Could family meditation bring more Zen into your daily lives? Mindfulness and meditation have been scientifically proven to reduce anxiety, increase empathy, and promote happiness and well-being in people of all ages and populations. Meditation with minis may sound like a stressful prospect, but this simple and ancient practice can take many forms and actually be kid-friendly. Begin with these fun and easy exercises to introduce children to inner peace.
Breathing is one of those biological reflexes that we take for granted — of course we're doing it right...right?!
Learning to take deep, cleansing breaths is an easy and instant way to inspire a few moments of quiet focus. Have your child rest her hands on her belly, eyes closed. Encourage her to breathe in deeply through her nose to the count of five, hold it for two seconds, and then count down as she exhales every drop of breath. Ask her to notice how her chest rises and falls as she fills her lungs with air and releases it.
If that's too much quiet to expect from your little one, whisper animal sounds on the exhale like the buzz of a bee or the moo of a cow. This (mostly) quiet activity is perfect for waiting rooms and other anxious moments!
Mindfulness is about tuning into the present moment and accepting it without attachment or judgment. Kids are perpetually in motion — physically and mentally — bouncing back and forth between whatever happened last and what is coming next. They're still developing a knack for focusing on and appreciating the here and now. (Aren't we all?!) Challenge your children to a game and ask them to sit cross-legged with their eyes closed. Ask them to listen carefully while you ring a bell, strike wind chimes, or play a musical chord, and to raise their hand once they can no longer hear any sound. Patience and listening are important skills for every stage of life.
Tune In: Mindfulness Apps
Children love technology, so use it to engage (ahem, bribe) them into trying something new that's good for the soul. Download an app like Calm or Buddhify on your phone and work a short guided meditation into your daily routine. Think of it like the old-school "Quiet Game" that your parents used to trick you into in an attempt to end backseat sibling rivalry during long road trips. In fact, the car might be a great place to experiment with meditation apps for kids since they're strapped in. Keep track of their personal best — their longest stretch of meditation — and see if they can beat it!
Bedtime struggles make nighttime meditation tricky but ideal if you can work it into your routine. Yoga Nidra is a form of guided meditation performed lying down while the body is relaxed. It aims to quiet the mind with the help of soothing audio instructions. For example, you might ask your child to imagine that she is a tree and to visualize her roots and branches, leaves or flowers, the field or forest where she is growing, and how she came to be there. Ask her to feel the imaginary warmth of the sun and how the earth feels beneath her. Speak slowly and add long, exaggerated breathing amid pauses. It's basically the most relaxing bedtime story ever! Search YouTube for "sleep meditation for children" to find a relaxing host, or for ideas for your own bedtime guided mediation routine.
Meditation in Movement
Kids love to move! The stillness factor can pose a challenge when you try to meditate with kids. Yoga — which is like meditation in motion — helps build physical and mental strength and flexibility by teaching patience, focus, breathing, and endurance. Make it a family activity by searching for local "mommy and me" yoga classes and lead by healthy example while enjoying some bonding time. Meditation isn't just for monks on a mountaintop; it's a fun and accessible activity that can be practiced by anyone, anywhere! Introducing kids to this calming concept during their early years can provide a ripple effect of lifelong benefits. The most important thing to remember when trying to teach your little ones about mindfulness? To let it go! The looser expectations you have — in meditation and in all aspects of life — the easier your days will be! Meditation and mindfulness can teach them to enjoy the journey, detours and all.