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Ease your anxious child: 6 simple mindfulness exercises to try today

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Raise your hand if one of your goals is to be more mindful. I’m guessing it’s not just me. And if you have a child that is highly sensitive, has a lot of anxiety or stress, or has difficulty calming down when he’s upset or excited, building a mindfulness practice might be especially beneficial.


Mindfulness techniques give children tools for self-regulating, which in turn allows them to pause and reset when they are losing control.

I used to think mindfulness was this vague state of mind that involved putting my phone down and trying to be present. While that’s a great start, I've learned that there’s so much more to it. The work of Monti Pal, a therapist specializing in mindfulness and self-compassion, really resonated with me as a Montessori teacher—Monti shared so many simple tools that make mindfulness approachable.

The best part? You can totally share these techniques with your child too.

Research shows that practicing mindfulness with children supports increased focus, decreased stress and anxiety, and positive prosocial behavior. It can also be a great way to connect with your child and find a moment of tranquility together in an otherwise hectic day.

If you’ve ever told your child to “just calm down,” you know that doesn’t work. Practicing mindfulness offers an alternative, a concrete set of tools you and your child can use together to return to equilibrium.

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Can’t picture your active little one meditating in a corner? No worries, mama.

Here are six simple mindfulness tools that even young children can practice successfully:

1. Notice five things

Consciously noticing the world around you can help bring you back to the present, especially when you’re overwhelmed by stress or emotion. You can practice noticing five things you see, hear or feel through touch to help you be present.

Try playing this as a game with your child. Sit down with him wherever you are and tell him you want to show him the “notice five things” game. Then look around and tell him five things you see. Let him have a turn.

After you play, explain that this can be a helpful game to play, with you or by himself, if he’s ever feeling anxious or upset. Mix it up sometimes and notice five things you hear instead.

Pro tip: Try teaching your child a new technique when he’s already calm and better able to learn. Practice regularly, and he will eventually learn to call on these new tools when he’s stressed or losing control.

2. Take 10 breaths

Practicing mindful breathing is a simple and effective way to help children calm their bodies and be present.

Try taking 10 deep breaths together. Ask your child to close her eyes or look down at the floor and put her hand on her belly. Ask her to breath in so deeply that the air fills her belly. Show her how to breathe out slowly. If 10 breaths are too many, start with five and work your way up together with practice.

For a variation, try asking your child to hold her thumb and middle finger together in each hand and pretend she’s holding a butterfly or a feather. Ask her to imagine that each slow exhale makes it flutter gently. You can also show her how to trace up and down each finger of her opposite hand slowly, inhaling as she traces up and exhaling as she traces down.

There are lots of ways to make mindful breathing simple and fun for children, just experiment until you find your child’s favorite.

3. Drop anchor

For this exercise, stand across from your child. Show him how to stand with his feet firmly on the floor, about shoulder width apart. Ask him to push down through his feet and feel the ground steady beneath him. Ask him to notice how his leg muscles feel when he pushes down through his feet.

Ask him to notice different parts of his body, starting with his head and working down, and to feel the weight of gravity connecting him to the earth.

Slowly ask him to look around and notice what he sees and hears and what is happening around him.

4. Draw your emotions

Mindfulness includes awareness of what we’re feeling, as well as the world around us. Young children sometimes have difficulty naming their feelings, but drawing emotions can be a great way for a child to pay attention to what he’s feeling at a given moment, and express it without words.

Try doing this exercise at different times, not only when your child is upset. Sit down together and ask him to close his eyes and think about how he’s feeling. You might want to offer some words to give him ideas (happy, disappointed, silly, scared, angry, etc.) You can also model the exercise by drawing how you are feeling. If he feels like naming his emotion, you can write the word on his picture if he likes.

5. One mindful bite

You may have heard of mindful eating, but it can seem a bit far-fetched when meal time is shared with young children.

Instead of trying to have a whole mindful meal together, which can be difficult even for adults, try one mindful bite. It may be fun to do this with an especially delicious treat, but you could also practice trying a mindful bite for the first bite of each meal together.

