There are many apps, classes and books to guide children in meditation, but it is easy (and free) to start at home. You don’t need props like chimes or incense. The more meditation becomes integrated into daily living, the more successful it will be. Here are some exercises to try.
1. Elevator down. Imagine an elevator going down three floors. (Older children may prefer to imagine more floors.) Imagine now that the elevator is in your body. When you are sitting, imagine the top floor is from your head to your chest. The next floor is from your chest to your belly, and the third from your belly to your seat.
Begin at the crown of your head. On your next exhale mentally chant “three” as you imagine the elevator lowering from your crown to your chest. Pause for an inhale. When the doors open, imagine your breath coming in and freshening up the elevator, the way opening a window brings a fresh breeze into the room. On the next exhale, mentally chant “two.” Imagine going down another flight to your belly. Continue to the ground floor, chanting “one.” Pause and feel your seat on the ground floor and enjoy landing fully.
2. Finger-counting breaths. This is a useful do-anywhere exercise for the middle of the day to calm a child who is having a meltdown at a birthday party or just to re-center. Create gentle fists with your hands, and with each breath, unfurl a finger from your palm. For example, on your first exhale open your left thumb from your fist. Pause and enjoy an inhale. On your next exhale, unfurl your left index finger. Pause and enjoy an inhale. Continue until you have two open palms on your lap.
Sometimes we “om” for each finger unfurled, or use a personal mantra that evokes the feeling we are looking for, like peace, love, quiet, calm or relax. When children make up the mantra, it helps them have self-awareness of what they may need, as well as how they can take charge of how they want to feel.
3. Deep breaths before bed. Take a deep breath in through the nose, and on the exhale chant out loud: “three” (thrreee). Enjoy another deep in-breath, and on the next exhale, chant “two” (twwooo). Take a last deep breath in and exhale, chanting: “one” (onnee). Relax for a few breaths, and enjoy feeling your body sitting or lying on the floor or your bed. Repeat if desired.
Learn why meditation can be so important for children, read The Mindful Child
Jillian Pransky is the director of therapeutic yoga teacher training for YogaWorks and the mother of a 12-year-old. Her debut wellness book is scheduled to be published in fall 2017.