Meditation For Kids: The Ultimate Guide
Meditation For Kids
Kids face many challenges as they grow up: trying to figure out how to live in the world, how to cope with confusing emotions, and what to do with their abundance of energy. They have to deal with bullying, competition, expectations, performance anxiety, and often problems in their homes, such as violence or divorce.
In childhood the brain is developing and children are coming to understand the world and their place within it. Learning to live in a mindful way helps kids navigate the world and keep their confusing thoughts and feelings under control.
According to many experts, our school system is devastating to children’s development. We treat children in a tragic way, forcing them to sit down in classrooms by the time they’re 4 years old. This is when they should be exploring the physical world, playing, and having fun.
Meditation helps kids to relax, cope with the stress of school, and approach life with calmness.
But as a parent, a teacher, or anyone who deals with kids, it’s useful to know how to teach meditation to children.
The Benefits of Meditation For Kids
The greatest gift we can give our children is the experience of deep quiet.
This is what Marianne Williamson has to say about it:
“If we don’t help our children cultivate contemplation, reflection, prayer, meditation, or mindfulness, they’re likely to be completely spun out of their centre by the time they reach grade school.”
Here are some of the reports of how meditation benefits children.
- Improves behavior
- Improves focus
- Settles restlessness in students
- Improves school performance
- Increases happiness and wellbeing
- Reduces anxiety and depression
- Improves organization
- Helps with ADHD, PTSD, and eating disorders.
A few tips before you start
Keep it fun – Try to make it as enjoyable as possible and even make a kind of game out of it. Kids don’t want to sit in meditation and be serious.
Keep it brief – A few minutes a day is fine for a young child. For an older child or teenager, they can practice for 10 minutes or more a day. The key is to make it enjoyable so it doesn’t feel like a chore.
Don’t expect too much – Meditation is a slow process, and it works over time. Don’t expect it to completely transform your child overnight.
Meditate with them – You can meditate with your child as well so you’re doing it together. Also meditate yourself every day to lead by example.
Meditation for Kids – 10 Exercises
1. Body Scan
This is a quick and easy meditation to help reduce stress, anxiety, and worry. It brings the attention away from the thoughts and into the physical sensations of the body.
Tell the child to start by lying down with legs uncrossed and palms turned upwards towards the sky. Relax.
Bring the attention to the feet, noticing any sensations there. Tell him to notice how it feels. Ask,“What do you feel in your feet? Are they hot or cold? Do you feel any tingling? Any pressure? Any breeze from the wind? Can you feel the floor? Is it soft or hard?”
They don’t need to answer out loud, of course. It’s intended to bring their attention to the body and out of the mind. Then tell him to let the feet relax.
Then move up to the ankles and do the same. Repeat for each body part all the way up to the head. Afterwards, ask how he feels.
2. Candle Meditation
Meditation is all about focusing on a single object. Usually it’s the breath, but for kids an external object like a candle works well too. Plus kids love fire.
Close the curtains and darken the room. Light a candle and put it a few feet away, making sure to be safe at all times and avoid leaving the child unattended.
Put on some gentle music and ask him to watch the candle. You can say the following:
“Relax your eyes and sit watching the candle. Try not to move the eyes but keep them gently focused on the candle.”
Then, after a minute or two:
“Now take a minute to close the eyes. Try to see the candle flame in your mind’s eye. Imagine the flame blowing to the left or right, getting bigger, getting smaller. Play with the flame in your mind.”
Then he can open his eyes again and watch the candle. Repeat as many times as you feel is appropriate. For small kids, 2-3 minutes is enough.
3. Sound meditation
This exercise uses the sense of hearing to develop present moment awareness.
Tell your child to sit down in a comfortable position and close his eyes.
“Take a deep breath, and pay attention to any sounds you can hear.”
He might hear the buzzing of a computer, the whirring of the air conditioning, or the birds singing outside. Tell him to focus on one sound for a few moments before moving on to the next.
He can also focus on the sound of his own breath.
- Ask him to close his ears with his fingers and see what he can hear inside.
- Play some gentle meditation music and ask him to listen to the sounds.
- Use tingsha bells or a singing bowl and ask him to listen to the sound from start to finish as you repeat a few times.
