Following our two previous posts on mindfulness for kids, today’s post focuses on Qigong: can kids practice Qigong? What kind of Qigong is best for kids? Just like meditation, it might seem like Qigong would be challenging for children to do because it is slow and meditative. Those of us who practice often picked it up at some point as adults. But Qigong is terrific for kids. As both meditation and movement, it offers a unique way for kids to engage their minds and bodies. As an exercise, it helps them work on their coordination as much as their emotional balance. Through Qigong, kids learn how to be mindful and purposeful, skills that will benefit them in all different areas of life.
What types of Qigong are good for kids?
All kinds! Seated and standing meditations, Tai Chi, even Martial Arts (which we could say is a cousin of Qigong) are all appropriate for kids. Something like Animal Qigong, which involves postures modeled after animals like tigers or bears, might also appeal to them. Kids like to have fun, and Qigong should be fun too! Kids absorb the world around them quickly and are quick learners. In the end, Qigong for kids is about how to engage them. Channeling animals or things in nature is a great way to make things exciting.
What age can kids start practicing Qigong?
We wrote that around 4 or 5 is the earliest we recommend kids practice meditation, because this is when they gain a developed sense of awareness of themselves and others. Similarly, kids generally have developed balance, coordination and stability by this age and are able to control their movements in more nuanced ways than when they were toddlers. Because Qigong requires focus, 4 or 5 tends to work well for Qigong, though each child develops differently.
How long is a reasonable Qigong session for kids?
This really depends—let’s say, however long your kid will practice! Many poses, which we’ll go into more below, can be practiced for as little as a few minutes. They’ll still gain all the benefits. Try starting with 5, 10 minutes and working your way up. Like meditation, more important is the quality of that time and the mindfulness you enter into.
Getting Started: Qigong Exercises for Kids
Like we discussed in our post on Meditation for kids, an effective way to get kids to focus on Qigong is to have them get out all of their jitters first. Move around, do jumping jacks, dance, yell, whatever they want for a minute or two! This, of course, is not Qigong—but it’s a way for kids to get out all the energy they have so that they can concentrate on the meditation that comes next. David Coon calls this “organized chaos.” Afterward, have them try to be as still as they can, and try one of the exercises below.
Stand with your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees as you sweep your arms out sideways and upward while taking a deep breath in through the nose. Continue to inhale, straightening your legs as you bring your arms up over your head. Exhale through the nose and/or mouth, bringing both arms down in front of you as you bend both knees again. Imagine that you’re lightly pushing air or energy down into the ground. Repeat for a few cycles. This is a simple Qigong breathing meditation called Waterfall.
Stand Like a Tree
Incorporate balance: lift and bend one leg, tucking it behind the other. Balance on your standing foot. Maybe bring one hand or both to heart-center. See if you can stand completely still, like a tree. Take a couple of slow, deep breaths. Try holding this pose for 10 seconds.
Take a wide-legged stance and bend your knees, like you’re on a surfboard. Keeping your weight on your back leg, pivot your torso and face forward toward your front leg. Still facing forward, slowly bring your right hand to your left shoulder, hovering over it without touching it. Then, slowly push your right arm out in front of you as you bring your left hand to your right shoulder, hovering over it. Slowly switch arms, hovering over your opposite shoulder. Inhale and exhale with each movement. See if you can push energy out with each breath. This is purposeful movement! Unlike “organized chaos,” this exercise works on mastering your mind, breath, and body and is called Circling Hands.
Alternate between organized chaos and these exercises to get your kids started. Then, maybe connect a few of them together in a sequence. For a video that shows some of these poses and more, check out our video: