Meditation for Kids
Interested in introducing a child to meditation but not sure where to begin? We have a few thoughts and suggestions, along with some guided practices. You can check out our meditation CD for children, our free meditation for kids, and our meditation scripts for children.
At our center in Northern California, we have kids join us in our meditation groups sometimes, and it is always a joy to see a child show up and meditate. We’ve also spent time teaching meditation to children in the foster youth program and at local high schools. Although it may seem impossible to get kids to sit still and practice, kids can indeed meditate!
There has been quite a bit of research in recent decades on meditation, and we are beginning to understand the benefits of meditation more deeply. However, much of this research has been conducted with adults. There are a few studies which have found benefits of meditation in children, while others find no benefit (read our recent post New Study Finds Mindfulness Training Shows Little Benefit in Adolescents). Here are a few benefits young people may notice from meditation practice.
Increase in Attention
Multiple studies have found mindfulness meditation and mindfulness-based interventions to be beneficial in children with attention disorders like ADHD. One study in 2013 found that young men who practiced meditation with their parents showed decreased hyperactivity and increased on-task behavior. This was with two days of meditation a week over the course of eight weeks.
Better Mental Health
A 2010 study looked at meditation practice in children and found that it reduced anxiety and increased overall emotional resiliency. Many studies in adults have also found that mindfulness-based interventions can help reduce symptoms of depression and other mood disorders.
In a 2016 meta-analysis looked at the link between mindfulness and creativity in both children and adults. It found a significant correlation, with the correlation strengthening when the participants were practicing a form of open awareness meditation. This creativity can help children find their passions, solve problems, and engage their minds in new ways.
Attendance and Performance
A few San Francisco schools added time for meditation during their school days. One school found a 79% decrease in suspensions, a significant increase in attendance rates, and higher academic performance. Other studies in adults have found mindfulness to be an effective aid in reducing test anxiety and increasing performance in high-stress situations.
Social Skills and Development
Developing social skills and social responsibility is crucial in childhood years. A 2015 study investigated classic social responsibility programs and mindfulness-infused social responsibility programs. The students who took the mindfulness-based course showed greater empathy, emotional control, and ability to see other perspectives. They also exhibited lower cortisol (a stress hormone) levels in social interactions.
In children four to twelve years old, research has found that meditation can help improve executive function. In this study, children were more likely to act with consideration rather than out of impulse after taking a mindfulness-based meditation course.
Practices for Children
Although some children may be able to sit in formal meditation, there are other ways to lead children to mindfulness which may be more beneficial. Here are a few meditation and mindfulness practices for children, and you can find more on our page of Mindfulness Exercises.
This can engage the child in a way that teaches them to breathe slowly and be mindful of the breath. It’s a great introduction to mindful breathing and how this can be useful in our lives!
After making their own “snowglobe,” they can shake it up. As the children set the jar down, instruct them to watch the contents settle all the way to the bottom. This can be an incredibly grounding practice for children and adults alike, and can be quite fun!
You can go for a mindful walk with a kid and have them turn their attention to the sensation of the feet touching the ground. You can also do an out-loud practice where you go back and forth noting what you see, hear, and feel as you walk!
You can give children a coloring book and instruct them to color and walk them through being present while doing so, or you can get one big drawing. With a big drawing, you can ask children to each color in one part of the piece, encouraging mindfulness as they do so.
You may write whatever you wish, but try writing questions that relate to the individual’s experience. You can try writing, “What can you feel in the body right now?,” “What sounds can you hear?,” or simply “Smile.”
Meditation and Mindfulness Scripts
One Mind Dharma has created a collection of guided meditation scripts available in PDF form. There are 50 meditations in the collection, with an entire section on guided meditations for children! Check it out below.
Free Guided Meditation for Children
Here’s a free guided meditation for children. Try it below, and check out our CD for more practices for kids.
There are many resources out there for teaching meditation to kids. We’ve listed a few here, and will update as we learn about and investigate more!
Mindful Schools is a wonderful organization in California that brings mindfulness into classrooms across the country. They teach meditation in schools and offer programs for educators to learn to lead meditation and mindfulness groups. You can check them out at www.MindfulSchools.org.
Mindful Teachers is another organization similar to Mindful Schools which offers mindfulness trainings for students and educators. Mindful Teachers works primarily with younger children and those in elementary school, and their website offers many great resources, books, blogs, and more! Visit Mindful Teachers at www.MindfulTeachers.org.
Calm for Classrooms
Calm is a popular meditation app with many great offerings. We were excited to learn they offer free programs for classrooms and educators. If you work in a school or interact with children in your job, we recommend checking this out! You can learn about Calm’s Classroom Initiative at www.Calm.com/schools.
Insight Timer is just one of our favorite apps out there, and we feel like we’re constantly mentioning it in different posts and pages. It’s a free mobile app with tons of guided meditations and practices, and quite a few for children! You can practice for free, track your sits, and engage with other people practicing. Check it out at www.InsightTimer.com or just search for Insight Timer in your app store!