Updated: Mar 31, 2020
Kids can do so much more than we give them credit for. Here's a simple exercise that helps a child develop the capacity for sustained attention.
I was one of the founders of a children's meditation program at Kagyu Changchub Chuling. We used many exercises to help kids learn the skills and develop the capacity to meditate. Here are a few things we learned when #kidsmeditate
Children are already curious. This is one of the key aspects of meditation.
What works when #includingkids
Use short sessions. Short enough to not encourage a habit of wiggling.
Make it fun and relaxed, not intimidating
Help kids by modeling best practice form (stillness, mindfulness, ease).
Engage many senses.
One of our kids' favorite exercises
Tell the kids you'll ring a bell (any soft bell will do). Say they should remain relaxed and still and listen to the bell ring till the very end of the sound. Tell them to raise their hand when they think the bell is done ringing. The adult leader should do this, too.
Listening to the bell, the children develop a habit of resting awareness on an experience. This is a key skill in meditation.
Repeat the ring-listen sequence several times. Ask the kids what they observed. These are some of the things our kids said:
They felt still, listening to the bell.
They were sometimes distracted, even in that short amount of time.
Different people heard the bell end at different times. This last observation teaches kids that experience is individual and influenced by many factors. This is a profound lesson. For example, they may notice that the leader heard it end soonest. If the leader is older, it may be that they do not hear the faint tones at the end of the ring. Help the kids see it's not 'wrong' to have different experiences of the same event--it's how things are!
Have fun with this exercise. Do it often. Do it respectfully, teaching by example that resting in awareness is a precious exercise. This creates good habits for the future. Feel free to share this exercise on your social media pages. It's free from Dekeling!