How to practice mindfulness meditation with babies and toddlers
Mindfulness meditation refers to a meditative practice, originating from Buddhism, whereby your attention is directed to the present moment. Mindfulness meditation has wonderful benefits, including relaxation, greater emotional control, gratitude and improved mood. Scientists have shown that mindfulness meditation has positive effects on brain function and even improves immune function. Not surprisingly, mindfulness meditation practices are increasingly being implemented in schools worldwide.
This article will give you some easy mindfulness ideas to try with young children, including how you can introduce mindfulness to babies and toddlers!
Mindfulness with babies
Although you can’t practice mindfulness meditation with babies, there are still exercises you can do. Because babies have no prejudgements about the world and about their emotions, they are already being mindful. One important activity is to practice mindfulness meditation yourself.
Practice mindfulness while feeding
During feeding, pay attention to each suckle and movement, and how this differs from the last. Focus attention to your breathing. If you experience distracting thoughts, simply observe them and let them go, bringing your attention back to the present moment. Your baby will appreciate this relaxation and this moment together. If you are breastfeeding, your baby can feel when you are stressed (via the stress hormone, cortisol, entering into the breast milk), so feeding in a calm state is beneficial to your baby and their state of mind.
Take a moment to be mindful during the day.
When your baby is having a period of calm, lay them on the bed with their head next to yours. Run your finger across their little body, bringing their attention to your touch. Focus on the feeling of their breath on your face and the movements they make. You can also try baby massage.
Mindfulness with toddlers
Some of these suggestions may be more difficult than others to do with your toddler. Try to gauge where your child is at developmentally, and proceed accordingly. If all else fails, simply try having quiet time with your toddler away from screens and loud noises. Some of these exercises are best done before bed, when your child is already feeling sleepy and calm.
Although this isn’t necessarily mindfulness meditation, taking a walk through nature and being mindful of all the sights, sounds, smells and feelings is a great way to practice mindfulness. As you’re walking, ask your toddler to pay attention to what they can hear. Can they hear birds singing? Or the sound of cars in the distance? How does the earth feel beneath their feet? What does it smell like? Have them touch the rough bark on a tree and describe the feeling. Drawing attention to their senses in the moment can help them to be mindful.
Another great time to practice mindfulness is during sensory play. Just like the mindfulness walks, sensory play provides a great opportunity to become aware of the senses in the present moment. Bring your toddler’s attention to what they can feel, see and smell during sensory play.
Chopra.com provides some great resources for meditation with kids. The Balloon meditation is a guided visualization that you can practice with your toddler or young child. It is best done when your child is feeling calm.
Guide your toddler through the following steps.
- Relax your body and begin to take deep inhales and slow exhales through the nose.
- Start to take a slow, deep breath to fill your belly up with air, as if you’re trying to blow up a big balloon. Expand your belly as much as you can.
- Slowly let the air out of the balloon (through the nose) as you release the breath from the belly.
- Encourage your kids to feel their entire body relax each time they exhale, each time air is slowly being released from the balloon. You can even make a “hissing” noise to encourage them to slow down the exhale even more, “Like letting air out of the balloon.”
- Continue for several minutes.
If the child you’re teaching is younger, you can add a little more detail and fun to the exercise to keep them engaged. Young kids, especially under the age of 6, love the extra movement when they’re learning to bring awareness to their breath. Encourage them to stand up in a relaxed way and follow these steps:
- Ask them to think of their favorite color and picture a giant balloon of that color in their mind.
- Then have them take a slow, deep inhale through the nose, filling up their tummies with air as if trying to blow up a giant [their favorite color] balloon. As an option, you can also have them stretch their arms open and overhead to represent expansion and the big balloon.
- When their balloon is totally full, have them hold their breath at the top, and then you can “pop the balloon” for them (gesture finger to belly) and they can fall down as they exhale.
Progressive relaxation is an exercise that draws attention to, and helps to alleviate any tension that is being held in the body. It can be done at any time, but is especially effective if a child is feeling restless, stressed, or is having trouble sleeping.
- Ask them to sit or lie down comfortably and close their eyes. You can use pillows or blankets to make them as comfortable as they can be.
- Ask them to take a few deep, cleansing breaths as they begin to relax.
- Ask them to bring all of their attention to their right foot, noticing how it feels. Ask them to squeeze their right foot, and to make a fist with their entire right foot and all five toes; tensing and squeezing it tightly. Ask them to hold this tension for two deep breaths.
- Tell them to release all tension in the right foot suddenly. Tell them to relax it completely and notice the tension release.
- Ask them to take a deep breath, and then move on…
- Move their attention to their left foot. Same instructions as for the right foot.
- Move slowly up and around the body, asking them to squeeze one body part at a time to create tension, immediately followed by the contrasting sensation of release and ease. Follow each part with a deep, cleansing breath. Here’s a sample progression you can follow:
- Right foot, left foot
- Right ankle and calf, left ankle and calf
- Right knee, left knee
- Right thigh, left thigh
- All feet and legs
- Entire lower body, from tummy down
- Chest and heart
- Right arm, left arm
- Right hand, left hand
- Whole body at once (do this one twice)
When you’re finished guiding your child through the relaxation technique, make sure they spend at least a few minutes in quiet, encouraging them to keep their breathing slow and steady.
If you’ve run out of ideas, a quick search on YouTube for guided meditations for children brings up some great options. The channel New Horizon – Meditation & Relaxing music has some wonderful guided meditations for children. Here are some of my favorites.
Let me know in the comments if you have any more suggestions, or if you tried any of these mindfulness ideas!
FREE 30 Day Activity Pack Download For New Subscribers!
Do you want to bust boredom this summer? Subscribe to Earth and Bloom and receive a FREE 30 Day Activity Pack Download! That’s an entire months worth of engaging and creative activity ideas absolutely free! We will also update you when we release new content. You will never be spammed and your information is completely secure. I appreciate your ongoing support and hope you enjoy your free activity pack!