Your child’s brain is wired for discovery. A securely bonded child will explore his environment and test its limitations. To facilitate the most growth possible, you have to make sure that the environment will stimulate emotional and intellectual development. As you throw more children into the mix, it becomes increasingly important that you understand how to create an environment that caters to and fosters the right kind of growth for each child. From creating a print-rich environment to setting safe boundaries, I’ll teach you how to create a home dynamic that allows your tiny explorer’s natural curiosity and advances her higher-level cognitive and emotional development.


The Gift of Meditation

I began meditating not for any spiritual or religious reason, but rather to help my children become better students. I was a school teacher and therefore well aware that many very bright children were unable to get their act together and tap into the complete range of their abilities. One day after school, I came home to find a women’s magazine that had been mailed to me as an advertising promotion. On the cover, in bold type, was a headline that stated that meditation increased concentration. I casually began to read. The article immediately grabbed my attention by stating that children could learn to focus and concentrate more effectively if they could just learn to meditate. I was hooked. I read the article from beginning to end, and then followed the directions given for meditation. It was easy, and I learned it immediately. It was the most natural thing I ever did, because it focused on breathing, the one thing I knew how to do without instruction. As the days went by, I found that I looked forward to the few minutes each day when I entered a state of complete calm and quiet. Pretty soon, I noticed that I was receiving benefits just from those few minutes each day I spent in that peaceful space.

After putting my children to sleep at night, I would set my own alarm for twenty minutes, the time allotted in the magazine for each meditation session. By setting an alarm, I didn’t think about the time and was freed up to just be. The article also gave a nonsense syllable to repeat as a mantra. The word they gave was Nadam. Though they described this word as a nonsense syllable, a word that was tonal and without meaning, I later learned that it was actually an early Hebrew name of God. Via the suggestion of the article, I played classical music, turned off the light, and sat down at the foot of my bed to meditate. I created my own practice, doing two twenty-minute segments each day, one in the early morning before I woke my children for school and the other after I put them to bed at night. Since I had no preconceived idea of what meditation could achieve, I just surrendered to the process, opening to the gentle flow of my breath with a beginner’s mind. Soon, I noticed that I was not easily ruffled by outer events, and that fewer things seemed to bother me than ever before. What I didn’t know was that my body and mind had entered into the alpha state of total relaxation, which caused my endorphins to elevate. This feeling of contentment spurred me on to continue meditating for twenty minutes twice a day.

What I later learned was that meditation can take you quickly into REM sleep, which is deep and renewing. Because half an hour of meditation equals approximately four hours of sleep, in only twenty minutes twice a day, I was gaining those residual benefits.

Soon, my mind and body worked so well together that friends and colleagues began to notice. Once, when I was competing in a tennis tournament, my competitor jumped the net and asked me if I was taking tranquilizers, which of course I was not. She just couldn’t get over how calm and focused I was. I was never more than a B tennis player, but I did win that particular match. This natural state of ease continued for the rest of my life, often giving me the sense that I was walking through the day on a soft cloud. Though it seemed strange, I really did experience that state which is commonly referred to as being in the tau, or in the “the flow.” No matter what I was doing—writing, reading, teaching, loving, parenting, or participating in sports—I felt cool, calm, and connected.

I continued my meditation practice for a month before I actually began teaching it to my children, recognizing that I needed to experience meditation before I could transfer the practice. One of my favorite stories about Gandhi illustrates this very idea.

There was once a poor woman in India whose son contracted diabetes. Though he was told that eating sugar was dangerous to his health, he continued to do so. And no matter what his mother did, she could not convince him to give up sweets. She had heard of the great master Gandhi, and wondered if he could help her child to stop eating sugar. Though she lived far from Gandhi, she used all of her money to travel for several weeks, until she finally arrived at Gandhi’s door. Receiving an audience with the Mahatma, the woman immediately explained her fear that her diabetic child would die if he didn’t give up sugar. Certain that Gandhi would help her, the woman asked if he would just command her son to stop. However, Gandhi looked in her eyes and in a commanding voice told her to return to him in three weeks. The woman couldn’t believe it. She thought, “Three weeks, it took me almost that long to get here. I’ve used up all of my money, and my son is quite ill. Not only that, but he’ll continue eating sweets until I return.” She begged Gandhi to change his mind, but he did not. She followed his instructions to the letter, returning home with her son, only to repeat her trip three weeks later. Now, Gandhi looked at the boy in the eyes, and in a commanding voice said, “Stop eating sugar now!” The mother was shocked. “Stop eating sugar now? That’s it?! That’s what we had to make a three- week trip for, back, and forth, over land and sea, to have you say, “Stop eating sugar now”? And Gandhi replied, “Yes, madam, because when you were here three weeks ago, I was still eating sugar, so how could I tell your child to stop? But, in the three weeks that you were gone, I myself stopped eating sugar, and now I have the authority to tell him to stop.”

