Toddlers to Teens – teaching kids meditation and mindfulness

Someone just emailed me with a great question which I’m sure many people think about.

“just curious as to what age you think would be the earliest to teach children meditation/mindfulness and what would be the ideal age to begin?”
Michelle

Adults make life so difficult sometimes…

As adults learning meditation, we know it has been an uphill climb for us so we assume it will be the same fo
r kids. That’s not always the case.

You see as an adult, we have had lots of time (and experiences, good and bad) to accumulate a lot of emotional and mental ‘gunk’. This means when we sit in meditation, we can take a while to come to terms with how busy the mind is and how frustrated we feel as the beginner.

Children have (usually) accumulated less anxiety as adults, so teaching them is easier. They are more open and curious. In class I invite adults in meditation classes to ‘have a child-like curiosity’. That’s because our adult minds are immersed in logic and fact and we’ve forgotten how to enjoy our imagination.

Children can’t concentrate…

Again this isn’t true. If you engage the interest of children, then you’ll have their attention.

Adults’ meditation can be quite serious. Children’s meditation can be playful and fun. An activity can be turned into a meditation by simply being mindful of the senses.

Children love to move! However we can show them what the body feels like when it moves and when it is still through the sounds, the sensation of touch, what we see and feel.

In my book, ‘Calm Kids’, I take you back to the basics and my mantra is ‘start small and practice often’. Very quickly children build up an ability to focus for longer the more they practise (just as they build up a vocabulary of words the more we speak to them). If we are patient and practise every day for 30 seconds or a minute as part of the schedule day then it becomes a (good) habit!

Kids with special needs can do this too (we know because we’ve seen it happen).  Young people with autism and a very short attention span went from a few minutes to a 20 minute meditation in 4 weeks of regular meditation practise (for full details of this see my 2nd book Connected Kids).

Children can’t sit still…

As mentioned before, work within their capabilities. I’ve taught adult meditation classes where there was a lot of twitching and feet moving!

For children it is easier if we engage the movement in a mindful way – eg yoga! Yoga is a great way to help children balance their energy centres and then afterwards find a moment for some stillness.

Think about your own yoga class… the relaxation comes after the movement so the same applies for children. We would be twitching a whole lot more in yoga if we were asked to do the relaxation first!

Children don’t understand…

Yes they do.

We just have to find the words to help them understand. If we are asking them to relax their body, use guided imagery to help them do this (or the sense of touch).

Often our Connected Kids tutors will place cushions or cuddly toys on the tummy of children so they can focus on their breath and the movement (and touch) which all leads to relaxation and focus.

If we don’t use touch we can ask children to use their imaginations

imagine your tummy is a balloon and every time you breathe in your balloon fills up (push tummy out) and then relax your tummy and the balloon lets the air out“.

This (seemingly) simple little exercise works the diaphram in the body – which can send a relaxation signal to the brain – clever huh!

But don’t tie your kids brains up with the logic, they are usually more interested in the movement and the balloon (think about colours it could be, the sound it makes when the sound escapes and anything else your imagination will allow).

Enjoy the experience…

Have fun with children’s meditation. Us adults are far too serious and if we would only be still and listen to our kids (and stop worrying about schedules and other life stuff) we would see that our children are trying to play with us, inviting us to ‘lighten up’.

If the above balloon meditation encourages laughter – explore that! Laughter releases endorphins into our blood stream that release stress.

Plus we can get kids to notice how their bodies feel when they laugh compared to how it feels when they giggle compared to how it feels when they smile which means… focus + awareness = meditation.

Have fun!

 

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