The benefits of mindfulness and meditation are becoming widely accepted. From stress reduction, to mood enhancement to productivity, to creativity, to clarity of thought ... the list of benefits is compelling. There are also interesting studies that have been done on the positive impact of meditation on children with ADHD.
But should we teach meditation to kids? As parents (and educators for that matter), who are under pressure to get things right, we must determine whether teaching meditation to kids is merely another item on an already lengthy to-do list or a valuable tool to enhance their lives. We need to examine the science and ensure that we are not succumbing to society's fleeting trends and expectations. Because we all know how in this digital world, phases and crazes come fast, burn bright and then disappear without a trace! I've done the research for you. So, let's have a look at what I found ...
Meditation seems to definitely be a powerful thing. I've even started a little routine myself during my research and have found myself to rather enjoying it. In my experience, mindfulness and meditation present an opportunity for us to find a sense of calm and clarity amidst the chaos. I feel more focused, clearer and refreshed after a meditation. But I've also found that I currently need the help of guided meditations to reach a point that I assume is the meditative state. Calming the mind isn't the easiest thing to do in the noise or speed of our modern world. My conscious, analytical brain is taking some effort to quiet. In my personal experience so far, I feel like I need to learn how to meditate and how to reach the state where the magic happens. It involves the right environment, the time to ensure I'm not interrupted and some help from experienced meditators.
When researching meditation, I discovered that changes occur in the brain which are measured in the form of brainwaves. During meditation brainwave frequency slows, usually beginning with Alpha waves as we experience a calming of our nervous system, then into Theta waves as we begin to feel day dreamy and then possibly into the sharp focus associated with gamma waves if you're a more experienced meditator. Theta waves appears to be the main type of brain wave experienced during meditation, which is what you will recognise as daydreaming or being on autopilot. You know that drive you did where you can't remember a chunk of the journey. Eeek! You were probably daydreaming in theta wave range! There's a lot of information out there about what these stages can do to benefit our health and wellbeing from mood shifts to even releasing chemicals that positively boost our physical health. Pretty magical stuff. Us humans are pretty cool.
So, what about kids and meditation? Well, curiously, children under 7 are in theta brain wave range a lot. Naturally, they are in a creative, imaginative state which means they experience this brain wave range without needing to sit with their legs crossed and eyes closed. As an aside, this frequency range also means the brain is very susceptible to information. Hello childhood conditioning! That's a topic for another post, but I just wanted to refer to it here, because I think that's an important bit of information for parents to have. Moving on. So, as deep meditation requires such focus and stillness, would that be an appropriate expectation for children? Or would their natural ability to engage in creative, imaginative states of play be meditative enough? Perhaps encouraging mindfulness in the form of observing the small details on a leaf, the stillness of a bedtime story, the relaxation of music, the attention to the breath or the creativity of drawing or writing is where our meditation teaching should begin. A progression ladder of mindful, child friendly activities that help teach them the skills they might need should they wish to meditate more deeply at some point. It's this awareness that we have when we are being mindful that we need to utilise when we try to sit and meditate.
As parents, understanding these 3 can help us lose any 'mum guilt' and feel reassured if our children can't sit cross legged with their thumb and forefinger pressed together whilst repeating a mantra yet.
You can see from these points that some children aren't ready for deeper meditative activity and how mindfulness is so important anyway. We can be mindful anytime. We do meditation. But neither necessarily move big emotions from our body on their own. Combine the provision of mindful opportunities with imaginative play and the space for children to express their emotions (in healthy ways) seems to be a solid strategy for children's emotional wellbeing now and in the future. And maybe one day they'll sit and experience the magic that is meditation too.
Calm Corners are a great way to help children learn emotional regulation skills. The ability to self regulate is a key element of emotional intelligence and an important life skill. Traditional parenting approaches don't tend to teach emotional regulation skills explicitly, but research shows that directing our children to specific calming strategies and providing space for mindfulness helps nurture resilient kids.
The ability to regulate emotions isn't something that happens overnight. The area of the brain responsible for reason and logic isn't fully developed until early adulthood. However, children should learn about feelings, their emotional triggers and how to soothe themselves to lay the foundations for an emotionally healthy life. Plus, I'm always amazed at how easily children embrace calming strategies ... even when their thinking brains are still maturing!
Calm Corners provide the space, environment and resources that support emotional regulation. By designating an area for calming down, children can remove themselves from their emotional trigger and process their feelings.
There are several important ingredients for a calm corner:
1. Something that helps children identify what they are feeling.
This could take the form of a Feelings Check In sheet, Feelings Cards or a Feelings Print. Naming a feeling is known to calm a nervous system that is in a stress response.
2. Calming Strategy Visual Prompts
Children need easy to access calming strategies to support their emotional development and regulation skills. This is something children need to be explicitly shown and taught! A strategy poster, cards or other visual prompts such as the posters in our natural, mindful yoga themed Calm Down Corner Kit are or the cards in our Calming Strategy Kit are perfect for teaching children the ways to find calm. I'd suggest having conversations around these strategies too, asking your child what they noticed about the way they felt in their bodies, which will help their brains make links between the strategies and feeling calmer, making it more likely they will use them in the future!
3. Resources that support emotional regulation
A toolbox of resources to support regulation and self soothing are great additions to Calm Down Corners. I'd recommend sensory/fidget toys, glitter bottles, puzzles (non frustrating ones!), reading books, cuddly teddy, and a favourite blanket. Most of these items will use the senses and provide the sensory input that helps the nervous system feel safe and therefore calm.
4. Mindfulness Tools
Set up your Calm Corner with some tools that will provide your child an opportunity for mindful moments that help them reflect on and process their feelings. These tools could include colouring pages, pens and paper for drawing or writing, tracing pages, breathing technique prompts or journal pages. Our Calm Down Corner Kit provides these opportunities through printable sheets that you can instantly download here.
Where should I locate my Calm Down Corner?
As a former primary school teacher, I know the important that the environment has on children's ability to learn and access their thinking. The location of your Calm Down Corner is important for this reason too. Choose an area of your home that is quiet and calm. Somewhere that, ideally, isn't too busy or overwhelming in terms of household clutter or family traffic! I love to use bean bags, cushions and soft blankets in our Calm Corner. I've also created a den in the past to house our Calm Corner as it lent itself to my child's interest at the time.
Why should I have a Calm Down Corner?
A designated space gives your child a clear action to take when they feel overwhelmed by big feelings such as anger, frustration or worry. By creating a space for them, you can also provide them with accessible prompts that can help them calm their feelings, educating them with life long skills and also structuring their response to their feelings without you having to be right next to them. Sometimes children need the space/distance a calm down corner provides before they are ready and able to have a reasonable discussion with you. Calm Corners can also help children feel safe when big feelings overwhelm them, soothing their emotional brain and helping them find calm.
Did you know ... ?
If your child is a little Space Enthusiast, we've created My Chill Out SPACE - A Space Themed Calm Corner Kit! Why not get really creative and set up a 'rocket corner' filled with the resources in this printable kit! Using your child's interests will help motivate them to use and engage with the space that you create.
Let us know if you've got any questions about creating a Calm Corner by commenting below!
Hey! I'm the founder, creator and voice of Ink and Scribbles. Sharing thoughts on child well-being and parenting that are based on my teaching and parenting experience, and NLP learning.