and that can feel really pleasant. This is probably why so many adults are coloring now! Join your kids in coloring time, perhaps with a cool mandala coloring book or one with intricate designs. Enjoy the calm that can arise from single-minded concentration. You can find some printable mindful coloring pages here.
10. Dance Party!
Crank up the tunes and dance! Get out of your head and into your body. I love dancing with kids—there’s no self-consciousness. It’s just pure movement and joy and self-expression. We can learn a lot from them!
Enjoy your mindful summer activities, and stay tuned for more tips and resources to support you in the transition back-to-school. Until then, have a wonderful summer!