About once a week, I see a parent ask Facebook, “What are the best ways to start teaching mindfulness to children?” And then Facebook comes through with a list of three dozen Apps, YouTube channels and products that are “great!”
What makes us think for a single second that we need to teach children mindfulness?
The heart of mindfulness is presence, and children have far more to teach us in this department than the other way around. Look, a formal, seated meditation practice can be beautiful. But, in a life well lived, it is entirely unnecessary. All we need is regular opportunities to connect with our present experience.
So, what’s the best way to give this gift to kids? I have some suggestions:
- Regular immersion in nature
- Regular unstructured play
- Repeated boredom
- Modeling presence in our own behavior
If we want to teach kids to eat their veggies, we start by eating lots of veggies. We grow them when we can. We pick them with our hands and smell them with our noses and cook them up in our own kitchens then eventually savor them with our own mouths, and our kids watch and they do the same.
If we want our kids to learn mindfulness from us, then, we should:
- Immerse ourselves in nature
- Let ourselves be bored
- When we feel bored, get into nature and play some more!
Please don’t over-complicate this by scheduling mindfulness instruction for your kids. Set them down in the grass or mud or sand, give them no rules about staying clean or not eating dirt, and just enjoy them.
They’ll come into adulthood with the skills they need to be deeply rooted, connected, present, and mindful, and they may never have any formal breath instruction. Maybe this next generation will just breathe!