New research points to the benefits and lasting skills developed by early meditation in kids
Studies have shown that introducing children to meditation early-on has positive effects throughout their childhood and the rest of their lives. Which brings us to an interesting challenge: How do we promote stillness and calm in a school-age child?
It's important to remind ourselves of our goals for meditation which generally include a space for calm, introspection and a way to process our thoughts and emotions in a safe space.
Helping kids understand the basic practice and benefits of meditiation can help initiate their own desire to find this space for themselves. The basic practice of meditation includes:
comfortable body position such as sitting, lying down, or even walking
focus of attention
open attitude to discoveries
Laura Vogel, PhD, a licensed psychologist and director of therapeutic services at Momentous Institute, says meditation does look different for children, particularly young children. “Initially, children won’t understand why they are meditating; therefore, we need to introduce the practice in a fun, engaging way, which may involve toys, stories, or movement,” she says.
How to teach toddlers and preschoolers to meditate
Excerpt from Healthline, 2020
Incorporating a meditation practice at home can start with toddlers. Since toddlers and preschool-age children benefit from mimicking their caretakers, Sarah Roffe, LCSW, CCLS, a co-founder and psychotherapist at Kind Minds Therapy suggests making meditation a family norm. “The more it is part of your routine, the easier it will be to implement and normalize it as a part of your child’s routine,” she says.
Taking deep breaths is a great way to start meditating with young kids. With that in mind, here are a few tips from Roffe to introduce meditative breathing:
Have them sit in a comfortable position. You can try a yoga pose like baby cobra or have them sit cross-legged.
Teach them about connecting with their bodies. For example, tell them to watch their belly move up and down as they take a deep breath in and out.
Reinforce the why. Take these moments to emphasize the benefits we feel when practicing meditation.
“It’s important through all of this to remember that kids can meditate and still be kids,” says Roffe. Her advice? Make it fun. “Sure, they may wiggle around or laugh the first few times, but this is when practice and patience are key.” Magavi teaches this breathing technique to toddlers and preschool-age kids.
Picture a big balloon that you want to inflate.
Breathe in slowly and deeply to ensure the balloon will be big.
Breathe out very slowly, so the balloon does not pop.
When you are upset, make your balloon.
Check it out Headspace has an excellent app for kids to learn the basics of meditation. And the best part? The app has customized the sessions for three age groups: 5 and under, 6–8, and 9–12.
We're only just beginning to understand the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Introducing meditation and calm spaces for processing emotion in children can have incredible benefits for their overall well-being. A great thing to keep in mind is that meditation can be flexible. There is no right or wrong way to meditate if the basic principle of calm focus is achieved.