Ask your child to choose one small piece of food and prompt her to explore how it looks, smells and feels in her hand. Then ask her to take a small bite and chew very slowly, noticing how the food feels in her mouth as well as how it tastes.

Practicing mindfulness with everyday activities like eating helps children become more aware of themselves and their environment, and appreciate the beauty of everyday life.

6. Silence game

The silence game is a classic mindfulness practice in Montessori classrooms around the world.

Unlike the traditional “quiet game,” which is often an attempt to trick unruly children in being quiet for a few minutes, the silence game is initiated when children are already feeling quiet and peaceful so that they can be successful.

When we play the silence game, we ask children to be as quiet as possible, not only with their voices but also with their bodies by keeping very still. Sometimes we use a little hourglass timer (one minute is good to start with), and a child tries to remain still and quiet until all of the sand runs out.

When the silence game ends, use a soft voice to ask your child what he heard or saw while he was so quiet. Ask him to try to keep the quiet, peaceful feeling with him as he goes about his next activity.

These simple games and activities are a great way for you and your child to connect in a different way and will help him build tools to center himself when he feels stressed or out of sorts.

Building a mindfulness practice with your child will be most successful if you teach him these exercises when he’s calm and practice regularly, both when he’s happy and peaceful and when he’s upset or nervous.

A mindfulness exercise can also be a valuable thing to do with your child when you are feeling anxious or stressed, as all of these activities work for adults as well as children. Don’t be afraid to model this for your child, saying something like, “I’m feeling anxious. I’m going to drop anchor.” If he sees you using these tools in your own life, he will be more likely to use them himself.

Mindfulness can sound daunting, but try to have fun with these activities and know that you’re giving your child valuable life-long skills to stay centered and present no matter what comes his way.

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As mamas, we naturally become the magic-makers for our families. We sing the songs that make the waits seem shorter, dispense the kisses that help boo-boos hurt less, carry the seemingly bottomless bags of treasures, and find ways to turn even the most hum-drum days into something memorable.

Sometimes it's on a family vacation or when exploring a new locale, but often it's in our own backyards or living rooms. Here are 12 ways to create magical moments with kids no matter where your adventures take you.


1. Keep it simple

Mary Poppins may be practically perfect in every way, but―trust us―your most magical memories don't require perfection. Spend the morning building blanket forts or break out the cookie cutters to serve their sandwich in a fun shape and you'll quickly learn that, for kids, the most magical moments are often the simplest.

2. Get on their level

Sometimes creating a memorable moment can be as easy as getting down on the floor and playing with your children. So don't be afraid to get on your hands and knees, to swing from the monkey bars, or turn watching your favorite movie into an ultimate snuggle sesh.

3. Reimagine the ordinary

As Mary says, "the cover is not the book." Teach your child to see the world beyond initial impressions by encouraging them to imagine a whole new world as you play―a world where the laundry basket can be a pirate ship or a pile of blankets can be a castle.

4. Get a little messy

Stomp in muddy puddles. Break out the finger paint. Bake a cake and don't worry about frosting drips on the counter. The messes will wait, mama. For now, let your children―and yourself―live in these moments that will all too soon become favorite memories.

5. Throw out the plan

The best-laid plans...are rarely the most exciting. And often the most magical moments happen by accident. So let go of the plan, embrace the unexpected, and remember that your child doesn't care if the day goes according to the schedule.

6. Take it outside

There's never a wrong time of year to make magic outside. Take a stroll through a spring rainstorm, catch the first winter snowflakes on your tongue, or camp out under a meteor shower this summer. Mother Nature is a natural at creating experiences you'll both remember forever.

7. Share your childhood memories

Chances are if you found it magical as a child, then your kids will too. Introduce your favorite books and movies (pro tip: Plan a double feature with an original like Mary Poppins followed with the sequel, Mary Poppins Returns!) or book a trip to your favorite family vacation spot from the past. You could even try to recreate photos from your old childhood with your kids so you can hang on to the memory forever.

