Those who have discovered the benefits of mindfulness and meditation may also begin to wonder about things like:
What if I had started this when I was much younger?
Can children benefit from mindfulness and meditation?
So far, studies and school programs point to encouraging results that mindfulness practices can have for children.
Can Children Learn Meditation?
The literature says: “Yes,” but the practices may need to be adjusted to suit younger practitioners. The time spent on a mindfulness exercise will likely need to be shortened for younger children. Activities for young children are often based on yoga or other movements that develop awareness of the body, visualization, breathing, and exercises for noticing awareness of details in everyday life. It is worth noting that the studies conducted often vary widely in terms of the age and background of participants, the type of mindfulness practices used, the duration of the study, the methods used to measure results. There is still plenty that needs to be done to understand which methods may be more/less effective in particular situations or with different age groups.
Generally, mindfulness and meditation activities offered to children include:
- Noticing thoughts/thinking
- Noticing the breath
- Noticing body movement
- Noticing present sensations/experience
- Awareness of physical objects
- Awareness of activities/actions
Is Mindfulness Good for Children?
Again, the findings generally paint a positive picture. Students with ADHD and those without any record of cognitive/mental disorders have been shown to get benefits from one form of mindfulness practice or another.
How To Start Teaching Mindfulness To Children
At this point no method appears more effective, except to say that periods of sustained mental concentration be appropriate for the age of the practitioner. Finding the appropriate balance between focused stillness and more physical activities seems to allow for more sustained total practice times and more habitual practice.
The Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has written several books to help children with mindfulness and meditation
A Handful of Quiet – a group of visualization and breathing exercises for children and adults
Mindful Movements – a collection of 10 movements that help add some physical activity to a mindfulness/meditation practice
Planting Seeds – this set of activities and teachings is more geared towards a classroom or group setting
Popular works by other authors include:
Sitting Still Like A Frog – an aid to help parents introduce mindfulness and meditation practices to children, some of the more popular exercises in the book are those for awareness of breath and calming/preparing for sleep.
Mindful Games – a collection of over 50 activities for children and adults to play together. The cards indicate appropriate age level of the activity, and emphasizing a skill category (e.g. focusing, caring, reframing, connecting, etc.)