Planning For It

When You Might Use This Practice

  • Daily or weekly
  • At the start of a school day, at the beginning or end of class, before doing a sitting practice or a loving-kindness practice
  • When you or your students are experiencing tension, anger, restlessness, or anxiety

 

Time Required

  • <15 minutes

 

Materials

  • A safe place for barefoot walking, preferably on grass, soil, or sand

 

Learning Objective

Students will:

  • Practice noticing the sensations in their toes, feet, and bodies as they stand and walk

 

Additional Supports

 

SEL Competencies

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Management

How To Do It

Reflection Before the Practice

  • How do you feel about walking to simply experience walking—rather than walking to get somewhere?
  • Try this mindful walking practice for adults.
  • What did you notice in yourself as you engaged in this practice? What was most memorable?
  • What would happen if you practiced barefoot walking in this way one or more times a week?

Instructions

Getting Started

  • Invite your students to take off their shoes and go outside for a walk in the grass, soil, or sand. [Note: If you don’t have a safe outdoor space for walking, remain indoors, or try a shoes-on version of this practice.]
  • Tell your students: Walking [barefoot] outside is a wonderful way to use your sense of touch and to experience your body and your surroundings. Let’s try different kinds of mindful movement together and notice what we see and feel.

The Practice

Lead your students through each of the activities below, concluding with the barefoot walk (“Take a hike”).

 

Stand Barefoot with Full Body Breath

Stand barefoot on the ground in Mountain Pose. Firmly plant your feet into the ground, a foot’s distance apart, arms slightly out from your sides, palms facing forward. Take a deep breath in, feeling the breath rise up your feet all the way to your head. Slowly breathe out, releasing the breath through your mouth. [Repeat the full body breath 3 times.]Can you describe the sensations, temperatures, and textures you feel through your feet?

 

Float Like a Butterfly, Buzz Like a Bee

Let’s warm up for our walk by moving like different animals and insects. [Let the kids choose what they’d like to be, then follow their movements and sounds.]

 

Make Monkey Feet

Place your feet firmly on the ground, toes lifted. Now try placing each toe down slowly and separately starting with the pinkie. Is it easier to do on one foot versus the other? Try gripping the ground with your toes. What does it feel like?

 

Take a Hike

Begin walking purposely. Use every surface of your foot, including your heel, instep, sole, ball of the foot, and each toe. Roll through each step, feeling the earth beneath your foot. Notice any shifts in energy.

Closure

Ask students: What is it like to notice your feet on the ground?  How did it feel? What did you observe in your body as you slowed down each step?

 

Source

Mindful Littles Barefoot Walking Activity. Mindful Littles is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to sparking compassionate action in youth and in communities through engaging service learning experiences and mindful well-being programs that foster resiliency, prosocial behavior, and improved mental health.

Reflection After the Practice

  • How did students respond to this practice?
  • Where might you try it again?
  • When might it be most well-received?

The Research Behind It

Evidence That It Works

Mindful walking is a foundational component of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction for adults and many adapted mindfulness programs for youth. A 2014 meta-analysis that focuses on 24 mindfulness studies with K-12 students demonstrated changes in students’ attention and resilience to stress, including positive emotions, self-esteem, and self-concept.

 

Why Does It Matter?

Children face numerous daily stressors that can negatively affect their learning and development. Teaching students this practice may reduce their stress, bolster their personal well-being, and improve their attention and executive functions (e.g., self-control, planning, decision-making, etc.) as well as their school functioning.

 

“Kiss the earth with your feet.”
–Thich Nhat Hanh