Kids and Meditation – the perfect time is now!
Really, meditation activities for kids and the techniques used don’t differ from what an adult would use.
The difference of course is that adults may be more inclined to want to do or at least try meditation activities because they may have an awareness that they may need it or that it may help with whatever issue brought them to it.
And, the other difference is that we can’t expect children to sit for 30 minutes or an hour from the get go (remember most adults find this extremely difficult too initially).
Having said that, in some ways kids have an advantage as they may hopefully still possess some of the space within, the openness, access to their essence or true self beyond thought that tends to be obscured as we grow older and become conditioned and before our personality begins to overtake us and becomes all consuming. That is to say, our thoughts overtake us.
Note I said “obscured” above. We still have the potential to re-access the true self, we just have to create gaps in our thinking through being still and present through meditation activities.
On the other hand, kids today are massively over-stimulated however and are used to being constantly bombarded with sound and information constantly (often adults are creating this too – in the knowledge that children have a short attention span and have a low boredom threshold (unless it’s online gaming) they provide more stimulation in shorter periods of time to satisfy this apparent need for more and end up feeding the hungry-for-more monster).
Kids use or are exposed to technology at a younger age and are becoming addicted to it just like adults – addicted to the stimulation it provides and so they can’t bear to be away from it. This breeds an inability to sit quietly in stillness without being extremely uncomfortable.
But kids also need this mental space, stillness and calm just as much as adults do and without knowing it some even crave it.
Kids today are also not as in touch with nature which helps calm and connect them to the world around them in a deep way. They are playing less outdoors and are not as in touch with the earth as were past generations.
Having said all that, kids are just as capable as adults (if not more so) to actually get in tune with themselves and nature through meditation and this can have a massively positive impact on their physical and mental health both now and in the future once they have been given the tools. And, the sooner they start meditating, the better. The perfect time is now.
So, what are some meditation activities for our kids?
I’m going to share some activities and techniques that kids can do on their own, with another person (whether that be a sibling, friend, peer) or even with you. Hey, you could even make it a family affair.
With younger children they may need you to guide them and don’t worry if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, as I’ve said in previous posts, it’s not about getting it right or even doing it properly or perfectly, it’s just about going forth with ease.
The idea behind these activities is to bring about presence which in turn has a whole host of benefits – to slow the mind, be still within, create spaciousness and engender calm.
For more on the benefits of meditating, see my article on What are the benefits of meditating? here’s 4 plus 1 more biggy!
Activity 1 – Using the senses (no labelling allowed)
Have the child/children sit down. Ask them to not speak during the activity as you are going to guide them very quietly to use their senses.
Ask the child/children to breathe through their noses and just smell their surroundings (you may be in a room or outside). No comment is needed. No labelling either verbally or internally if they can e.g. I smell Jasmine or that’s Jasmine. Ask them not name things.
They could close their eyes during this part if they wish, but they don’t have to. The idea is to just focus on the smells (so ask them to try not to look around).
Ask the child/children to look slowly around the room and just focus on any object (again without labelling) and then just move on slowly to another object – a glass of water, the light fixture, a book, a door handle.
During this part of the activity, children can either open or close their eyes and just listen to the sounds around them. Again, I’ll emphasise not labelling the sounds e.g. there goes a car, or I can hear the humming of the air-conditioning. Just hear sound as sound.
Let me say here that we are addicted to thinking, so of course it would not be unusual for both you and the children to label what you hear or see etc as we do it constantly. However, as we want to ideally reduce thinking and create gaps in thought we want to minimise thinking as much as possible so that we don’t start to engage even more with those thoughts and get lost in them (you’ll notice they snowball). So, not labelling is a way of not engaging the mind.
You may want to have the child/children walk slowly around the room (or wherever you may be) and just touch items slowly and really feel the item.
As with any guidance I give around meditation, do what works for you or what works for the child. If doing each of these is to much, then stick with one or two. Perhaps it will be enough to just look at the things around you or hear the sounds.
I am not prescriptive around duration either. I say all the time that 1 minute is better than nothing.
Once you have guided them the first time, you could just prompt them thereafter to use their senses. However, over time you won’t need to do this either.
Activity 2 – Walking Meditation
This is similar to a sitting meditation but with movement. This can be done anywhere – inside the house, in the backyard, in the frontyard, in a park or down the street.
You can go barefoot or not depending on where you are.
As with a sitting meditation, breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth (if this is comfortable – some people suffer terribly from sinus etc and breathing through the nose is difficult – if it is, don’t. Just breathe in through the mouth. Breathe comfortably.
Eyes to the ground in front of you.
Walk very slowly (we’re in no rush here), picking up one foot slowly and placing it down slowly and gently, then the other, picking it up slowly and placing it down slowly and gently, feeling each movement, feeling the feeling of placing the foot down. Feeling the sensations inside the legs and feet etc with each movement.
The movement appears almost exaggerated but is a natural affect of raising the foot so slowly.
Simple – yes?
Activity 3 – Guided Meditation
Please see my simple meditation blog for a guide on a more traditional meditation approach.
It really is simple.
You can perhaps aim for 5-10 minutes but remember that a shorter period is better than trying to force a lengthier duration where resistance builds and it becomes excruciating for all concerned.
Activity 4 – Meditation Music & Colouring
This is a great one for kids and adults alike.
You can access a lot of meditation music on the internet and free colouring pages. Mandala colouring pages are great and you can buy books of these too. Here is a great range of mandala colouring books.
A set of pencils and a colouring page is all that you need. Put on the music and colour without talking. It’s actually a lovely thing to do with another person too as it creates connection without words.
It is a wonderful activity for just focusing the mind on one thing – with little to no thought. It’s very meditative.
A beautiful gift
With all of these activities, once you have introduced them and given some guidance, you will have given a child or children the tools to do this themselves whenever and wherever they are.
This is the best thing you could ever give a child. What a beautiful gift.
And even if they aren’t completely interested now or it doesn’t last too long or even if they become resistant to it, they may one day come back to it because they will remember a little something about meditation even if it’s just….what was that meditation thingy stuff I did when I was young, maybe I should look into that. Well worth the effort just for that.
A final comment – a favourite thing to do!
I introduced meditation to one of my Grade 3 & 4 classes and most looked forward to the meditation, asked if we were going to do it that day and some even said it was their favourite thing to do. We would spend at most 15 minutes on this. Some students would lay down, others would sit cross-legged on the floor and some would sit on a chair.
It didn’t matter to me what/how they did it as long as they were comfortable. There can be reasons that some children may not want to close their eyes or use a particular meditation position. It’s best to let them do what they feel comfortable with.
I wish you luck in introducing meditation to your kids. Here’s that link again to Simple Meditation Techniques for Beginners for some step by step instructions.
I hope you have found this article helpful. It would be great if you could leave a comment if you have found it of value or have a question or an area that you would like me to focus on next time.
Go forth with ease and just be!