Ways to Include Younger Kids
Repeating a mantra and concentrating on breath might be too much for a preschooler or young grade-schooler, says Sarah Wood Vallely, author of Sensational Meditation for Children.
So how do you get younger kids to try meditation to help them relax? Make it fun.
Meditation doesn’t have to always be quiet. Instead, play games and teach them how to let worries go, Vallely suggests. That can be a fun, kid-friendly type of meditation.
She plays the "Let-Go Hokey-Pokey" with kids as young as 4 or 5. They sing the traditional song and do the dance, but instead of putting a "right arm in" or a "left foot in" the circle, they think about "putting in" things they don't want to think about. They might say "cleaning my room."
"The thing that's most important is to present meditation as something fun," says Vallely. "That's why I like to incorporate games and fun as part of the experience."
Explain to the kids that relaxing can be a cool way to make their bodies and minds feel better.
Where, How Often, and How Long
Once kids have tried a couple kinds of meditation, let them choose what kind they want to do. Let them sit or lie down -- whichever they feel like doing.
In the beginning, it might be easiest to meditate where it's quiet, but it's OK to do it anywhere.
“They can meditate at school and people don't have to know,” says Vallely. “Just sit at their desk and close their eyes for a minute if they have anxiety about a test."
"As they get better at it, they really can meditate in a place that's not as quiet,” says Vallely. “They will start to pick up that 'I can meditate in my backyard, on the playground, in my room.’”
Tell kids that any time they start to feel stressed, they can use what they learned as a healthy way to feel better. Explain that meditation is a healthier choice than grabbing junk food or trying to feel better by playing video games or watching TV.
It would be great to try and get everyone to meditate at least a few times a week. There's no set amount of time your family should try meditating for, but Vallely suggests about 1 minute of meditation time for every year of a child's age. So a 10-year-old should be able to work up to meditating for 10 minutes at a time.
When the whole family is stressed with school, work, and activities, try to take time out for a few minutes of meditation. It's a great family activity with awesome benefits.