Toddlers Are the Perfect Age to Learn to Meditate (It's True!)

Toddlers Are the Perfect Age to Learn to Meditate (It's True!)

Starting kids on meditation practice when they’re young is possible and beneficial!

By: Marisa Torrieri

Like most parents of toddlers, I can hardly get mine to focus on anything for more than 30 seconds. Yet showing very young children how to quiet their minds and begin to “meditate” is essential for Norwalk, Connecticut yoga and meditation teacher Rebecca Velasquez. According to Velasquez, it’s never too early to start teaching a child to meditate.

Velasquez, mom to two kids under 5, has been meditating since 2005, and recently released the DVD How to Meditate with Your Young Child. “When my [oldest] son was 13 months, I really craved meditating the way I used to and decided I had to have it in my life. So I baby-proofed an area of my office and sat for meditation, and he would run around and do what he would do. And I would set a timer for three minutes.”

The Benefits of Meditation
While Velasquez’s son, Wesley, now 4, doesn’t “meditate” in the same way that his mom does -- by sitting and focusing on breathing and pushing away distracting thoughts -- he does sit quietly most of the time. That, and the benefits of having a twice-daily meditation practice, have been crucial for both mama and child. For Velasquez, the sessions are an opportunity to quiet her busy mind and let go of the stresses of the day. For young Wesley, she says there is a big difference in behavior on the rare days he misses one or both meditation sessions with his mom.

“The importance of meditation at this age is to establish rhythm and quiet,” says Velasquez. “I definitely notice when our routine is off. It’s definitely harder for him to go to bed -- he’s definitely more hyper for sure.”

Velasquez isn’t the only one who’s noticed a difference. According to a study at the University of California Los Angeles, second- and third-graders who practiced "mindful" meditation techniques for 30 minutes twice a week for eight weeks had improved behavior and scored higher on tests requiring memory, attention, and focus than those who didn’t meditate.

And while children at those ages are not old enough to learn to truly meditate -- beyond just sitting quietly during a parent’s practice -- getting a child started before preschool is the best way to form good habits, says Velasquez.

“At the age of 4, he’s not sitting and following his breath the whole time -- but I think the most important thing … is that he’s watching what we do. We’re integrating quiet and peace and daily reflection,” says Velasquez. “I’m modeling that for him as a way to connect spiritually.”

More from P&G everyday: 15 Tips for Teaching Toddlers to Listen


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Getting Started
The first step to getting your toddler started on a meditation practice is to establish one for yourself. Velasquez discusses the steps of meditation on her DVD, including breathing (in through the nose, out through the mouth), focusing on a sound or image, and pushing away distracting thoughts. There are also tons of other helpful instructional videos and sites online.

Also key to establishing a meditation practice is setting up a sacred space in your home -- a quiet spot where you can put one or two pillows, free from distractions like loud toys and clutter (though a few low-key toys are a good idea). By doing meditation in this spot at designated times, your toddler will get used to the pattern.

“Bring sacred, special things in an area -- and make your practice a place you can come into and get out of,” says Velasquez.

Next, you should designate a specific time -- such as 7 a.m. or 8 p.m. -- that will be dedicated to meditation (and don’t feel bad if you’re starting with just a couple of minutes a day).

The notion that Wesley, just two months shy of his third birthday, could sit quietly in Velasquez’s meditation space would have seemed ridiculous if I hadn’t seen it firsthand. When my son Nathan was an infant, I visited her one evening, a time of day that happened to coincide with evening meditation. And there he was, sitting quietly and breathing slowly in the candlelight.

“What I’ve noticed over the years is that it really helps to anchor our day -- to start our day with silence, to end our day with silence. It’s so rare in our society that adults have three minutes of pure silence,” says Velasquez. “It’s not perfect -- sometimes he’ll talk in the middle of it or make noise or whatever, but this is what we do now. It’s part of our family and he knows that.”

Do you have techniques for inspiring mindfulness and calm in your kids?

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a freelance writer and guitar teacher who lives with her husband and two young sons in Fairfield, Connecticut.

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