Meditation Techniques For Little Kids
You may think of meditation as a purely adult thing. My theory is that, since it’s a fairly new ‘in’ thing, it was never something our parents really thought to teach us as children, therefore we see it as being for grown-ups. But there is absolutely no reason not to begin teaching meditation methods to our small children, this will set the framework for successful meditation and mindfulness in the adult. And imagine the benefits it will have for a toddler who is inundated with strong emotions on a daily basis!
Meditations and breathing techniques can easily be adapted for toddlers. Of course the aim wouldn’t be to go as deep into the meditative state we aim for as adults, but rather to only teach the child to quiet their mind (and emotions) and to stop and take a breath.
I struggle daily with anxiety. The kind that wakes me up at 2am with panic attacks and terrorizes my thoughts all day long with unlikely and horrifying scenarios. I’m not telling you this for your pity, chances are you suffer from anxiety as well, as one of the most common mental illnesses in our world, it is rife among the human population. And even though I know they work, I often struggle to find the time, or the motivation, to sit down and do an actual meditation, or to stop and take a minute to take a few deep breaths, or to practice mindfulness. I often wonder, if I had been taught these tools at a young age, therefore making them a natural part of my life, would I struggle as much now? Likely not. So I aim to make my daughter comfortable with these techniques and hopefully save her from the struggles of anxiety in her later years.
Here are a few ways you can introduce mediations, deep breathing and mindfulness to your little one, which shouldn’t require more than a couple minutes a day practice but which could possibly save them in the future.
I’ve mentioned this one before, but it really is fantastic for your toddler. Jaime has written and recorded some beautiful guided meditations for kids in her section called ‘Peace Out’. I love her accent, and she manages to still sound enthusiastic and excited while still keeping her voice calm and relaxed! Do yourself a favour and take a look at her guided relaxation videos here (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8snGkhBF7njO0QvtE97AJFL3xZYQSGh5)
Cosmic Kids Yoga & Mindfulness
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a groundbreaking practice which fights anxiety and stress. It is something you yourself should aim to do daily, perhaps once you get into bed before you go to sleep. The basic idea is that you teach your body to know the difference between a tensed state and a relaxed state, thereby keeping it in a relaxed state and easing anxiety. I’m sure you’ve seen the Facebook post, with an image saying ‘this is a reminder to relax your shoulders’ and you realize that yes, you were in fact tensing your shoulders. Someone skilled at progressive muscle relaxation would have picked up the tension in their body already and purposefully relaxed.
Dr Monica Fitzgerald, Ph.D. developed a wonderful little script for progressive muscle relaxation for toddlers. We’ve adapted it a bit, to suit our little one, and you can find that free printable here. Or you can let your little one listen to it read aloud here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkWyOrpjfX0&feature=youtu.be. Try do it every day, maybe after a warm bath before you put them to bed, or really at any time when they are feeling cooperative. We’ve tried to make it fun and engaging, but feel free to change it up to suit your child.
Finger labyrinths are a fairly new idea to me, but I find them very intriguing. For a bit of background, a labyrinth is a maze with only one path which has the same entrance and exit. You follow the path to the centre, and then back out the same way to the exit. Labyrinth Walking is actually an ancient practice which dates back over 5000 years, and was used by the druids. It is the practice of physically walking through a labyrinth, be it a giant one made of hedges or a smaller one made by laying rocks on the ground. One should walk slowly and attempt to quiet the mind and focus on one thought, question or prayer.
The idea of a finger labyrinth seems to have originated about 500 years ago in England, where they were etched into slate and referred to as Troy Stones. They are popular today in hospitals with patients who are unable to leave their beds to walk a labyrinth, as the benefits of healing are just as noticeable with finger labyrinths.
While a carved finger labyrinth, such as the one we sell in our shop, is perfect for the practice, you can just as easily draw a labyrinth on a piece of cardboard and use that in a pinch! Carly Sullens has a fantastic post about labyrinths and detailed instructions on how to draw one here (https://hubpages.com/art/How-to-Draw-a-Labyrinth) or you can search ‘finger labyrinth’ on Google and print one out.
Once your labyrinth is ready, have your child sit comfortably and decide with them on a specific word, thought or idea. (If this sounds difficult, I’ve added some ideas at the end of this paragraph.) Once they have their thought, they should take a few deep breaths, then using their non-dominant hand, use a finger or even a pencil/stick, let them trace the pathway from the entrance of the labyrinth to the centre. (Remind them to focus on their thought while they do this) At the centre of the labyrinth, they should stop and take a few more deep breaths, keeping their thought in their mind, before tracing their way back out to the exit. Encourage them to talk about any feelings they experience or thoughts they may have while tracing the labyrinth.
When they are done, take some time to trace the labyrinth yourself – you may be surprised what you get out of it!
Suggestions for toddler words, questions etc for a finger labyrinth.
- The word ‘relax’
- The phrase ‘I can control my emotions/anger/sadness’ (for kids who are struggling with tantrums or particularly strong emotions)
- The phrase ‘I show love to everyone’
- The phrase ‘I am a happy person’ (a meditative phrase to improve positivity)
- The question ‘Why must I listen to my mommy?’ (for toddlers displaying disobedience or defiance)
- The question ‘Why must I share?’ (for toddlers who have trouble with taking turns with their things)
Deep breathing hearts
For this exercise, you would use a large printed outline of the shape of a heart. Your child will trace the heart with their finger, taking a deep breath in as they trace the first half, and then exhaling slowly as they trace the second half. You could use other shapes for this, such as a square or even a star, but I like the heart as I like to place an emphasis on love in our house. Sometimes I will encourage Olivia to think about someone she loves when she does the breathing technique, or to think about how she feels when she thinks of how much she loves me/her daddy/her dog etc. Love is a difficult concept to explain for little kids, but there is no doubt that they can feel it, and I personally believe that focusing on that feeling can’t be a bad thing!
You are most welcome to use our free printable heart for this, but it would be the work of a moment to draw a heart on a piece of cardboard, so there’s no excuse not to try this simple but effective breathing exercise!
Have fun with these activities, keep the mood light and relaxing. You don’t want to cause anxiety or frustration with something which should be peaceful and relaxing. If you try an exercise and your child is not at all into it, that’s fine, leave it, you can always come back to it in a week or two! Remember you are trying to gently introduce your toddler to techniques he or she may use for the rest of their life, there is no pressure for them to master anything right now.
Good luck, and have fun!
All my love,