Teach your toddler to meditate with these 5 fun games
Studies have shown that meditation has a number of benefits for kids including a reduction in stress, a strengthened immune system, improved relationships and behavior and better memory and concentration. This post describes five simple relaxation games that you can play with your toddler. These games help to teach the fundamentals of meditation and are a great way to cool back down after a tantrum.
Toddlers are particularly prone to experiencing difficult emotions. The pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain that regulates emotions, is the last part of the brain to develop and mature. This means that toddlers can’t help but experience strong emotions that they cannot control without adult support. As adults, we know how to relieve stress by activities like talking to a friend, going the the gym or chilling out to music. Toddlers need to be directly taught the skills to calm themselves after a tantrum or disappointing event.
You might be thinking my toddler is a whirlwind of energy, how on earth am I going to get him to sit still and meditate? These games are short, simple and, most importantly, fun. At first your child may only be able to play for a minute at a time, but the length of time will quickly increase. Meditation games can be used anywhere, so are handy when your toddler gets frustrated at the supermarket or has a meltdown at a friends house. Meditation games are particularly helpful in periods of change or uncertainty, such as the arrival of a new sibling or starting daycare.
Tell your child to imagine they are blowing bubbles. Take in a deep breath and slowly blow out bubbles in to the room. As you blow out the bubbles, tell you child to imagine they are special bubbles that fill the room with calm. This game will help your toddler to develop deep breathing skills that form the basis of many later meditations and relaxation strategies.
This is another game that will develop deep and regular breathing skills. Tell your child to imagine that you are blowing up a big balloon. Take in a deep breath and blow into the balloon steadily. Ask your child to breathe in deep from their tummy. Imagine the balloon is getting bigger and bigger. Now ask your child to imagine the balloon is floating away into the air. Let your child know that when he is feeling angry, blowing up the balloon can help him to feel calmer.
Butter on Toast
Butter on toast helps children learn to relax their muscles. Ask your child to lie on the floor and pretend that they are a piece of butter melting into a slice of toast. Ask them to focus on their whole body sinking into the floor. Say things like ‘Isn’t this nice, my body feels so relaxed.’ This game is best used at home or in a place where it is okay to lie on the floor!
Yawn and Stretch
When we are stressed we tend to take short shallow breaths. Yawning forces the body to relax by taking a deep breath and slowing down your breathing. Stretching elongates the muscles which helps them to stop tensing in response to stress. Teach your child that when they are feeling agitated they can yawn and stretch to help calm themselves back down. Model doing a big silly yawn and a dramatic stretch. When you spot a tantrum arising begin to do a silly yawn to remind them to calm themselves back down.
This is a simple but effective exercise. When your toddler seems to be feeling anxious or angry, get two plain pieces of paper and some crayons. Play calm music in the background and ask your toddler to take some deep breaths before beginning. Ask ‘If you were a color right now, what color would you be’?. You might want to give your toddler examples, for example, ‘You might be feeling black, like a sad rain cloud’. Tell your child that this is a special time for scribbling. Say things like,’ scribble away the stress. It doesn’t matter what the scribble looks like this time, you don’t have to color in the lines, feel the angry feelings coming from your body, through your arms and on to the paper’. When your toddler has finished, turn over the paper and say that now we have got our anger out, we can do a relaxing picture. Encourage them to breathe in and out and show them how to do light movements in a swirly pattern.
These simple activities teach your toddler basic relaxation skills such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation and expressing emotion in way that is creative and does not harm others. Teaching relaxation gives your toddler more control over their emotions and can provide a foundation for positive mental health later in life.
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Hannah lives in Manchester, UK, with her partner and baby daughter. She has a Masters degree in Psychology and runs her own company, The Therapy Adventure, which provides fun and accessible therapy for children and young people. Hannah loves travelling, rock climbing, planning adventures, writing and taking thousands of pictures of her little girl on a daily basis. You can read more about Hannah’s adventures on her blog or connect with her on Twitter or Facebook