In our previous post, we talked about mindfulness for kids, including the benefits. Short listening and observation activities are great ways for kids to practice focused attention, and in general mindfulness helps kids to be grounded, patient, and thoughtful in their actions. In this post, we go a bit further: what kind of meditation is best for kids? And how do we get them to practice? At first, meditation might seem like an impossible task for kids to do—meditation involves being calm and quiet, while kids can hardly sit still, they have so much energy. But they are also wonderfully open-minded, and this makes them terrific practitioners of meditation.
What is the best form of meditation for kids?
Our response to this is simple: the best form of meditation for kids is the one that they are going to do! This means it might not be the long, silent, seated meditation common to Buddhist practices—what we likely picture when we think of typical meditation—and that’s okay. The one that will make the most difference is the one that they are going to do. We could say the same for adults practicing meditation or adults practicing Qigong. There are many different ways to practice meditation, and we’ve outlined some tips and tricks for trying it out with your kids below.
How to Get Kids to Meditate: Stillness in Organized Chaos
Some kids will take up meditation with ease, but many will have a hard time sitting still. One effective approach is to work all their active energy into meditation time. What does this mean? Basically, right before you begin your meditation, ask your kids to go wild: dance, hop, scream, make weird noises, run around for a minute or two. Then, see if they can transition to a state of quiet stillness in a few seconds.
My husband and Qigong Master David Coon calls this “organized chaos.” While chaotic movement might seem counterintuitive to the goals of meditation, the idea is that letting all that energy out in a designated period of time actually helps kids focus on the calm that comes next. It also presents kids with a fun challenge to see if they can be as still as possible.
Kids need to run around and let loose. So work it in!
After they get out all their jitters and they try to be as still as possible (sitting or standing is fine), maybe have them close their eyes. See if they can stay like this for one minute. Then, have them let loose again for one minute before coming back to one minute of stillness again. In the last round, maybe incorporate some breathing: have them take a few slow, deep breaths as they sit or stand still and be as quiet as they can possibly be. Make this fun and positive by saying for example, “pretend we are ninjas hiding in the forest, playing hide and seek, and we do not want our ninja friends to find us so we have to be very very quiet.”
Visualizing Soothing Images
Another great way to engage kids in meditation is to incorporate visualization. Have them pick an image they find soothing and let their minds wander around that image. In this guided meditation for kids, our daughter Bella talks about her love of swimming as she imagines plunging into a pool of water she comes across in a meadow. Instead of a place, the image could also be a simple color or shape. If your kid is on the younger side, you might try prompting them with the beginning of a story. Children have expansive imaginations, so it won’t take long for their minds to come up with other images of their own.
Create a Meditation Chair or Room
You can also make meditation fun by creating a special place for your kid to meditate. A meditation chair with their favorite blankets or decorating a corner of a room with a color they find calming are just some of the ways you might make space (literally!) for their meditation. Have them choose things that they find healing, whether that be stuffed animals or maybe even music they want to relax to.
How long is a reasonable meditation for kids?
That depends! In truth, there is no minimum time for meditation. In fact, the more important thing is the quality. Can something be let go in that moment? Start small: thirty seconds, even ten seconds, can be enough. Sometimes, it takes a couple of minutes or longer just to get into that meditative headspace, which might only last a few seconds itself. That is okay! Meditation takes practice and time.
How old should kids be to meditate?
Our recommendation is for kids to start practicing meditation around 4 or 5 at the earliest. Children are curious and good at mimicking, so even before that age they will probably copy you if they see you practicing meditation and mindfulness around the house. But research shows that kids become more fully conscious of themselves and others by 4 or so, making it a good age for them to practice focused intention.
Benefits of Meditation for Kids
Mindfulness and meditation have many benefits for kids. By practicing meditation, kids can learn how to enter a state of calm no matter what else may be going on in that moment. To be sure, kids have a lot going on in their lives! Meditation helps them be able to work through stress or difficulty in a level-headed way. It also helps improve their ability to concentrate generally and to be more aware of themselves as well as the world around them. You can read more about mindfulness and the positive effects it has on kids in our blog post on Mindfulness for Kids.
No matter what age your kids are, we highly recommend practicing together. Children are generally open to new things, especially if they see their parents and friends doing it too.
In our next post, we talk about Qigong for kids—and how to cultivate intention in our breath and movement.