The benefits of meditation, even for young children, are clear and you can find more in this blog post. However, anyone who works regularly with young children knows that “herding cats” is putting it mildly. Meditation with preschoolers can seem as far fetched as putting a tornado in a paper bag. But when you think of meditation simply as sustained attention on one point of focus, even for just a short time, some exciting possibilities open up. Jon Kabbat-Zin describes meditation as “training the puppy” – where our minds are like little puppies that constantly wander off to what is more interesting, but not necessarily beneficial. We, as meditators, just lovingly bring the puppy (our minds) back to a point of focus over and over and over and soon, the attention gets longer and we are meditating! Our kids are like little puppies too. When we first try meditation with them, it seems impossible. But as we practice, over and over and over and over, gently bringing their attention to a single point of focus, we will find that they too can meditate. And the benefits are clear! Just be patient, laugh when they don’t do it perfectly, and keep trying!
Here are some of my favorite ways to meditate with little ones:
- Singing bowl, triangle or chime: Ding the singing bowl (or let one of them do it) and slowly count how long before we don’t hear it anymore. I try to do this in the morning before I get my brood out the door for school. We each get a chance to ding and/or play the singing bowl and we try to stay quiet and focused the whole time.
- Bubble popping exercise: Blow a bunch of bubbles and let them pop them all. Then, ask them to sit in one spot and watch as you blow ten puffs, count how long before all the bubbles pop on their own. This one takes a lot of self-control for them, but they can work up to it. Perhaps, switch the order so that they get to pop them once they’ve gone through one round of watching them quietly.
- Savasana (resting pose from yoga) with guided meditation: you can put on soft music, describe anything you are studying or have been talking about recently – what it’s like to live under the ocean, what it’s like to be a seed growing from dark to light, what it’s like to be a planet in space, what it’s like to be a little animal; or tell them if they are very very still a little rabbit will come and eat carrots out of their hand, but only if they are very still. I sometimes give a little hand massage for that one (maybe with some purel :)). As you can see from the pic, they are still pretty wiggly, but they love this one!
- Watch the lotus unfold: You can get instructions to make your lotus here. Kids count silently or simply watch until the lotus completely unfolds. Thanks to Kris Morse at ParentChildArt for this one!
- Make the stuffed animal rise: Children can choose a stuffed animal and lie down, placing it on their belly. The practice is to breath deeply, making the animal rise, without falling off. They work up to 10-15 times.Thanks to Kris Morse at ParentChildArt for the beautiful photos!