Most Western children are only introduced to being alone with their thoughts as a form of punishment: “Take a deep breath and count to 100,” “Go to your room and think about what you did!” And worst of all, “Do you need quiet time?”
Of course, quiet time is actually a precious resource in our lives, not a punishment. Teaching our children some simple meditation techniques can help them learn to appreciate meaningful stillness, and improve their tempers, their confidence, and their overall sense of well-being.
Meditation for Kids Do’s
The following tips will help children get the most out of meditation:
- Pay attention to short attention spans—consider alternating some of these exercises with children’s yoga asanas [link] to help them move.
- Choose a quiet place, relatively distraction-free, for practice.
- Model the meditation techniques you’d like them to learn.
Meditation for Kids Don’ts
Ensure that children’s meditation is drama-free by following these guidelines:
- Don’t push children beyond their age-appropriate skill level.
- Don’t make it a task—the goal is not teach children the “right” way to meditate, but to plant the seeds of awareness early on, and help them learn to enjoy deep relaxation.
- Don’t use meditation exercises as punishment.
Meditation Exercises for Kids
- Have the child sit cross-legged, with eyes closed.
- Have them sit tall, in preparation for deep breathing. Breathing should be regular and deep.
- Ask the child to affirm one positive aspect of the self with each breath of air inhaled and exhaled. For example: “I am a good person” (while inhaling), “I am brave” (while exhaling). The positive affirmations and deep breathing should be continued for, as long the child is comfortable.
(This is a great one for calming down after active play.)
- Have the child lie flat, preferably on the floor, with legs stretched out and arms relaxed on either side of the body. The palms of both hands should face upward. The eyes should be closed and breathing gentle.
- Visualization is an important part of Deep Relaxation. The child should visualize lying on a beach, with the feeling of the sand against their back, and with the rays of the sun warming their body.
- While breathing in, the child should imagine the waves of the sea as they come up to the shore. With each exhale, they should picture the waves returning to the sea.
- Next, have the child imagine that there is birdseed in both their palms, and that seagulls are circling above. Timid, but lured by the birdseed, they slowly fly down to eat from the child’s hands.
- Count slowly to either 10 as the child relaxes, or allow for a longer period of rest.
No/Yes meditation is a yogic meditation for children that promotes positive thinking and relaxation. It’s a simple technique that helps reduce stress.
- Have the child sit on the floor in the lotus position (cross-legged, with both feet resting in the lap, on the bend of each knee). The spine should be straight and the eyes closed. The hands should rest palm-up on each knee.
- Have the child pretend to be a pyramid or a mountain—solid, still and calm. Difficult situations that the child has recently experienced should be visualized. Have the child say the word “no”—slow, fast, loud or soft—as they breathe evenly. After a minute, move on to the next step.
- Next, have the child visualize positive, enjoyable experiences. Have the child say the word “yes,” as they continue breathing evenly. Encourage the child to feel the power of the word “yes” each time they say it.
- End the session with a deep, silent breath, encouraging them to release all tension from their body.
One Step Further
To further develop your child’s inner strength and awareness, you may want to teach them some basic breathing exercises and yoga asanas. Children love the variety, and adults love watching their children learn a set of and important life-skills that aren’t usually taught in school. For more information, see Related Tips & How Tos.