8. Just add music

Even when you're doing something as humdrum as prepping dinner or tidying up the living room, a little music has a way of upping the fun factor. Tell Alexa to cue up your favorite station for a spontaneous family dance party or use your child's favorite movie soundtrack for a quick game of "Clean and Freeze" to pick up toys at the end of the day.

9. Say "yes"

Sometimes it can feel like you're constantly telling your child "no." While it's not possible to grant every request (sorry, kiddo, still can't let you drive the car!), plan a "yes" day for a little extra magic. That means every (reasonable) request gets an affirmative response for 24 hours. Trust us―they'll never forget it.

10. Let them take the lead

A day planned by your kid―can you imagine that? Instead of trying to plan what you think will lead to the best memories, put your kid in the driver's seat by letting them make the itinerary. If you have more than one child, break up the planning so one gets to pick the activity while the other chooses your lunch menu. You just might end up with a day you never expected.

11. Ask more questions

Odds are, your child might not remember every activity you plan―but they will remember the moments you made them feel special. By focusing the conversation on your little one―their likes, dislikes, goals, or even just craziest dreams―you teach them that their perspective matters and that you are their biggest fan.

12. Turn a bad day around

Not every magical moment will start from something good. But the days where things don't go to plan can often turn out to be the greatest memories, especially when you find a way to turn even a negative experience into a positive memory. So don't get discouraged if you wake up to rain clouds on your beach day or drop the eggs on the floor before breakfast―take a cue from Mary Poppins and find a way to turn the whole day a little "turtle."

Mary Poppins Returns available now on Digital & out on Blue-ray March 19! Let the magic begin in your house with a night where everything is possible—even the impossible ✨

After a pregnancy that is best described as uncomfortable, Jessica Simpson is finally done "Jess-tating" and is now a mama of three.

Baby Birdie Mae Johnson joined siblings Ace and Maxwell on Tuesday, March 19, Simpson announced via Instagram.

Simpson's third child weighed in at 10 pounds, 13 ounces.

Birdie's name is no surprise to Jessica's Instagram followers, who saw numerous references to the name in her baby shower photos and IG stories in the last few weeks.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to experts.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

At this moment in time, Simpson and her husband, former NFL player Eric Johnson, are probably busy counting little fingers and toes , which is great news because it means Simpson's toes can finally deflate. She's had a terrible time with swollen feet during this pregnancy, and was also hospitalized multiple times due to bronchitis in her final trimester.

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We're so glad to see Simpson's little Birdie has finally arrived!

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Spring is officially here and if you're looking for a way to celebrate the change in the season, why not treat the kids to some ice cream, mama?

DQ locations across the country (but not the ones in malls) are giving away free small vanilla cones today, March 20! So pack up the kids and get to a DQ near you.

And if you can't make it today, from March 21 through March 31, DQ's got a deal where small cones will be just 50 cents (but you have to download the DQ mobile app to claim that one).

Another chain, Pennsylvania-based Rita's Italian Ice is also dishing up freebies today, so if DQ's not your thing you can grab a free cup of Italian ice instead.

We're so excited that ice cream season is here and snowsuit season is behind us. Just a few short weeks and the kids will be jumping through the sprinklers.

Welcome back, spring. We've missed you!

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The woman who basically single-handedly taught the world to embrace vulnerability and imperfection is coming to Netflix and we cannot wait to binge whatever Brené Brown's special will serve up because we'll probably be better people after watching it.

It drops on April 19 and is called Brené Brown: The Call to Courage. If it has even a fraction of the impact of her books or the viral Ted talk that made her a household name, it's going to be life and culture changing.

Announcing the special on Instagram Brown says she "cannot believe" she's about to be "breaking some boundaries over at Netflix" with the 77-minute special.

Netflix describes the special as a discussion of "what it takes to choose courage over comfort in a culture defined by scarcity, fear and uncertainty" and it sounds exactly like what we need right now.

