Meditation for Kids
benefits, techniques, exercises
The meditation for kids is a practice still little explored in our United States, which, however, has a huge potential.
Childhood and the’ teenage years are fundamental stages in the growth and formation of personality. At this stage we develop our worldview and determine how to relate to others and to ourselves.
The skills and tools we learn in the first few years of life have an incredible impact on the rest of our journey, which is why meditation is an immense gift to offer to a child.
In this article we discover the benefits of meditation for children and some exercises to introduce them to the practice in the right way, involving them actively.
Any adult (parent, teacher or educator) who wishes to teach meditation to a child must be willing to learn to meditate on their own before engaging the little ones.
There is no need to become an expert or a teacher, but having meditated consistently for some time and grasping the principles of meditation (along with the most common mistakes ) is a fundamental prerequisite.
Children absorb our behaviors and habits like sponges: if we are the first not to meditate, or not to deepen the practice, it is natural that the child we follow will not consider us reliable enough and will stop listening to us. We need to lead by example by showing how calm, relaxed and grounded we are after meditating. In this way we will arouse the curiosity of the little ones and their desire to learn.
In addition to this, children need to feel that their adults know them well enough to adapt the meditation to their needs and preferences.
Don’t be afraid to improvise and trust your intuition to know what’s best for the child you’re teaching.
If you continue gradually and meditating together, the relationship between you will also become stronger thanks to meditation.
Benefits of Meditation for Kids
Benefits of Meditation: Numerous studies carried out so far on children and young people have shown how meditation helps them improve their relationship with their parents , better control their impulses , increase self-esteem , improve empathy and skills. social , decrease anxiety and reduce post-traumatic stress symptoms .
It is the dream of many parents to be able to calm their children, teach them to manage themselves and see them grow up happy, healthy and fulfilled. While this path is studded with challenges and difficulties, meditation can certainly be a powerful tool in contributing to all of these goals.
While many of us associate children with the concept of carefree , we must keep in mind that they too face many daily challenges, for example:
- A constant influx of energy that can become overwhelming.
- Social pressure from peers.
- Expectations from parents and teachers in study and sport.
- Difficulty concentrating .
- Problems building healthy relationships with others.
- Bullying .
- Low self-esteem .
- Difficulty managing your emotions , such as anger, disappointment, and anxiety.
In our modern society these problems are exacerbated by social media (which amplifies the effects of bullying and social pressure), excessive stimulation by the media and technology (which leads to greater restlessness and less attention span) and a climate of growing fear (nurtured by the current state of the world and parental anxieties).
The result is that more and more children and young people suffer from mental disorders. According to Istat data , two thirds of pupils with disabilities in schools of all levels (over 170 thousand pupils) have mental health problems (such as anxiety or depression). It is estimated that 11 out of 100 thousand resident minors with mental disorders of the developmental age guests of residential facilities.
In this context, it is our responsibility as parents and educators – and as a society – to teach new generations self-help tools that can really make a difference.
“If every eight year old were taught meditation, we would be able to eliminate violence in the world within a generation.”
Meditation in Schools: Experiments and Results
Fortunately, we are seeing a worldwide movement that aims to permanently integrate meditation into the school system .
In some American and UK schools, meditation is already practiced as an adjunct to physical education programs, in others it is taught in lieu of disciplinary detention. Studies and research conducted on these experimental programs show positive and very promising results. Here are a few:
Better management of ADHD
An elementary school in the United States conducted an 8-week mindfulness program on a group of third-grade students. At the conclusion of the program, teachers reported less inattention, less hyperactivity and fewer symptoms of attention deficit disorder ( ADHD ).
Better academic performance
A California middle school, after integrating daily meditation programs into the curriculum, experienced an increase in grade point average for most program participants.
Another study conducted in the San Francisco Unified School District with more than 3,000 students found a dramatic improvement in overall school performance , including a spike in math test scores, among students who practiced mindfulness.
Less stress and depression
At Burton High School in San Francisco, students who participated in a school meditation program reported significantly lower levels of stress and symptoms of depression than other students.
Improvement of psychological well-being
Children who practice meditation on average experience fewer psychological complexes such as fear and social anxiety.
Why should Kids Meditate?
With meditation, children learn to better manage their bodies, their energy and their emotions. This leads to an increase in emotional intelligence and a positive outlook on life. They also develop better organizational skills and learn to be more present and less judgmental . In essence, they feel better, learn better, and grow better.
