MindBody Kids

In children, mindfulness-based practices lead to:

  • a decrease in aggressive and non-compliant behavior (Singh et al., 2006, Singh et al., 2007B)
  • a decrease in aggressive behavior with conduct disorder (Singh et al., 2007A)
  • a decrease in symptoms of anxiety (Semple et al., 2005)
  • a decrease in symptoms of ADHD (Zylowksa, 2008)
  • an improvement in attention and social skills with a decrease in test anxiety (Napoli et al., 2005)
  • an improvement in self-regulatory behaviors and executive functioning amongst preschool and elementary school students (Flook et al., 2010)
  • an improvement in social relationships, self-control, and academic performance amongst middle school students (Rosaen & Benn, 2006)


Mind-Body Practices in Children and Youth

Data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey show that 3.7% of US children 4 to 17 years of age used mind-body approaches. Children and youth were more likely to use mind-body therapies if they experienced pain-related conditions or emotional, behavioral, or mental conditions.

The most common reasons for the use of mind-body approaches were:

  • to improve overall health and feel better
  • to reduce stress levels
  • to relax to feel better emotionally
  • for general wellness or disease prevention

Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is a powerful mind-body technique that invokes all of the senses - sight, sound, taste, touch, smell, and movement.

One pediatric study using guided imagery in a 12-week lifestyle intervention trial in 29 Latino adolescents with obesity showed:

  • statistically significant reductions in salivary cortisol (reflects less stress)
  • improved physical activity
  • promotion of health behavior change in the treatment group

Another study combined guided imagery with progressive muscle relaxation in 22 children ages 5 to 18 years with recurrent abdominal pain showed a statistically significant reduction in pain throughout the 2-month follow-up period.

Home-based audio-recorded guided imagery also has been shown to be effective in the reduction of recurrent abdominal pain in a treatment group of 34 children ages 6 to 15 years who were randomly assigned to receive guided imagery versus standard care. Results were maintained throughout the 6-month follow-up period.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is aimed at enhancing individuals’ innate capacity to be purposefully aware of their present-moment emotional, cognitive, and sensory experiences. Through instruction in formal and informal meditation techniques, this capacity for purposeful, moment-by-moment, nonjudgmental awareness develops, along with the ability to shift attention.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs for youth have been shown to:

  • improve mental health symptoms
  • improve coping skills
  • improve regulation of emotions
  • decreased blood pressure

Concentration Meditation

Concentration meditation involves focusing attention on one specific thing, such as a word, phrase, or object. Studies included both transcendental meditation (TM) and the relaxation response.

TM has been shown to:

  • decrease blood pressure and left ventricular hypertrophy among African-American adolescents with prehypertension
  • result in fewer negative school behaviors such as absenteeism

Relaxation response training has been associated with improvements in self-esteem.

AAP SECTION ON INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE. Mind-Body Therapies in Children and Youth. Pediatrics. 2016;138(3): e20161896

Guided Meditation: The Balloon

This guided meditation brings a visual component to a very simple deep breathing exercise. You can do this standing or seated.

  1. Relax your body and begin to take deep inhales and slow exhales through the nose.
  2. Start to take a slow, deep breath to fill your belly up with air, as if you’re trying to blow up a big balloon. Expand your belly as much as you can.
  3. Slowly let the air out of the balloon (through the nose) as you release the breath from the belly.
  4. Encourage your kids to feel their entire body relax each time they exhale, each time air is slowly being released from the balloon. You can even make a “hissing” noise to encourage them to slow down the exhale even more, “Like letting air out of the balloon.”
  5. Continue for several minutes.

If the child you’re teaching is younger, you can add a little more detail and fun to the exercise to keep them engaged. Young kids, especially under the age of 6, love the extra movement when they’re learning to bring awareness to their breath. Encourage them to stand up in a relaxed way and follow these steps:

  1. Ask them to think of their favorite color and picture a giant balloon of that color in their mind.
  2. Then have them take a slow, deep inhale through the nose, filling up their tummies with air as if trying to blow up a giant [their favorite color] balloon. As an option, you can also have them stretch their arms open and overhead to represent expansion and the big balloon.
  3. When their balloon is totally full, have them hold their breath at the top, and then you can “pop the balloon” for them (gesture finger to belly) and they can fall down as they exhale.


Tips for using breath in kids:

  • Try incorporating deep breathing into your children's daily bedtime routine—it can help them wind down for the night and make meditation easier to do when other situations arise.
  • Remind grade schoolers and teens to take a few deep breaths before answering a difficult question at school, taking a test, or before an athletic performance.
  • As young children learn to manage strong emotions, deep breathing can be part of the process—especially before and after time outs.


Meditation app for Kids

My Light Shines Bright iTunes Google Play

by Chopra Enterprises Corporation

Web Resources:








Additional Mindfulness Meditation Research in Children & Youth:

Black DS, Fernando R. Mindfulness Training and Classroom Behavior Among Lower-Income and Ethnic Minority Elementary School Children. J Child Fam Stud. 2014;23(7):1242-1246.

What did they study?

The curriculum of the Oakland-based Mindful Schools program, which serves low-income, ethnic-minority elementary school students. The Mindful Schools curriculum lasts five weeks, with three sessions per week, and focuses on mindfulness practices that help children pay attention, build empathy and self-awareness, improve self-control, and reduce stress. More than 400 students were evaluated in total in this study.

What did they find?

Significant improvements in:

  • paying attention
  • self-control
  • classroom participation
  • respect for others

Klatt, M., et al. (2013). Feasibility and preliminary outcomes for Move-into-Learning: An arts-based mindfulness classroom intervention. Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(3), 233-241.

What did they study?

The feasibility of an eight-week mindfulness-based program called Move-into-Learning (MIL), administered to two classrooms of third graders at a low-income, urban elementary school in the Midwest. The MIL program involved a weekly 45-minute session, led by an outside trainer, that included mindfulness meditation, yoga and breathing exercises set to music, and positive self-expression through writing and visual arts. In addition, the two classroom teachers led shorter, daily practice sessions that reinforced those skills.

What did they find?

Significantly less:

  • hyperactive behavior
  • ADHD symptoms
  • inattentiveness among students

Wisner, B. L. (2013). An exploratory study of mindfulness meditation for alternative school students: Perceived benefits for improving school climate and student functioning. Mindfulness. Published online in advance of print.

What did they study?

At-risk high school students’ perceptions of the benefits of mindfulness meditation. Students attending an alternative high school in a low-income, rural area participated in half-hour guided mindfulness meditation sessions, offered flexibly at least twice per week for eight weeks.

What did they find?

Students reported:

  • stress relief
  • an enhanced school climate
  • improved teacher mood

Kuyken W, Weare K, Ukoumunne OC, et al. Effectiveness of the Mindfulness in Schools Programme: non-randomised controlled feasibility study. Br J Psychiatry. 2013;203(2):126-31.

What did they study?

The acceptability and effectiveness of a British program for students ages 12 to 16 called the Mindfulness in Schools Program (MiSP). The MiSP curriculum consists of nine scripted mindfulness lessons, delivered weekly by trained classroom teachers. In this study, involving over 500 kids total, six schools receiving the MiSP program—and whose teachers had already been trained in the program—were matched with six similar schools where teachers had expressed interest in mindfulness but had not been trained in MiSP.

What did they find?

Students reported:

  • decreased depression symptoms
  • less stress
  • significantly greater well-being

*The more frequently students reported using mindfulness practices, the better their scores were.