April 19 is still pretty far away though, so if you need some of Brown's wisdom now, check out her books on Amazon or watch (or rewatch) the 2010 Ted Talk that put her—and our culture's relationship with vulnerability and shame—in the national spotlight.

The power of vulnerability | Brené Brown

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If Marie Kondo's Netflix show got people tidying up, Brown's Netflix special is sure to be the catalyst for some courageous choices this spring.

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My husband and I recently had a date night that included being away from our son overnight for the first time since he was born three years ago (but don't let your heads run away with a fantasy—we literally slept because we were exhausted #thisiswhatwecallfunnow). It was a combination of a late night work event, a feeling that we had to do something just for the two of us, and simple convenience. It would have taken hours to get home from the end of a very long day when we could just check into a hotel overnight and get home early the next day.

But before that night, I fretted about what to do. How would childcare work? No one besides me or my husband has put our son to bed, and we have never not been there when he wakes up in the morning.

Enter: Grandma.

I knew if there was any chance of this being successful, the only person that could pull it off is one of my son's favorite people—his grandmother. Grammy cakes. Gramma. We rely so much on these extended support systems to give us comfort and confidence as parents and put our kids at ease. Technically, we could parent without their support, but I'm so glad we don't have to.

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So as we walked out the door, leaving Grandma with my son for one night, I realized how lucky we are that she gets it...

She gets it because she always comes bearing delicious snacks. And usually a small toy or crayons in her bag for just the right moment when it's needed.

She gets it because she comes with all of the warmth and love of his parents but none of the baggage. None of the first time parent jitters and all of the understanding that most kids just have simple needs: to eat, play and sleep.

She gets it because she understands what I need too. The reassurance that my baby will be safe. And cared for.

She gets it because she's been in my shoes before. Decades ago, she was a nervous new mama too and felt the same worries. She's been exactly where we are.

She gets it because she shoos us away as we nervously say goodbye, calling out cheerfully, "Have fun, I've got this." And I know that she does.

She gets it because she will get down on the floor with him to play Legos—even though sometimes it's a little difficult to get back up.

She gets it because she will fumble around with our AppleTV—so different from her remote at home—to find him just the right video on Youtube that he's looking for.

She gets it because she diligently takes notes when we go through the multi-step bedtime routine that we've elaborately concocted, passing no judgment, and promising that she'll follow along as best as she can.

She gets it because she'll break the routine and lay next to him in bed when my son gets upset, singing softly in his ear until she sees his eyelids droop heavy and finally fall asleep.

She gets it because she'll text us to let us know when he's fallen asleep because she knows we'll be wondering.

She gets it because just like our son trusts us as his mom and dad, Grandma is his safe space. My son feels at ease with her—and that relaxes me, too.

She gets it because when we come home from our "big night out" the house will be clean. Our toddler's play table that always has some sort of sticky jelly residue on it will be spotless. The dishwasher empty. (Side note: She is my hero.)

She gets it because she shows up whenever we ask. Even when it means having to rearrange her schedule. Even when it means she has to sleep in our home instead of her own.

She gets it because even though she has her own life, she makes sure to be as involved in ours as she can. But that doesn't mean she gives unsolicited advice. It means that she's there. She comes to us or lets us come to her. Whenever we need her.

She gets it because she takes care of us, too. She's there to chat with at the end of a long day. To commiserate on how hard motherhood and working and life can be, but to also gently remind me, "These are the best days."

After every time Grandma comes over, she always leaves a family that feels so content. Fulfilled by her presence. The caretaking and nourishment (mental and food-wise) and warmth that accompanies her.

We know this is a privilege. We know we're beyond lucky that she is present and wants to be involved and gets it. We know that sometimes life doesn't work out like this and sometimes Grandma lives far away or is no longer here, or just doesn't get it. So we hold on. And appreciate every moment.

As Grandma leaves, I hug her tight and tell her, "I can't thank you enough. We couldn't have done this without you." Because we can't. And we wouldn't want to.

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