Awakening Joy

For Kids - Activities 1

On this page:

A) Activities for Families and Kids in Unsettling Times

by Michelle Lilyanna, co-authored with Krista Arrington

B) Bedtime & Mental Health: 19 Apps for Parents Amid COVID

by the team at Slumber Yard

C) Climate Action for Kids and Families

by Michele Lilyanna


A) Activities for Families in Unsettling Times

By Michele Lilyanna and Krista Arrington (see bios at the end of this section).

Artwork by Michele Lilyanna.

Families around the world are experiencing difficult times.  Remember, stress and anxiety are normal reactions to the events taking place today.  Also, be aware that too much stress can hijack our ability to reason. When we are in the stress response, we move into fight or flight or freeze. So, together, let’s invite our nervous system to settle down a bit so we can be more responsive vs. reactive in our homes and with our families over this challenging time.  

Centering and Calming Ideas for Parents

  1. Do your best to reduce your own anxiety.  This is where your mindfulness practice and continued practices can greatly help.  If you do not have a practice, there are wonderful resources free or for a small fee online.

  2. Notice when your nervous system is amped up and take a few minutes simply to feel your hand on the table or feet on the floor, as this brings us back to our bodies.

  3. Take three or four simple breaths. Take your mind away from the anxiety and worry by thinking of something neutral or pleasant.  We know our brains are wired toward the negativity bias, so do your best to invite it toward the positive.

  4. Remember, your children are looking to you and are watching your reactions and ways of coping.  Having said this, these are extraordinary times, so be gentle with yourself and model such responses to your children.  No parenting practice  or parent is perfect in any way.  Give yourself room and compassion.

  5. When all the worries roll in, notice you are okay in this moment.

  6. Demonstrate to your children how to self-talk.  “Right now, everything is okay.  This is a difficult time and we will get through it together.”

  7. Limit your time on the news to avoid constant fear-response triggers and unnecessary overstimulation.  Do get reliable facts from organizations such as the World Health Organization.  Children don’t need to watch the news as they try to make sense of what’s happening in their world.  It’s helpful to titrate information to them in calm, tiny bits by answering their questions, demystifying terms, correcting misinformation and most importantly, reassuring them that they are safe.  Empower kids by letting them know what they can do.  Simply washing their hands and social distancing practices are a good start.
By doing something kind for others, we take the focus off ourselves and see ourselves in the bigger picture of humanity.  This is a wonderful time for families to “Zoom” or “Facetime” with friends and loved ones around the world.

Centering and Calming Ideas For Kids

Our book, Awakening Joy for Kids, is geared toward children 4–13 years old.  These practices can be adapted for teenagers.

We will keep offering weekly practices to support you during these times of self-distancing, self-isolating, quarantine, and difficulty.  A few minutes a day can build strong muscles of mindful practices and reduce anxiety.

Simple ways to slow down and start centering:

  1. Do a simple puzzle together—focus on looking for a color or shape.

  2. Follow patterns of color or shape when threading beads onto a string.

  3. Build Lego or models that require step by step directions.  Again, you can look for certain colors or shapes and focus the mind.

  4. Hand sew a simple pattern, moving the needle in and out, in and out. We found a fun videohere. You could make it double the size to create a little pillow to put on your tummy during the breathing exercise below.

  5. Create mandalas.  Here, you can find a wonderful idea on how to paint on old records and create mandalas that will grace your walls as works of art: Mandala. Scroll to the Art of Letting Go.

  6. Cook a recipe together.  Slow down, chop and smell the ingredients; enjoy talking about where each item may have come from.  Give gratitude for the co-created meal.

  7. Paint by number.  Have your child draw a picture and divide it into pieces.  You can number the pieces and color or paint it together.

  8. Finger knitting or knitting is a way to focus the mind.  Here is a tutorial on YouTube on how to finger knit a little woolen snake.

A small breathing practice will calm the nervous system.  One idea is for each person to place a stuffy or small pillow on their stomach.  One person counts slowly and repeats, breathing in tummy rises, breathing out “I relax,” while taking the little family group on a series of 5 breaths.  Each person gets a turn to be a leader. By the time you are done, you will all be more relaxed and regulated. Although these ideas seem so simple, doing them is what makes the difference.  Talk to your children about how they feel before and after the exercise.  Just notice if there are changes.

Finally, create a container for this time at home.  Everyone can write a schedule together to create predictability and a framework for a healthy day.  Make sure it includes fresh air, good nutrition, exercise, sleep, and deep relaxation of some kind and of course laughter and joy. 

Supportive Links for both Adults and Kids

Guided Relaxation Practices You Can Do with Children:

  1. A sleep track for the kids -
  2. Mindful eating -

APPS Geared Toward Children:

Links to Supportive Websites and Free Resources for Adults:






Authors Michele Lilyanna and Krista Arrington

Michele Lilyanna is a mother, artist, writer and teacher, sharing her joy of nurturing the spirit within. With over 2100 hours of intensive study, she has spent the past decade deepening her practices in Non-Violent Communication with Robert Gonzales. She has published, with James Baraz, Awakening Joy For Kids. It won the 2016 Nautilus Gold Parenting Award. Her book has recently been translated to German and published through Arbor.  She is the illustrator for Mindful Parenting in a Messy World, Living with Presence and Parenting with Purpose.

Krista Arrington is a licensed educational psychologist and clinical social worker.  She works as a school psychologist in a public-school district.  Krista lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her partner and two cats.  She has two grown adult children.

Both Michele and Krista are certified Awakening Joy Teachers.
Parents have been asking for centering ideas to do with their children.  They want five-minute tiny, playful breaks.  These little breaks throughout the day add up to many moments of regulating nervous systems, creating connection, and most of all regulating the family in a playful way.



Five-Minute Playful Focus for Kids in Unsettling Times

By Michele Lilyanna

Here is a PDF you can take outside with you. It contains couple of little practices, drawn from our book Awakening Joy For Kids.


B) Bedtime & Mental Health: 19 Apps for Parents Amind COVID

by the team at Slumber Yard


It’s no secret that COVID has caused anxiety and stress for most of us. For parents with children at home, this means navigating tough conversations and helping little ones who don't yet know how to manage their own feelings. To help those in this situation, sleep experts created the guide Bedtime & Mental Health: 19 Apps for Parents Amid COVID:

The guide highlights the key struggles that many children are facing during these uncertain times while also providing solutions to help combat them. They compiled 19 apps to aid in meditation, bedtime routine, yoga, and white noise as well as other ways to facilitate quiet time without technology.


C) Climate Action for Kids and Families

from Michele Lilyanna