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“I’m so frustrated!” my four year old crosses her arms and stomps her feet. She gives a big yell and I know this is a segue to tears coming soon. It is frustrating to be four and have a younger brother to takes her toys. Before she can go too far down the rabbit-hole, however, I remind her of her breathing that we learned doing meditation together.
I tell her I understand, her brother took her toy, and that is frustrating. I remind her that he’s a baby and doesn’t know any better. I ask if she can take some deep breaths with me so we can figure out a solution. I hold her and take deep breaths. She follows suit after a while.
Suddenly she’s sunny and bright again. It’s as if a thunderstorm raged across the sky and we only had to stand in a doorway for a minute to let it pass.
And therein lies the essence of meditation. Don’t stand in the rain. Don’t rush on to your destination through the storm because you will only get soaked. Wait a beat, watch the rain, and let it pass so you can walk on unassailed by the drench.Meditation is waiting in the doorway while the storm passes instead of rushing on through the rain.Click To Tweet
Not only can we parents learn to meditate and let the storms pass, but our kids can learn how to do this too. Here’s how make meditation fun for kids.
When to Start Meditating with Your Kids
When my daughter was about 2 years old, we noticed that she was struggling to bounce back from emotional upsets. She would rage and cry far longer than other kids for things like a bumped knee or a sharp word. My husband had the brilliant idea to start teaching her to take deep breaths to get her emotions back under control.
It wasn’t about pushing the emotions down and not feeling them. It was more about not letting them rule her.Meditation is not about suppressing emotions. It's about not letting them rule your kids.Click To Tweet
At 2, we mostly held her and breathed with her until she would match her breath with ours. Now that she’s a little older, we can try a more formal meditation practice. But kids of all ages can benefit from breathing exercises.
Why Teach Meditation to Kids
We noticed a profound difference in our daughter when we started breathing exercises with her. She was far more able to regain control so she could tell us what was wrong and bounced back more quickly.
Studies bear this anecdotal evidence out. Mindfulness practices in schools have helped reduce stress, ADHD symptoms, and hyperactivity, while increasing attention spans, respect for others, and self control.
For us, we were focused on how to help our daughter live more harmoniously with her upsets, but a mindfulness practice is sure to also benefit her in these other ways long term.
How to Make Meditation Fun for Kids
When you’re ready to start a more formal meditation practice with your child, make sure to introduce it in a fun way so they don’t feel it’s a chore. Try these tips to make meditation fun for your kids.
KISS – Keep it Simple Sweetie
Most meditation at this age is just exposure to mindfulness. Unless you have an exceptionally willing child, you’re not going to achieve a 30 minute silent lotus position meditation the first day you try. So don’t try that.
Keep your sessions 3-5 minutes and work up from there. Make it fun and allow for some wiggling and giggling.
And while you want to make this a daily practice with your child, and don’t make it a chore they have to do before they play. This is a great place to institute some rewards for meditating if you’re into that kind of thing. I am certainly not above bribing my kids to sit still!You want a daily meditation practice with your kids, but don't make it a chore they have to do.Click To Tweet
Set the Scene
Find a comfortable quiet area that’s not they playroom or somewhere they’re used to being crazy. Some good ideas to try are outside in a park or a quiet area of the backyard or their bedroom. If you have a meditation room or yoga area, all the better.
Let your child choose her favorite pillow, beanbag, chair or mat to sit or lie down on during the meditation.
Give Them Something to Do
Sitting silently with no guide or anything to look at is pretty impossible for kids, and beginning meditators generally. Use a guided meditation to hold their attention and give them some direction.
If you chose outside as your venue, lay down and watch the clouds go by. Have your child take count to 4 while breathing in, hold for 4, and then breath out for 4 beats.
If indoors is your venue, try holding their attention by lighting a candle that they get to watch and blow out at the end of the session. Fire is fascinating for most kids.
If you’re not okay with open flames, try doing the same breathing exercise while watching a fan with ribbons tied to the front, or even go old school with a lava lamp or this amazing waterbead meets alka seltzer experiment from Dad Lab.
Filling a jar with sand and water, shaking it up, and then watching the sand settle can work surprisingly well too.
I bought this cute hourglass for my daughter at Ross and we watch the sand fill up the bottom. Check my Amazon Picks at the bottom of the post for similar options.
Create a guided meditation for your child just by engaging their imagination. Have your child imagine their favorite place, a palace or a castle. They can open the doors, feel the wood, hear their own footsteps on the tile.
Really identify every detail for them so they focus on the imaginary world rather than getting distracted and engaged with outside thoughts. When they get scared, angry or anxious later, remind them to return to their mind palace to find calm.
If you’re okay with screens, there are tons of guided meditation programs for kids on YouTube these days. Some are better than others, but our favorite introductory video is Mindful Ozzy the Owl followed by the Enchanted Forest meditation which is more of an audio listen-along rather than cartoon.
Apps are a fabulous option as well. Common Sense Media has a great list of meditation apps for kids. As often is the case, the best ones are free!
Psst! Do you need some mindfulness and healthy habits apps for yourself? Enter your email below and I’ll send you my list of the Top 5 iPhone Apps to Help You Thrive! (and they’re all FREE!). I use these every day and they are game-changing!
Play with the Breath
Kids can really have fun with some breathing concepts from yoga and meditation. And learning to be aware of and control their breath is fundamental to meditation.
Try teaching your child Lion’s breath. Have them breath in through their nose and hold their bellies so they know their filling them up. Then they breathe out through their mouth and the back of their throat so they make a bit of a guttural roar.
If you’re using the candle idea, or even if you’re not, have your child try to blow hard to blow out a candle from far away. Fill their bellies through inhaling through their nostrils then do a big blow out of their mouths. Do this for three breaths then return to natural breathing.
Your child might like pretending their hand is a lotus flower and sniffing the flower.
Or she might like an alternating nostril breathing exercise. Have her hold one nostril closed with her thumb while inhaling for 4 beats, then both nostrils closed while holding for 4 beats, and then exhale out of the other nostril for 4 beats.
The point is to change it up to make meditation fun for kids.
I Learned it From You
If you have a meditation practice, don’t hide it from your kids. I found myself doing this because I was protective of my meditation time. I always meditated before my kids got up so they wouldn’t interrupt me.
Now I meditate in the morning while my daughter is eating breakfast. She sees me do it and I get to explain why I’m doing it.Don't hide your meditation practice from your kids! Let them interrupt and ask questions.Click To Tweet
If you’ve got a super fidgety kid, try yoga as a moving meditation. Run through a few sun salutations in the morning with your children. Show them happy baby. My daughter loves doing bridge too.
This is a great one to lead by example. My daughter will literally put down her iPad to see what I’m doing and join me when I do yoga. I think it’s the only thing I’ve ever done that’s had that effect!
Kids really just want to do something with us. Anytime we focus our attention on them, lead by example, and make it fun without expectations, we’re likely to have success. Meditation is such an important life long skill to instill while their young. Plant that spiritual seed for your kids and they will always have a calm, peaceful place to return to when the storms come.
P.S. Below find my picks for helpful things to introduce mindfulness and meditation to your young ones!
This post is part of my month-long series on Simple Parenting. Check back next week for my post on how not to get punchy on strangers they say “savor these years!” while your kid is having a breakdown in Target.
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