The skills that emerge as a result of meditation will develop in many aspects of life and will be carried over into adolescence and adulthood. The practice becomes integral to their development and resources to navigate the world, helping prepare them for a happier and healthier life.
Meditation for Kids according to their age
Teaching children is very different from teaching adults. Children have less patience , less attention span, and little self-control . On the other hand, they have greater imagination , a sense of playfulness, and learn quickly by good example .
The first thing to take into consideration is the age group we are addressing, which also corresponds to a very specific learning style.
Meditation for the little ones (1-3 years)
For the little ones, meditation is more like a “conscious movement” than a real practice.
In this stage of growth, babies are very focused on their body and the sensations they experience, so a very useful approach is to focus on identifying pain and unpleasant sensations . For example, try asking your baby to touch parts of his body that occasionally make him feel unhappy or annoy him. To relieve those feelings, try to involve him in the satisfaction of taking a deep breath .
With this simple act, you are training his brain to recognize stress signals and respond with practices that bring the body back into balance.
Remember that the agitation of a child under 3 is perfectly normal: their little bodies are going through constant changes and they don’t have the emotional vocabulary to communicate when they are taking steps forward and when they need to calm down.
If a child knows the signals of their own body, they will practice self-care even when they are away from the adults who guide them.
Meditation for preschool children (3-5 years)
From the age of 3 or 4, children begin to pay attention to stories .
When they are lying down, even in bed before falling asleep, it is the ideal time to accompany them in a small guided meditation .
With your voice, invite the child to think about how each part of his body feels, from head to toe, in a quick body scan . Or invent a fairy tale starring a pet or one of his favorite toys as he embarks on a journey through his body to explore energy. If the child resists this attempt to quiet the mind, practice it too while you are with him.
Children of this age are particularly responsive to adult behaviors and are more willing to engage in an activity if it is performed with one of their reference figures.
Meditation for school children (6-10 years)
The meditative music and recorded meditations can have a profoundly calming effect on children ages 6 and up, but preference is personal.
Try to involve them with sounds that are pleasant to hearing. Many adults enjoy chanting the ‘ohm’ mantra, but children often find it strange and at times disturbing. It is important to let the child freely choose the voice, music or sound that makes them most comfortable.
Traditional meditation music often incorporates Tibetan bells , which vibrate on frequencies that are said to restore and heal parts of the body that are out of balance. Neurotypical children respond well to the tones produced by Tibetan bells. In other situations, recordings of the sounds of nature also bring children to calm and peace.
Meditation Teaching method for Kids
To teach meditation to children effectively, keep these simple principles in mind.
Make it engaging and fun
The most important thing when teaching children to meditate is to present the practices in a more interesting , fun and engaging way . Never allow it to get boring for them. Make it seem like an enjoyable activity, like play, and the kids will want to do it again.
Favor techniques that are naturally more engaging for children, such as working with the senses and imagination . It also means that you have to adapt the meditation instructions so that they are more interesting.
For example, instead of asking the baby to “watch the breath,” you can ask to put a small toy on his tummy and watch the toy move up and down as he breathes deeply. Then ask them to try to make the toy move as slowly as possible. Here, you just taught him to breathe deeply without him noticing!
Use their imagination
Most children have a hard time understanding abstract concepts . Rather, children enjoy activities that allow them to use their imagination and creativity. So make sure you engage your imagination in practice.
One way to do this is to frame meditation as a challenge . You will have to get in touch with your creativity and imagination for this, and it depends a lot on the child. For instance:
- Physical immobility is a powerful port for meditation. When teaching this principle, you can present it as a challenge: “Let’s play a game called Buddha Statue. We sit in this special position, pretend to be a statue and slowly count from 100 to 1. If you move first, you lose. “
- If the child likes action movies , you could create a metaphor like this: “Your breath is like a secret agent, who likes to disappear from time to time. Your mission is to protect him, so you need to follow him very carefully and in silence. But be careful, in the blink of an eye he’s gone! “
Another way is to create an interesting “meditation space” at home or at school. Children love to be transported to another world, with different experiences and strange objects. You can add an extra layer of meaning by saying things like, “This is a sacred space, a magical space. Every time you come in here and practice meditation, all your problems disappear and you start to feel very calm and happy. “
Babies don’t have the patience to sit still for 20 minutes. So keep the practice short , especially for children under 10. They should never get bored with the practice, but end it with the feeling of “wanting more”.
A general guideline for establishing the duration of the sessions is “child’s age + 1”. So, if the child is 8 years old, do a session of up to 9 minutes. You can use a timer with a bell to make it more interesting.
Meditation Techniques for Kids
Below you can find some techniques and exercises (adapted from classic meditation techniques) that you can perform with children.
Sound meditations (hearing) for kids
Exercise 1: Open your ears
- Close your eyes and take a deep breath.
- Imagine your ears getting very big. As big as your body. They can hear everything.
- Pay attention to the sounds you hear in the room you are in. Dwell on each sound for a few seconds, then move on to the next one.
- Now he begins to hear faraway sounds. See how far you can go with your big ears.
- Let the sound be just a sound, don’t think about it and don’t give it a name. Your ears neither appreciate nor despise any sounds… they just hear them all as they are.
- Now try to hear the sound of your breath. Listen to it carefully, moment by moment.
Benefits: Encourages the child to use the sense of hearing as a door to be present, open and calm in the here and now. This helps to develop awareness of non-judgment and to nurture mental stillness.
Exercise 2: The history of music
Play a piece of instrumental music and ask the children to listen carefully and imagine what the story the music tells is. Finally, ask them to share their stories.
Benefits: Develop their imaginative and abstract thinking faculties.
Exercise 3: From sound to silence
For this exercise you will need a Tibetan bell.
- Close your eyes and pay attention to the sounds you hear.
- Now listen carefully to the sound of the bell. [Hit a Tibetan bell]
- Follow the sound until silence. Notice how long you can track it before it disappears. Try to find the last moment when sound escapes silence.
- Now listen to the silence.
Benefits: great for calming the baby and sharpening his sense of hearing.
Meditation with the gaze (sight) for kids
Make the room dark, close all the windows and light a candle . This different atmosphere, coupled with the fact that most children love fire, will make it an enjoyable practice for them.
- Sit two to three meters away from the candle.
- Open your eyes and gently stare at its flame (don’t force your gaze too hard) Follow the movement of the flame very carefully, like a cat watching its prey. Do not move your eyes left or right, neither up nor down.
- After two minutes, close your eyes and see the image of the candle that may appear in your mind.
- Play with that image – see if you can make it sit quiet in the center. Or try changing its size, color or brightness.
- After a while, open your eyes and look at the royal flame again. Then close your eyes and repeat the process.
Benefits: This is a great practice for developing focus, self-confidence and the ability to visualize.
Breath meditation for kids
Breath awareness is the most popular form of meditation in the Buddhist tradition and gave rise to the modern mindfulness movement. Here are two simple methods to teach children.
Exercise 1: let’s count the breaths
- Close your eyes.
- Be aware of your breathing. Feel your belly or chest moving up on the inhale and down on the exhale.
- Mentally breathing in, pronounce the number “10”; exhaling again think “10”. Then again “9” and “9”. Then 8, 8. Up to 1.1.
- If you get lost, start over at 10. Your challenge is to go from 10 to 1 without ever forgetting your breath.
Benefits: Increases body awareness, concentration and relaxation.
Exercise 2: Breathe in the colors
Instead of counting your breaths, visualize the air you are inhaling in your favorite color and the air you are exhaling in gray. Breathing in, your favorite color fills your whole body with good things: happiness, calm, energy. On exhaling, the gray color takes away all bad things.
Benefits: like those of the first exercise, but with an enhanced effect on emotional well-being.
Weightless Body Mediation for Kids
- Lie down comfortably. Close your eyes.
- Imagine your body is getting very light. So light that it no longer has weight and starts floating upwards.
- Your body is light and transparent and it floats in space. It exits the planet Earth and floats in the galaxy.
- Enjoy how light and free it feels. Your mind also feels light and free.
- After a while, start returning to Earth and the room you are in. Feel the body becoming solid again.
- Slowly move your toes and hands until you are ready to finish the meditation.
As a variant, after step 4, you can ask the child to imagine that he is visiting another planet. This makes the practice more imaginative and creative, which some children may enjoy. If you adopt that variation, eventually ask the child to share what the journey was like and what the planet was like.
Benefits: Helps you relax deeply. Problems and negative emotions seem very small after this exercise. It is good for children who are emotionally stuck, overly shy or sad.
If we want to create a better, happier, prosperous and equitable society, teaching awareness to new generations is a great place to start.
Meditation gives young people a powerful tool to manage themselves and become kinder, wiser and more mature individuals.
Each child will have different techniques from which they will benefit most, so it is important to allow them to be exposed to always different practices in order to choose the one they prefer for themselves. Having patience and setting a good example is the key to introducing them to the wonderful world of their mind.