I have been practicing and teaching yoga for 25 years now, 10 of those years being a monk in an Ashram, and have once seen a 3-year-old sitting crossed legged for an hour meditating with his eyes closed…once!
Meditating like a monk is not common or natural for young children; they are passionate about exploring and experiencing the world with all of their senses and being still can seem foreign to them.
Nevertheless, children do have stress in their lives, mostly because they have stressed role models (so it is really the grownups that need to meditate more), and meditation can teach them to enjoy the little things in life and savor the moment.
Meditate Not to Achieve Something
Our society is very goal oriented, but let’s try to think now about meditation not as a way to achieve something — like inner peace for example — but more as an opportunity to enjoy the journey and open our eyes to the beautiful world around us and inside of us.
Are you up for a journey with no definite destination to just let ourselves be? Here are 14 meditations for young children you can try.
1. Third Eye Yoga Diamond
Have the children lie down and place a small stone, glass pebbles or crystal on their foreheads. Tell them to focus on it, imagining its color or many colors, feeling its warmth or coolness, its weight, etc.
This magic stone can help you be more calm and relaxed…breathe, and let its magical qualities slowly seep into your body and fill every part of you.
If you had enough of being still, try to move into different poses without dropping the stone, maintaining the same heightened awareness. Try moving into a Candle Pose, Plow Pose, Bridge Pose; slowly try to lift yourself into Crab Pose and other poses.
2. Stop and Listen
You will need a Tibetan Medicine Bowl or a bell that makes a very long sound for this game.
Have the children walk randomly around the room, and once you ring the Medicine Bowl, everyone stands absolutely still and closes their eyes. They listen very carefully to the sound, and only once the sound has completely disappeared can they start walking again.
Repeat as many times as you like.
3. Silent Bell
Sit knee to knee in a circle, and pass a bell (or a few bells) around the circle. Give each child the opportunity to ring the bell and listen to its sound.
Then try to pass the bells from one to the other around the circle, but this time without ringing them. Show the kids how to do this very gently and slowly. This works like magic to quiet the children and prepare them for relaxation.
Because they're kids, you might have to repeat the game a few times before all of them understand that they should not ring the bell. If the game becomes too easy, pass the bell to someone not sitting next to you by standing up and walking toward them, still maintaining complete silence.
4. Pass The Flame
Same exercise as above but with a candle, passing it from one to the other without the flame blowing out.
5. Bell Circle
Sit in a circle and close your eyes. Have one child hold a bell and walk around the outside of the circle very slowly and softly without ringing it. Then, reaching a person of his choice, he gently rings the bell by that person’s ear and sits in his place as he hands him the bell.
The game continues in this manner for a few minutes, until you guide everyone to open their eyes and discover that everyone has switched places but the circle remained whole.
Both walking around without ringing the bell, and sitting silently in the circle in anticipation of the bell ringing by your ear, is very focusing and calming for the children.
6. Animal Paradise
This game is a good way for children to practice and remember animal poses. It encourages stillness, quiet time and self-control. You will need your Tibetan Bowl for this game too.
Choose a Yoga Animal, or let the children take turns picking an animal, and get them to move about the classroom freely, moving and making sounds as this animal would. When the children hear the bell, they must freeze in that animal pose and stay there quietly until they hear that the bowl has stopped singing.
7. Oh So Quiet
This game can encourage children to stay still for an extraordinary length of time. This is very good for developing their listening and concentration skills. You will need your Tibetan singing bowl, and eye pillows are useful too.
Ask the children to lay down with their hands by their sides, eye pillows on or lights dimmed. Tell the children that you are going to ring the singing bowl and that they’ll need to listen very carefully.
When the singing bowl has stopped, they’ll need to gently place their hands on their bellies. When everyone has their hands on their bellies, ring the bowl again. When the children can’t hear the singing anymore, have them gently place their hands by their sides again.
Repeat these steps for an oh so quiet and tranquil classroom, or for as long as the children will stay there!
8. Sleeping Elves and Fairies
Put on some relaxing music and arm yourself with some fairy dust. Have all of the children rest in Child’s Pose as a fairy or an elf. Walk around and gently tap their backs with your fingertips, covering them in magical fairy dust.
This will give them magical powers to stay as still as possible. Who can lay still for the longest?
9. Still Water
Everyone lies on the floor completely still. If someone moves, they have to step over to the side. In this game, rather than saying “don’t move”, we invite the action of stillness which makes it more fun and more affective.
10. I See Beauty
Walk around the classroom, or even better - outdoors or in nature. Guide the children to stop whenever it feels right to them and look for beauty all around them:
- Looking for something beautiful in front of you silently say “I see beauty in front of me”.
- Looking behind you, recognize something beautiful and silently say “I see beauty behind me”.
Continue the same with your right side, the left side, above you and below.
11. Walking on the Sky
For safety, this meditation should be done in pairs. Have one of the children hold a small mirror under their eyes and walk outside let by their friend.
When you do this, it really looks like you are walking on the clouds so you get an entirely perspective and open your eyes to a whole new world.
12. Ocean Breath
Sit tall or lie down. Place your fingers inside your ears so that you can’t hear anything from the outside. Now breathe deeply and listen carefully. You will hear the sound of the ocean in your breath.
Listen to the waves coming in and out and let yourself become completely relaxed.
13. Finding Our Center
Sitting or standing, lean a bit to the right, to the left, forward and back, until you find your center; the point where you feel most balanced. Now close your eyes and try to feel this center running all the way from your feet, or from the base of your spine, to the top of your head.
Breathe into this center and see how it feels.
14. Buddha Board
This is a special board which you can write or draw on using water. The water evaporates from the board after about a minute and the picture or words disappear.
The Buddha taught about impermanence, about how things are not forever, and the board illustrates this lesson. Each child can come and draw something on the board, but not before the previous creation has evaporated and made space.
By using props or doing meditations that are a bit more active, we can engage children in the practice of mindfulness more easily. While experimenting with these, please always remember not to take any of it too seriously or try to achieve some special state of mind.
Life is so wonderful and full as it is, and meditation is maybe just about bringing the focus back to what we already have right here and now.