Meditation and mindfulness practices are popular topics in the health world. Countless studies have pointed out benefits of incorporating a meditation practice into your daily routine, including stress relief and pain relief. But how early does a meditation practice as a family begin? Should you explore meditation with a toddler?
In general, experts recommend introducing meditation techniques to children when they are school-aged. There are multiple benefits for students and within the school setting itself, including trading out punishments for meditation, helping children focus, and boosting self-confidence.
But mindfulness and meditation are tools that can be introduced as early as the toddler years. The most important aspect to remember is that you want to introduce the concept and techniques early enough to your child, so that meditation is "normal" to them and just another coping skill. Here are some ways to do so.
Try Meditating With Your Toddler
Although your toddler may not be able to do full-fledged meditation yet, getting him or her used to the practice at a young age is a wonderful way to incorporate meditation into your family routine. You can make meditation as simple as bringing your toddler into a calm, quiet room with you, turning on a video or podcast with a guided meditation, and letting your toddler sit on your lap while you work through the exercise.
The key is to not get frustrated if your toddler gets bored easily, or climbs out of your lap, or wants to explore the room. Keep yourself calm and understand that the goal is to introduce the practice of meditation to your little one, not necessarily get through an hour-long meditation session. The more he or she sees you meditating, the more likely the routine will be seen as a normal part of life, and the more benefits your child can reap later on in life.
Turn to an Expert
There are experts, including family therapists, who specialize in meditation, as well as meditation experts who focus on families. They can assess you and your family's needs, recommend a program to help you institute meditation in your home, and recommend tips for your own practice with your toddler.
Use a Book
Believe it or not, there are some books on the market that can help introduce your toddler to the topic of mindfulness. For example, My Mindful Book of ABCs, written by Kathy Walsh and illustrated by Clare Wassermann, helps introduce young children to the concept of mindfulness with a little help from the alphabet along the way. Each letter also has a take-away value attached to it that you can practice at home with your little one.
Introduce Meditation Through a Toy
The Meddy Teddy bear is a toy specifically designed to introduce yoga and meditation to young children in a fun and relaxed way. The teddy bear is completely flexible and soft, allowing your child to bend and twist him in ways that match their own flexibility. He even comes with his own poster to teach some basic yoga moves if you want to get your child engaged in mindfulness through movement as well.
If you don't want to use a toy like the Meddy Teddy, you could introduce your own special mindfulness toy. For example, you could use the same blanket, stuffed animal, or other type of soft, cuddly object every time you meditate with your toddler. After time, he or she will associate that comfortable object with the act of meditation.
As your child grows, he or she may even be able to learn to meditate on their own, using their meditation "toy" as a transitional tool to get them focused in on their practice.
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Meditation: In depth. National Institutes of Health. 2016.