Do all these variations in one sitting if it’s fun and interesting for your child.
4. Imagine a story meditation
In this exercise, children listen to a piece of music (classical or yoga music) and try to imagine a scene in their mind. Ask the child to think about what he can see, what he can hear, smell, taste, and feel.
After the meditation, you can ask him to tell a story based on what he saw, to draw pictures, or write a story. This exercise is great for visualization. It also builds imagination and creativity.
5. Counting meditation
This meditation is similar to how we practice as adults because it uses the breath as the point of focus.
But kids get bored when just focusing on the breath. So instead we use counting to keep the mind focused.
I actually used this meditation for years as an adult when I first started, but it works well for kids too.
Ask your child to sit or lie down and relax.
“Take a couple of deep breaths and check in with how you feel. Then let the breath flow naturally without controlling it.”
Ask your child to inhale, then as he exhales, he counts 1. On the next exhalation, count 2, and so on all the way up to 10.
He should focus on the breath and the gentle counting helps to keep the mind focused on the breath.
Smaller kids (like my son Bodhi in the picture) can count aloud in a whisper if it helps.
6. Astronaut meditation
In this visualisation exercise, the child closes his eyes and takes a few deep breaths.
Then he imagines flying up into outer space, leaving the earth behind. Imagine space all around to the left, right, above and below.
“Leave all worries behind. Leave all possessions, everything. Float up into space and feel how light your body has become.”
Then he floats back down to the Earth and gently opens his eyes.
7. Bee breathing
This is a variation on chanting the sound of Om as taught in many spiritual traditions.
Instead, the child takes a deep breath in and then makes the sound of “hummmmmm.” He should open the mouth at the start and then keep it closed for the “mmmmmm” sounds. Tell him he is making a noise like a bee and to try and do it for as long as he can. Repeat as many times as you like.
As he makes the sound, tell him to pay attention to how he feels. At the end, he can breathe normally for a minute or two paying attention to the breath, noticing if it feels relaxed.
8. Clouds in the sky
This exercise teaches kids to let go of thoughts and emotions.
The child starts by taking a few deep breaths, then visualises a clear blue sky with a few clouds floating by.
He tries to empty his mind. Every time a thought or feeling comes up, he imagines placing it on a cloud, which floats away. He watches the thought float away and smiles.
They simply let each thought pass by and try not to get lost in thought or worry.
9. Loving kindness for kids
This is an excellent practice for teaching love, kindness, and compassion. It also increases self-love and self-respect.
The child starts by bringing someone he loves to mind. He pictures the person in his mind’s eye and mentally says, “May you be happy, may you be peaceful, may you be well.”
Then they bring someone they don’t like so much to mind and do the same: “May you be happy, may you be peaceful, may you be well.” He surrounds the person with positive thoughts and loving energy.
Finally they picture themselves and say the same words: “May I be happy, may I be peaceful, may I be well.”
10. Walking Meditation
In this exercise, the child practices mindful walking.
Start by sitting him down and taking a few deep breaths. Then he can stand up and start walking very slowly backwards and forward in a room.
He should pay attention to the feelings of his body, how it moves through space.
It may help to ask him to take 3 steps on the inhalation and then 3 steps on the exhalation so he is also focusing on the breath. This helps to keep the mind focused.
Then he can take 2 steps as he inhales and as 2 as he exhales. This should slow him down.
Then finally, he takes 1 step on the inhalation and 1 step on the exhalation. Again, he will be moving more slowly now.
Finally, he can sit down again and take a few more deep breaths before getting on with the day.
Meditation For Kids - Final Words
Teaching children the importance of meditation and spirituality is so important. It gives them the tools they need to navigate this scary world.
But it’s also essential for the future of humanity.
Our species needs to make some huge changes over the coming generations and we need wise, spiritual, and intuitive people to lead the way. Meditating at a young age is the breeding ground in which wisdom and inner power will grow.
The Dalai Lama once said:
“If every 8-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”
The world will look very different when everyone is taught how to live a spiritual life. Spirituality breeds compassion, kindness, patience, and acceptance.
The foundation of these spiritual values is beginning our lives with mindfulness and meditation in our toolbox so we know how to deal with our troubling thoughts and emotions.