Your kids deserve inner calm, peace, happiness, and health. But as well know, those positive states aren’t a given in this day and age. In a society of competition, constant stress, overt-simulation through media, and perhaps bullying at school, it’s not easy to make sure your child is healthy, happy, and calm. That’s where this guide to meditation for children comes in.
Longitudinal research proves that today’s youth experience higher levels of pressure and stress compared to previous generations. ” The stress of getting good grades, high scores on standardized tests, and accepted at top-ranked colleges doesn’t encourage happy family dynamics,” says developmental psychologist Marilyn Price-Mitchell Ph.D.
In a world of sensory overload and school, family and internal pressures, kids need meditation as much as adults. Meditation helps kids develop focus, regulate their own emotions and learn how to pay attention inside and out.
Meditation for children isn’t quiite the same as meditation for adult, however. In my experience, teaching children to meditate is significantly more challenging than teaching adults. When teaching children, it’s necessary to begin from the very beginning, with just sitting. As the Zen proverb goes, “When sitting, sit.” But this can be a challenge for children.
It really is imperative, when teaching children to meditate, that you begin with the very basics. I’ll share some advice on how to get kids meditating in just a moment. First, though, let’s explore the benefits of meditation for children, to see precisely why meditation is so important for your kids.
The Benefits of Meditation for Children
There are more than 110 proven health benefits of meditation. The following, however, are some of the most important benefits of meditation for kids.
- Meditation greatly helps children to develop their focus and attention. It can, for instance, be very helpful for children with ADHD, though it is also helpful for focus and attention in general.
- Meditation removes negative thoughts along with worries. For teens, for instance, it can help them to overcome the stress associated with peer pressure.
- Meditation offers numerous important health benefits, including boosting the immune system and helping with breathing (I suffer from asthma myself and can vouch for the use of meditation in treating the symptoms of asthma). I recommend reading this complete list of health benefits to see how meditation can help your child.
- It makes kids more aware of their surroundings and makes them live more in the present moment.
I recommend watching this video. It elucidates the importance of meditation for children, showing the affect meditation can have on schools.
I’m sure you’ll agree that meditation is immensely important for kids. And you’re probably quite keen to get started.
Here’s my advice on how to start teaching meditation to children.
Ten minute mindfulness meditation for children –Exercise 1
This is a very simple mindfulness meditation for children. I recommend asking your son or daughter to adopt the right position, either sitting or lying down. It doesn’t matter precisely what position they take, but make sure they are comfortable and not fidgeting. You ‘ll find this introduction to meditation positions very helpful.
Once your son or daughter is comfortable, continue with these instructions.
- To begin, ask your child to close their eyes and focus on their breathing. They should do so for a couple of minutes.
- Now, ask them to focus on their hearing and to pay close attention to everything they hear. It may help if you ask them to describe the sounds they are hearing.
- Now ask them to pay attention to the sensation of touch. Have them describe that they can feel (for instance, wind on the face, soft grass at their feet etc).
- Now ask them to focus on scents. How does the air smell? Are there any other scents they are aware of etc.
- Now move to taste and repeat.
- Finally ask them to open their eyes and simply look around them. You may ask them to focus on light, on shades and on other visuals to make them mindful of sight.
The purpose of this mindfulness technique is to make the child more aware and to enable them to focus on one thing at a time (in the exercise they focus on the sense one at a time). In this age of constant stimulation, many children (and adults to) struggle to focus. Each time you use this technique you’ll be developing your child’s ability to focus.
I do recommend using the technique above first as it helps to get the child grounded. Then continue with the children’s mindfulness exercises below.
Mindfulness exercises for Children
- Breathing Mindfulness –Exercise 2
Breathing meditation is often the best place to start with any sort of meditation practice. Ask the child to sit comfortably and with good posture and to close their eyes. Bring their attention to the sensation of their breath coming and going through the space between their mouth and nose.
Ask the child to place both hands on their stomach and feel their breath rising and falling from there. You may also ask them to repeat a simple word as they breathe in and out, saying “In” on in-breaths and “Out” when exhaling.
