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Kids need a break sometimes.
So does everyone, really.
But it’s super important for kids in school especially and kids who need a little extra reminder to feel calm and relax.
It can also be super useful for kids who have a hard time falling asleep.
Guided imagery is one way to help kids feel calm.
Guided imagery is a mindfulness meditation technique to help the listener think of something peaceful and relaxing. It is often used at the start of a longer meditation, sometimes to set up yoga nidra.
For kids, it is often the whole relaxation period at the end of a yoga session (savasana), or during a short lesson on mindfulness.
Mindfulness has been proven to help people start to understand how their brain works and bring it to a place of a bit more understanding and peace.
It is also extremely useful for calming anxiety and allowing for a bit of space when trying to fall asleep or focus in on a specific task.
As a teacher of 5-10 year-olds, I always want my kids to calm down a little bit.
I know that they are children and that just saying “settle down” will never work… but I really just want them to be a little bit more chill.
Check out some ways I teach them Mindfulness every day, check it out in this post on How to Calm a Class or Child Using Mindfulness.
I teach my students yoga and mindfulness every day, so we are always working towards a place of Zen.
But it’s definitely not a guarantee.
We move and groove for at least 10-15 minutes at the beginning of the class, usually doing a Yoga Flow routine. Then we move into yoga and mindfulness centers.
At the end of class, we clean up and come back to the circle for savasana. Every child lays down quietly and I set a beanie baby on their tummy for some “buddy breathing” if they are silent.
But that’s not always quite enough. They can lay there and have a stuffed animal on their tummy for a few minutes and be calm. It lasts longer if they are listening to some calming music and the whole room is calm.
So I have discovered that it is much more effective if they are listening to something that grabs their attention.
Guided imagery is something that helps them utilize their imagination.
A story that allows them to dive into their mind, forget about whatever it is that is worrying them, and really just relax into the moment of savasana. Of feeling peaceful and mindful and in the present moment.
We all want to be there; why not give it to our kiddos so that they can have that sense of peace that we so long for?
So that’s what I do. I talk my kids through savasana with guided imagery or a calming story.
How do you talk kids through savasana pose?
- speak in a calm, slow, loving voice
- I tell a story or use a script of a calming metaphor (below!)
- bring their focus to specific body parts to squeeze and relax, or wiggle and be still
- gently guide them in breathing slowly in and out
- use vivid descriptors like color, smell, feelings, textures, sounds
I usually say something different every time, but I know that any time I am talking to my kids in this voice and with the right intentions, I will be helping them find a simple semblance of peace and calm.
So how do you figure out what to say?
Do you read a script? Do you talk yourself through it and write it down? Do you pick a theme and then make it up on the go?
Any of those are good options if you have the right intention.
Helping people relax is more about your anticipated outcome than your actual words.
You need to have the right tone and body language to help anyone feel calm and settled into something relaxing. Reading the perfect meditation from a paper won’t do you any good if you sound like a robot or a disbeliever.
However, it is also extremely helpful to have a guided imagery script to read that gives you purpose and keeps you from rambling too much. It helps to have a theme and know your anticipated outcome.
If you are coming up with your own guided imagery stories, think about these things first:
- What place will they think of?
- How do they get there?
- Are there colors, smells, sights, feelings that you can include?
- What question are you allowing them to answer?
- How will you include breath in the mindful meditation?
- What mantra will you let them think of to end their “journey”?
Those ideas will help keep your guided imagery focused on a theme that you are telling your kiddos.
Some basic themes or “plotlines” to be told are:
(Many of these are inspired by the beautiful and inspiring book, A Quiet Place. It’s a great place to start when introducing kids to mindfulness and guided imagery! You definitely need it if you are just starting out teaching kids how to mindfully reflect and picture a calm place.)
- going on a forest walk
- listening to a prairie breeze
- watching a desert sunset
- a ladybug crawling
- fishing on a pond
- exploring a big cave
- watching a snowstorm
- seeing a painter brushing paint on a canvas
- filling a kindness bucket
- calmly resting in your own room
If you need more inspiration, I have written out a couple different mindfulness scripts for you to use here.
This prompt is helpful if you are going to be reading a guided imagery meditation for the first time:
As you lay here, nice and still, with your mind thinking, I am going to tell you to picture something. I want you to try to imagine the picture in your brain. Keep your voice off, because every person thinks about something different, and we want to be respectful of everybody’s thoughts. I will pause now and then to let you THINK but make sure you keep your thoughts in your head so you don’t disturb anyone else. Think about the colors, the sounds, and the pictures. Try to keep your eyes closed and your body perfectly still so your brain can do all the work.
Here are three guided imagery meditations to try with your kids in school, in a studio or at home.
A Butterfly Alights
Imagine you are a bright and beautiful caterpillar. You are full and resting on a leaf. You have eaten, explored, and ready for rest. Take in a deep breath, and imagine yourself growing more and more still. You feel calm and settled. Your chrysalis is beginning to form and wraps you up nice and safe.
As the wind begins to stir, you feel the branches of the tree move back and forth, slowly and safely. The rocking of the tree is gentle and relaxing.
Slowly and safely, a butterfly forms.
It has your favorite colors, painted along the wings. You gently breathe in and out, imagining the opening of the wings in your mind. The butterfly spreads its wings to dry and slowly begins to fly up and away from the tree, into the warm sunshine. You watch as the breeze carries it away, slow and steady, up into the clouds. The colors are vibrant, the breeze is warm, and the sun is shining.
Take a breath in, and feel the air fill your lungs. Slowly breathe out and watch the wind bring the butterfly to its home in the sky. Each breath of wind takes away your worries and lifts them away on the breeze, you are free. With every breath out, you settle more and more into your body and a sense of calm you are here.
I am here. I am free. I am here. I am free.
Imagine you are a balloon, small and unfilled.
You can be any color, size, or shape when you are filled. With each breath you take in, the color becomes brighter. Every time you exhale slowly, the balloon is filled with a little more air and begins to take shape.
Breathing in, you fill with love. Breathing out, you let go of stress.
I am love. I can let go. I am love. I can let go.
This lets your body relax, your mind is free, and your heart is filled with the color and light of love.
Walking on the Sea Shore
We are going to take an imaginary walk on a beach today. Let’s picture it in our minds first. The sand is white and soft. The sun is warm but not too hot. The water is clear and shines a bright blue. You are walking slowly, feeling the sand cool and soft beneath your feet. The breeze off of the water is gentle and smells a little salty and fresh.
As you walk along the edge of the water in your mind’s eye, you notice a big and beautiful shell. It’s sitting on the sand just in front of you and waiting for you to pick it up.
You hold it in your hand, and it fits just right. You lift it to your ear and listen to the whooshing sound of the ocean as the shell whispers to you.
The sun shining down from the sky reminds you that you are taken care of, loved, and safe. As you breathe out, you know you are safe.
Breathe in, I am here. Breathe out, I am safe.
I am here. I am safe. I am here. I am safe.
As you continue to breathe and feel the moving air through your body, let your hands and fingers relax into the earth. Let your breathing be slow and steady like the waves. Let your legs and toes relax onto the floor. Picture the beach being a place of calm, where you can come back to at any time in your mind to feel relaxed and loved.