Kids Sleep Meditation

Kids Sleep

Sleep meditation for kids and relaxation tools can help children unwind and prepare for sleep. Through body scans, imagination and deep breathing, they are able to relax and self-soothe. Short evening meditations can help improve sleeping patterns.

Why Sleep Meditation Works for Kids and How to Try It

Meditation can help young children release energy, process concerns, and find comfort at night. Try these simple steps to see if sleep meditation can make bedtime easier for your child—and family!

If your household is like mine, the evening drill for anyone not paying rent goes something like this: Bath, brush teeth, books, bed. Emphasis on “BED.”

Occasionally there’s mutiny in the ranks, and that’s where “sleep meditation” or “bedtime meditation” techniques sound really attractive—almost the stuff of fantasy. Designed to help kids relax and drift comfortably off to sleep, this type of meditation encourages the brain frequencies known as the “alpha state”—when you’re relaxed while awake—as in, daydreaming or nodding off but still responsive to sounds, such as a telephone ringing (or preschooler’s door opening after light’s out), before deeper phases of sleep.

But should you start a sleep meditation practice with someone in footie pajamas, and if so, how?

“The short answer is, ‘Yes!'” says Cory Cochiolo, a meditation expert, hypnotherapist, and author of the forthcoming Bedtime Meditations for Kids: Quick, Calming Exercises to Help Kids Get to Sleep. Children’s needs are no different than adults’ in many ways, she begins. “At bedtime especially, they have a fundamental need to feel safe and comfortable, to feel happy, to not be worried about anything, to feel loved. The key with any meditation practice is to try to create a warm, loving environment that they’ve participated in.”

This is sometimes easier said than done. “When my own daughters were young, I was pretty militant,” confesses Cochiolo. “I was big on routine, which kids need and love, but also on timelines and other organizing factors, like having their beds or rooms set up a certain way. What I’ve learned is that kids invest in and trust a routine most when they’ve participated in making it.”

Want to try it? Use these expert tips as a guide for setting your toddler or preschooler up for sleep meditation success:

Give your child a say in their bedtime setting. Within reason, says Cochiolo, let your child choose their bedtime companions—toys, pillows, even the color and texture of the sheets or blankets on their beds, or the colors of their walls.

Encourage kids to co-create a story-based guided meditation. “The brain loves a story, and children this age are naturally curious to follow a story to its end,” says Cochiolo. “But instead of insisting on a book, or limiting choices to printed books, ask instead, ‘Would you prefer a book? Or would you like me to make up a story?’ In other words, offer choices you’ll be happy with, but realize it’s a really big deal to give them a choice to relax into, to fall into sleep easier.”

Choose a voice your child likes hearing. Maybe it’s your voice (yay!), but maybe it’s not, explains Cochiolo. If you’re streaming a guided meditation (see a few options below), have your child help you choose. “The kids who give me feedback on my web content are really good about telling me when something sounds creepy,” says Cochiolo. “Maybe the music isn’t right for them. Or, they didn’t like the accent of the voice.” (Pro tip: Listen for opportunities to make your voice more hushed or slow down the pacing of your words. These are natural cues for the body to do the same, drifting toward sleep.)

Be persistent. Change is hard! Don’t give up if your child resists, says Cochiolo. “If it’s just not working to ease into meditation at bedtime, sit down with your child at other times and have it be something that’s fun.” One easy way to check your parent baggage is to expect each participant to focus at a rate of one minute for each year of age. “Can you practice meditation for the minutes corresponding to your age?” she challenges. Another trick is to have a guided meditation playing throughout your child’s bedtime routine so it becomes the soundtrack for comfort and safety. “Don’t make a big deal of it—just leave it playing, and they’ll get used to it.”

Practice your own gratitude. One of Chocoholic’s favorite activities (demonstrated here by story characters Heidi, Cherry, and Va-ya) is the Reassurance Game. “When you’re snuggled in, take turns with your child giving heartfelt compliments.” For example, (parent to child): “I think you are so smart. You are good at asking questions.” (Child, addressing parent): “Mommy, I think you’re so loving.” The goal, says Cochiolo, is to “fill up your child’s cup of love so they can relax and fall asleep in the comfort of being understood and accepted.”

1) Lie down on your back. Let your legs and your arms relax and fall to the sides. Settle yourself in a comfort-able position and close your eyes.

2) Start by taking two or three gentle, large breaths. Pay attention to how that feels. Your belly rises and falls. Air moves in and out of your body. If you like, place a hand on your belly and feel it move with each breath.

3) Now we’re going to pay attention to the other parts of the body. Start with your feet. They might feel warm or cold, wet or dry, relaxed or restless. It’s also okay if you feel nothing at all. If you can, relax your feet now. If that’s hard to do, that’s fine. Take a moment and notice how that feels too.

4) For these few minutes, let yourself be still. There’s nothing to do. Pay attention as best you can. You might feel a blanket or socks on your feet, or you might feel them pressing against the bed or the floor. When your mind gets busy, gently bring your attention back to your feet again.

5) Now move your attention to your lower legs, noticing whatever is there. Do they feel heavy, light, warm, cold, or something else? Let go of frustration and trying to do anything. Just do your best and give yourself a few moments of rest.
Next, move your attention next to your knees and relax them. Feel the front, back, and sides of your knees.

6) After a few more breaths, move your attention to your upper legs. Whatever you feel, or don’t feel, is fine. Notice your legs and let them relax. If you feel restless or wiggly, that’s okay too. That happens.

7) Now move your attention to your belly. It always moves when you breathe, rising and falling, like waves on the sea. You might feel something on the inside, like full or hungry. You might notice the touch of your clothing or a blanket. You might even feel emotions in your belly, like happy or sad or upset.

If you feel that it’s hard to focus, that’s normal. Gently practice coming back again and again to how your chest feels when you breathe.

8) Next, bring your attention to your chest. Notice it rising and falling as you breathe. If you feel that it’s hard to focus, that’s normal. Gently practice coming back again and again to how your chest feels when you breathe.

9) Now turn your attention to your hands. There is no need to move them or do anything with them. They may be touching the bed, or the floor, or somewhere on your body. Relax them if you can, and if not, simply paying attention to your hands for another moment.

10) Move your attention up into your arms. Maybe notice if you can find a moment of stillness inside you, like the pause at the end of each breath.

11) Next, move your attention around to your back. How does it feel against the bed or the floor? Notice how it rocks with each breath. When your mind gets busy or angry or scared, you can always come back to how your body feels in this way for a moment.

12) Now move attention to your neck and shoulders, letting go and relaxing them. If your mind wanders, that’s fine. No one can pay attention all the time. Just keep returning to noticing your body whenever you find yourself thinking of something else.

13) And now feel your face and head. What expression do you have right now? What would it feel like to smile? What else do you notice in your face, your head, and in your mind?

14) Finally, spend a few moments, paying attention to your whole body. If it is easier, continue to pay attention to your breath. If it’s time for sleep, let that happen, remaining still and continuing to pay attention to your breath or feelings in your body. And if it’s time to wake up, open your eyes and sit for a few moments before deciding when to move again.

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