I’ve been teaching and writing about meditation for ten years.
In that time I’ve taught and / or been read by over a million people. I’ve also helped thousands of parents to teach meditation to their children.
I know from first hand experience that meditation is immensely beneficial to children. And I would love to help you to get your kids meditating today.
The benefits of meditation for kids
Take a look at this huge list of benefits from meditation.
There are more than 100 ways that mindfulness and meditation helps us. And the majority of those benefits are for both kids and adults.
Mindfulness and meditation help kids the same way they help you and me. For starters, they alleviate stress.
Scientific research has proven that kids today have more pressure and stress today than in any other generation in history.
“The stress of getting good grades, high scores on standardized tests, and accepted at top-ranked colleges doesn’t encourage happy family dynamics,” says developmental psychologist Marilyn Price-Mitchell Ph.D.
If your kids are young, they may be suffering from stress unbeknownst to you.
“It’s not always easy to recognize when kids are stressed out, but short-term behavioral changes — such as mood swings, acting out, changes in sleep patterns, or bedwetting — can be indications. Some kids have physical effects, including stomachaches and headaches,” says KidsHealth.
Put simply, kids are under too much pressure. And it is affecting their health.
For caring parents, meditation offers a way to help children to manage their stress and emotions. And it can also help to correct behavioral issues.
List of benefits:
There are more than 110 proven health benefits of meditation. The following are some of the most important.
- Meditation helps children to develop their focus and attention.
- There is mounting evidence that meditation helps kids with ADHD. A 2004 study showed that kids who practiced meditation with their parents in a clinical setting twice a week and then continued to practice at home had improved attention span and focus. Studies have also shown that mindfulness helps improve children’s focus too. In one study, teens and their parents completed a mindfulness program and reported fewer stress levels and fewer ADHD symptoms, such as impulsiveness and emotional reactivity.
- Meditation removes negative thoughts along with worries.
- Mindfluness helps teens overcome the stress associated with peer pressure.
- Meditation offers numerous important health benefits, including boosting the immune system and helping with breathing.
- It boosts present-moment mindfulness.
But is meditation safe for kids?
I’ve written a big list of potential health risks from meditation. I recommend all parents read it before starting to teach mindfulness to kids.
Meditation is not 100% safe (take that with a pinch of salt though, and bear in mind that nothing is 100% risk free). It’s worth being aware of the possible risks (see above).
You definitely should consult a doctor or healthcare professional before beginning.
Be sure to ask whether meditation is right for your child, based on your child’s individual needs.
In most instances it is fine to teach mindfulness to kids, even though some people consider meditation a little too serious a practice for young children.
That said, meditation is certainly healthier than a lot of alternatives. And with there being so many benefits, it’s easy to see why lots of parents are turning to meditation to help their kids.
Schools are also starting to embrace meditation, with many schools in the West teaching mindfulnss in Assembly.
The general consensus is that meditation is fine for most kids, but proceed cautiously.
If you decide to teach your kids meditation, there are some important things to know.
Tips on teaching kids to meditate
- As with adults, it’s important that kids meditate in the right way. My guide to the basics of meditation will fill you in on important details for practicing mindfulness safely.
- Here are some important pointers:
- Make sure that you yourself know and understand meditation. Even if you have meditated for years it is worth taking a look at those notes just to double check that you’re getting everything right.
- Go slow even if you’re kid is a genius. If you rush you’ll be in danger of giving your child incorrect information. So go slow and make sure that your kids know precisely what they are doing when they meditate.
- Only do the basic meditation techniques. There might be 700 different meditation techniques, but only a handful of them are suitable for kids.
- Do not expect kids to be Zen masters. There’s a good chance the little terrors will struggle to focus the first time around. Bear with me. Maybe your kids can only focus for a couple of minutes to begin with. That’s great. Next time they might go three minutes, then four. Remember: in the beginning, less is definitely more.
This infographic covers the basics of teaching kids to meditate.
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The best mindfulness and meditation techniques for kids
Take a look at my list of mindful habits. They are excellent gentle ways to teach kids to be mindful (and they work for adults, too).
Once you’ve taken a look at that link above, try these meditation techniques.
Ten minute mindfulness meditation for children
This is a very simple mindfulness meditation for children, and it’s one of the best ways to start teaching meditation to kids.
1. Ask your child to close their eyes and focus on their breathing. They should do so for a couple of minutes.
2. Now ask them to focus on what they are hearing. It may help if you ask them to describe, in detail, the sounds they are hearing. This makes them tune in to the sounds around them, which will cause them to focus on the present moment.
3. Now ask them to pay attention to the sensation of touch. Have them describe what they can feel (for instance, wind on the face, soft grass at their feet etc).
4. Now ask them to focus on scents. How does the air smell? Are there any other scents they are aware of? etc.
5. Now move to taste and repeat.
6. Finally, ask them to open their eyes and simply look around. You may ask them to focus on light, on shades and on other visuals to make them mindful of sight.
This meditation exercise makes kids more aware of the present moment and helps them to focus on one thing at a time (in the exercise they focus on the sense one at a time). In this age of constant stimulation, many children (and adults) struggle to focus. This technique boosts focus and concentration by asking your kids to just zone in on one thing at a time.
2. Mindful Breathing
Another great meditation for kids is mindful breathing. In Buddhism this is called Anapanasati. I’ve created a complete guide to Anapanasati meditation to help you get started. I recommend you try it for yourself before introducing it to your kids.
Breathing meditation / Anapanasati is often the best place to start with any sort of meditation practice, so it’s ideal for adult meditators as well as kids.
- Ask your child to sit comfortably with good posture and to close their eyes.
- Bring their attention to the sensation of their breath coming and going through the space between their mouth and nose.
