My older daughter (age 4) and I have been talking about my meditation practice lately. She knows where my meditation cushion is, and she understands that I use it to sit and pay attention to my breathing. She also knows that meditating helps me stay calmer, happier, and less likely to get frustrated and snap at her and her sister. I’m happy to talk to her about it, but to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting her to meditate yet. Then I did a Google Images search for “child meditating” and came across a range of amazing pictures of children sitting “criss-cross applesauce” (as my daughter would call it) with their eyes closed. They’re pretty incredible.
Needless to say, I was thrilled to find out that my daughter is also learning about these concepts from her daycare providers and preschool teachers. She came home the other day talking about a book in which a cow gets really mad and then learns to meditate from his grandfather. (I mentioned it on my Facebook page and got a great response!)
Our copy of “Moody Cow Meditates” by Kerry Lee Maclean arrived yesterday, and my daughters were excited to read it. It’s a lovely story, and was very age appropriate for my 4 year old. Some of the concepts may have been a bit advanced for my younger daughter (she’s not yet 3), but she seemed to enjoy it quite a bit anyway.
The story is told from the perspective of a young cow who has a terrible day and finally gets so mad that he throws a ball through a glass window. His mother responds by sending Moody Cow to meditate with his grandfather. The grandfather teaches him a lovely technique in which they create a “Mind Jar” by dropping sparkles representing Moody Cow’s angry thoughts into a jar of water, shaking it up, and watching it all settle.
It’s a wonderful meditation practice for children, just the sort I had been looking for. The illustrations are great and the easy-to-follow story line kept my girls interested. My four year old immediately understood the idea of dropping her angry thoughts into the water and watching them settle. The concrete physical steps made the abstract ideas of thoughts, feelings, and letting go more accessible to her.
But there’s more than that to it. Grandfather takes his grandson (grandcow?) seriously, and listens carefully as Moody Cow describes all of the reasons why he is so angry. He lets Moody Cow talk about his feelings, and then, rather than telling him he’s wrong to feel that way, or that he needs to behave better or think differently, Grandfather helps Moody Cow experience, and then let go of, his difficult feelings. It’s a wonderful example of mindful parenting and mindful living.
Finally, I liked this book because there are no religious references (making it accessible to every family), and the Mind Jar activity is so straightforward that it can be used by any child (or adult, really!) who is interested in a quick and easy way to focus their attention and calm their thoughts and feelings.
The book comes with simple instructions for building your own Mind Jar, as well as a link to the Mind Jar app for iPhone or iPad. My daughter also had the great idea of using our glitter wands as a modified Mind Jar, and a snow globe would work as well.
My girls and I enjoyed the book and Mind Jar app so much that I’ve ordered a copy of one of McLean’s other books, Peaceful Piggy Meditation.
What books or techniques have you used to teach meditation and mindfulness to your young children? I’d love to know!