Can children learn meditation, or is it a lost cause to try to get three minutes of peace?
As a daily practitioner of guided meditation, I wanted to explore this possibility for my 3-year-old daughter. The benefits I have gained from my own experience with meditation – including increased concentration, lower stress levels and a greater sense of happiness – are absolutely traits I want my little one to have. And hopefully, with enough practice, she could eventually use meditation techniques during times of frustration to take a step back and breathe instead of reacting emotionally.
But can the same girl who asks more daily questions than The Riddler sit quietly and focus for multiple minutes at a time? Meditation for 3-year-olds seemed like a stretch.
When I started looking into meditation for children, I discovered there is an ongoing debate on a child’s ability to learn and practice these techniques. Most of the debate centers on the question of whether children can understand and practice concepts like visualization, self-awareness and extreme concentration. Despite these concerns, there are meditation classes exclusively for Pre-K students popping up all over the country.
After completing my research, I decided to try some kid-friendly meditation with my daughter for a month. I knew I had to pick an ideal time of day, and that the activity had to maintain a balance of structure and fun.
After a few terrible timing misses, like trying meditation when I got home from work and she just wanted to use me as a jungle gym, we found that the time that worked best was right before we read our nightly books. Once we went upstairs, we would turn the nightlight on, sit on the floor with our legs crossed and our hands on our laps, and calmly repeat animal sounds (I thought this was more relatable for a 3-year-old rather than “om” or other calming sounds used in meditation). At first, she found the animal sounds silly, but then seemed to look forward to it after day three and asked for more sounds. I would set a timer on my phone for one minute, and most times we made it past the timer. Other nights, she just did not have the capacity to sit still.
Did it work? Yes and no. Ultimately, my little one could sit still for a minute or two, which was a huge accomplishment. However, I do not think it impacted her REM sleep or took her to a state of total enlightenment as I had hoped.
I believe that over time, and with some effort on both of our parts, our meditation time could gradually increase and happen outside of bedtime and maybe even provide a chance for us to enjoy some valuable one-on-one father-daughter time. The ideal next step is to help her begin to use this technique during times when she is frustrated or angry, pausing to take deep breaths and think before reacting. Which should make the teenage years a cakewalk, right?
Good luck, and namaste!
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