These gross motor mindfulness activities combine several sensory systems to improve mindfulness in kids. There are many reasons to add mindfulness activities to learning in the classroom or at home. Some of those benefits of mindfulness include improved attention and focus, emotional regulation, cognitive functioning, self awareness, and listening skills. There are many other additional benefits of mindfulness, too. When we add gross motor movements and whole body movements to mindfulness activities with intention, resistive input through the proprioceptive system adds calming input. Likewise, movement in different planes adds calming or alerting input.
These whole body mindfulness tasks can be included in brain breaks or within learning activities.
Gross motor Mindfulness Activities
Using mindfulness along with whole body movements can be a good way to help kids re-center themselves so that they can focus inwardly and be more aware of what’s happening in their body as well as the outward behaviors or actions that are happening in their environment in the classroom or home.
Reach and Breath- Kids can stand as tall as they can. They should start with both hands down at their sides. As they slowly reach up, they can take a deep breath in. When both hands touch above their head, they should pause and hold their breath for a moment. Then, they can slowly lower their hands to their sides as they breath out a long, slow breath. Raising their arms with their breathing encourages movement of the shoulder girdle and increases the capacity for breathing in. What while lowering their arms pushes out more air to encourage for expulsion of air from the lungs.
Arm long breathing-This technique encourages use of the full lungs when breathing in and breathing out to expel all of the air in the lungs. Starting with the hand at the opposite shoulder, the child should slowly breathe in as they move their hand down their outstretched arm. When their hand reaches their other hand, they should pause for a moment, and then slowly start to move their hand back to the shoulder as they breathe out.
Yoga breaths- Encourage deep breathing and full body motions such as warrior or downward dog.
Starfish Breaths- For this whole body movement and deep breathing activity, children can imagine their hand is a starfish. As they take a deep breath in and out, they can slowly open and close their hand so all fingers are extended and then pulled into a fist. At the same time, they can raise their hand up over their head as they breath in and down to the ground as they breathe out.
Bend and stretch breathing– Students should reach both arms up overhead. As they bend forward at the hips, they can slowly breathe out through their mouth and reach down to touch their toe with their opposite hand. Students should then raise up at the hip with at the hips and reach their arm back overhead as they breathe in through their nose. Make this a group gross motor activity with a few adjustments.
Watch the Target- Using a target that is paired with deep breathing and slow, gentle motions can be a gross motor mindfulness activity that allows kids to become aware of their body’s movements as well as the world around them. Make a DIY streamer like we did in the past using a dowel rod and ribbons. Party streamers taped to an unsharpened pencil would work for this activity too. Kids can hold the streamer with their arm extended and move slowly as they take deep breaths in through their nose and out through their mouth. Try to pair upward motions with deep breaths in and downward motions with deep breaths out.
Each of these gross motor activities can be used to improve mindfulness and kids in the classroom or in home.
More mindfulness activities
Be sure to grab these deep breathing and gross motor activities. When possible, combine the deep breathing and mindful awareness to movement and whole-body activities to create a centering activity.
Use these heavy work cards to help with building body awareness, motor planning abilities, proprioceptive input, or a movement activity as a brain break to pay attention between learning activities.
In the set of cards, you’ll find heavy work activities in the following themes:
1. Trucks Heavy Work Activities
2. Insects Heavy Work Activities
3. Sea Animals Heavy Work Activities
4. Farm Animals Heavy Work Activities
5. Jungle Animals Heavy Work Activities
6. Woodland Animals Heavy Work Activities
7. Superheros Heavy Work Activities
8. Sports Heavy Work Activities
9. Monsters Heavy Work Activities
10. Summer Heavy Work Activities
11. Butterfly Life Cycle Heavy Work Activities
Each activity page includes 8 movement and heavy work cards in that theme.
These heavy work activities can be added to home programs, teletherapy activity plans, or used as brain breaks during learning and play.
Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to email@example.com.