Go in stages of five breaths. Have them count five breaths and then ask them to be aware of any thoughts or feelings in their mind. Ask the child to let go of their feelings and thoughts and to return their attention to their breath.
Also, let me add, if you are new to breathing meditation yourself, I strongly recommend taking a look at our guide to breathing meditation techniques. By teaching yourself to meditate properly you’ll find it a lot easier to help your children. You may also like to read my comprehensive practical guide to meditation, which will tell you everything you need to know about meditation yourself before you begin with your children.
3. Mindfulness with Sound
For this exercise, once again, begin by focussing the child’s attention on their breath for a few minutes. Explain to the child that they are going to hear a sound and that they should focus on the sound as it gets quieter and quieter. Ask them to nod their head when they can no longer hear the sound.
Use a singing bowl or any other object you have that can produce a pleasant sound. Make the sound quieter and quieter. When the child nods their head (saying they can no longer hear it) have them count five breaths again.
Repeat this exercise a few times.
- 4. Eating Mindfully
It’s always important to make children aware of what they are eating. This exercise helps. Get some food and put it on a plate or in a bowl—be sure that the food is not in its wrapper as this produces unwanted noise.
Have the child count to five breaths. Now ask the child to be mindful of the food on the plate, being aware of the feeling, the image and the scent of the food. If they are holding cutlery you may ask them to be mindful of this.
Get the child to take a small portion of the food and ask them to eat it slowly while focussing on the taste of the food. The child should chew slowly, always aware of the food. Once they have finishing eating ask them to describe the taste and feeling of the food.
Finally, have the child take five mindful breaths and repeat this exercise. You can find a complete guide to mindful eating here.
Walking is one of the traditional meditation exercises in Zen Buddhism and is a great exercise for children. Go for a short walk with the child (somewhere safe, naturally) and ask them focus on the sensation of movement in their feet and legs. If the child shows a lack of concentration at any time, stop walking and have them count five breaths.
You may like to extend this mindfulness exercise by consideration sensations related to walking. Ask the child to be mindful of their clothing, or the feeling of wind on their skin or of any other simple aspect of walking.
In this mindfulness exercise the kids will be playing a fun game like finger painting, using a sand table or a similar activity. Once again, begin with awareness of breath.
Tell the child that they can play in whatever way they like but with one condition: they must be mindful of everything they do. Whatever they choose to do during play, they must focus on it absolutely, as we do when meditating. Get the child to be aware of all five senses, being mindful of taste, touch, sight, sound and hearing. Once again, if the child loses focus use five mindful breaths to regain their attention.
7: Meditating on Art
Many children love painting and drawing, both of which can easily be turned into a spiritual practice. To make art a meditation find some object that the child wants to draw or paint. Now ask the child to observe every aspect of the object for a few minutes. Ask them to describe the shape of the object, the feeling and so on. This encourage the child to practice mindfulness. The child can then draw or paint the object but they must focus absolutely on the object while they create their art.
This is an excellent way to get a child to learn two important things: meditation and cooking. Get hold of a fun and simple recipe that the child might like to cook (cookies for instance). Get the ingredients out along with any tools you need.
You’re going to be cooking with the child while teaching them mindfulness meditation. To do this, have the child fully investigate the feeling, smell and taste of the foo d(presuming the food is in an edible state, naturally). At every step in the cooking process, ask the child to be mindful of a) the ingredients, b) any work they are doing and c) the process of change that is happening to the food.
Music is another great way to get a child to learn mindfulness. To do this, find a simple tune that the child can hum or sing. Ask the child to learn the tune. Then ask them to hum or sing it. The important things here is to ask the child to focus absolutely on the sound that they are creating, and also on the feelings in their body as they sing or hum.
10: Inform other parents and have group meditation sessions
This final exercise is simple but powerful. Meditation is much more effective when practiced in a group. I highly recommend informing your friends about meditation for children, and arranging group sessions.
I also highly recommend reading my comprehensive guide to mindfulness and meditation. It will be of immense value to both you and your family.