- Ask your child to place both their hands on their stomach and to feel their breath rising and falling from there.
- You may also ask them to repeat a simple word as they breathe in and out, saying “In” on in-breaths and “Out” when exhaling.
- Work in cycles of five breaths. Have them count five breaths and then ask them to be aware of any thoughts or feelings in their mind.
- If they are experiencing thoughts or feelings,, ask them to let go and to return their attention to their breath.
3. Mindful Listening
Many kids struggle with listening skills. If your kids struggle to listen to you, use this exercise with them.
- Ask them to focus on their breathing for a few minutes.
- Explain to your child that they are going to hear a sound and that they should focus on the sound as it gets quieter and quieter.
- Ask them to nod their head when they can no longer hear that sound.
- Start playing some relaxing sounds. For instance, you might like to use a Tibetan singing bowl or an alternative source of what I call “Zen Sounds”–sounds that produce inner calm
- Gradually quieten the sound. When they nod their head (saying they can no longer hear it) have them count five breaths again.
- Repeat this exercise a few times.
The purpose of this exercise is to increase your kids’ auditory awareness while also quieting their minds. Because they are focusing on listening to a quiet sound they will naturally stop a lot of the mental noise that they may have. This produces mental peace and inner silence. And it is also a good way to improve your kids listening skills.
4. Mindful Eating
This exercise makes kids more aware (and more appreciative) of food.
- Gather some food into a plate or bowl.
- Remove any wrappers.
- Have your child count to five breaths.
- Now ask your child to be mindful of the food on the plate, being aware of the feeling, the image and the scent of the food. If they are holding cutlery you may ask them to be mindful of that too.
- Ask your child to take a small portion of the food and to eat it slowly while focusing on the taste. Ideally, they will chew slowly and will focus on the activity of eating.
- Once they have finished eating, ask them to describe the taste and feeling of the food.
- Finally, ask them to take five mindful breaths.
This exercise is highly beneficial. It helps kids to be more mindful. And it makes them more aware and more appreciative of food.
Walking is one of the traditional meditation exercises in Zen Buddhism and is a great exercise for children. I’ve created a complete guide to Zen Walking to help you get started. But let’s take a look at some specific notes for kids.
- Take a short walk with your kid(s) somewhere relaxing and safe.
- Ask them to focus on the sensation of movement in their feet and legs.
- Continue walking slowly, while focusing on the movement.
- If your child shows a lack of concentration at any time, stop walking and have them count five breaths.
- After the five breaths, continue to walk mindfully.
- After 20 minutes of walking, stop.
- Ask them to describe how they feel.
This is one of the easiest and most relaxing meditations there is. Try it at the beach or in the park for a truly “zen-sational” experience.
In this mindfulness exercise, kids play a fun game like finger-painting, using a sand table, or a similar activity.
- Once again, begin with awareness of breath.
- Now tell your child that they can play in whatever way they like but with one condition: they must be mindful of everything they do. Whatever they choose to do during play, they must focus on it absolutely, as we do when meditating.
- Ask your child to be aware of all five senses, being mindful of taste, touch, sight, sound and hearing.
- Once again, if your child loses focus, use five mindful breaths to regain their attention.
This exercise boosts children’s concentration. And it’s fun at the same time.
7: Meditating on Art
- Many children love painting and drawing, both of which can easily be turned into meditation practice.
- Find an object that your child wants to draw or paint.
- Now ask them to observe every aspect of the object for a few minutes.
- Ask them to describe the shape of the object, the feeling, and so on. This encourages them to practice mindfulness.
- They can then draw or paint the object, but they must focus absolutely on the object while they create their art.
8: Mindful Cooking
- If you’ve tried my Zen Cooking exercise you’ve probably noticed how fun and mentally stimulating cooking can be.
- Cooking can be a great exercise for kids too.
- This is an excellent way to get a child to learn two important things: meditation and cooking.
- Get hold of a fun and simple recipe that your child might like to cook (some healthy cookies, for instance).
- Gather the ingredients, along with any utensils you need.
- You’re going to be cooking with your child while teaching them mindfulness meditation. To do this:
- Have your child fully investigate the feeling, smell and taste of the foo d(presuming the food is in an edible state, naturally).
- At every step in the cooking process, ask your child to be mindful of a) the ingredients, b) any work they are doing, and c) the process of change that is happening to the food.
This mindfulness exercise boosts present-moment mindfulness, encourages kids to be more mindful of what they are eating, and teaches them to cook, all at the same time.
A very enjoyable way to teach your children to meditate is with music. This is actually how I personally learnt mindfulness myself, all those many, many years ago. I played piano and would meditate on the music I was creating. But don’t worry, you do not need a musical instrument for this exercise.
- Find a tune that your child can hum or sing.
- Ask them to learn the tune.
- Ask them to recite it to you.
- Ask them to focus on the music 100% while they recite it.
What matters in this exercise is not the quality of the music, but your child’s ability to focus absolutely on the sounds they are creating.
Not only does this exercise make your kids more aware of sound, it also enhances mind-body connection. By focusing on the movements of their body while they perform the music, your child connects with their body in the present moment, boosting present moment mindfulness.
10: Inform other parents and have group meditation sessions
This final exercise is simple but powerful.
Meditation is much more effective when practiced in a group. I highly recommend informing your friends about meditation for children, and arranging group sessions.
I’ve personally been advocating meditation to both teachers and parents for several years and let me tell you, it is a truly worthwhile cause. Not only does it help both parents, teachers and kids to relax and focus, but it creates a strong, supportive group that in itself is immensely beneficial.
A fun alternative to meditation is reciting mantras. This is a relaxing and enjoyable experience for grown-ups and children alike.
Read my guide to teaching mantras to kids and get started today.
And that’s about it.
If there is anything that I can help you with please let me know.
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