This is one of my favorite stories because it demonstrates what is central to parenting: be what you want to see. With that in mind, I felt I had to learn meditation before I could teach it.

Within a very short period of time, I was on the way to becoming a meditator, reinforced by the subtle and positive changes I experienced in myself. After several weeks, I decided that I knew enough to be able to teach my children, convinced that it could be a successful tool to help my young children focus, concentrate, and experience a natural love for learning.

First we did a little stretching to help them settle down—before you can calm the mind, you have to quiet the body. Next, I put them both on the bed with me and just told them to feel their breath as they breathed through their noses, pointing out that the breath they breathed in was cool, and felt cool around their nostrils, while the breath they breathed out was warm, and felt warm around their nostrils. In this way, I engaged not only their rhythmic breathing, but also their senses of cool and warm. Pretty soon they were really into it, and each day, for just a few minutes a day, we sat on my bed breathing in and out, following a natural rhythm. This was all the more important because it was something we were doing together, something that they got to do with Mommy, and it was fun.

Once they were in the groove of focusing on their breath, I added a tonal mantra, which is basically a nonsense syllable that you can’t attach any meaning to, so that it doesn’t trouble the mind and can function as a benign point of focus. I gave them the same mantra I was using, Nadam, first saying it out loud, and then asking them to close their eyes and listen to it internally. I asked my older daughter Dawn, who was then seven, to help her younger brother Shawn, age four, to cut down on the giggling and silliness. By incorporating them into the process and giving them both a role to play, they became invested in the successful outcome of meditating. As a result, they rose to the occasion, especially because they were doing something so grown-up.

During the first month, we only meditated for five minutes. As their proficiency increased, I extended the time to ten minutes, twice a day. We would meditate at 4:00 p.m. when they came home from school, and at night after their prayers. That was our routine—and Shawn and Dawn loved it. When teaching anything new to a child, it is important to break it up into digestible bites, so when teaching meditation, pay attention to your child’s ability to be still and concentrate, keeping in mind that all instruction must be age-appropriate. Only after your child has grasped the new concept can you extend the time accordingly.

The benefits of meditation were hard to miss. Not only did this mutual experience feel both bonding and intimate, it exposed my interest to my children, so that they felt that they were sharing in my life. Meditation by itself automatically slows you down—in fact, a meditator can always recognize another meditator by the calm and ease of his breath, conversation, and comportment. Yet people often resist the idea of quieting themselves so that they can experience what Aristotle called the inner journey. Perhaps because surrendering to the process of stillness can resurrect inner demons and insecurities. However, what is actually residing in your unconscious or inner psyche is the peaceful you. Thus, as you confront the demons at the gate, they dissipate, as all bullies do. For what seems like timeless time, you touch your inner resource, the you that you were meant to be. This is actually your destiny, to be able to quiet yourself so that you can hear your inner voice, the real you. According to Carl Jung, that natural self is always better than the defended person you become when socialized.

From early childhood on, we begin to disown important parts of our- selves, and like an onion, we become layered by our defenses. But once you peel that onion, layer by layer through meditation, the individuated self comes forward, strengthened by the return of the creative energy you’ve used up by suppressing your disowned material. Jung called this disowned material the shadow, stating that the shadow was neither evil nor bad, just unknown to you. It is in the shadow where all the fertility for your life resides. Therefore, once you recognize, integrate, and embrace it, you are complete, enlarged creatively, as your libido and vitality return.

In time, each of my children began to exhibit especially positive and empathic behavior. I remember in particular when Shawn was in the first grade and another child was being bullied because he was Jewish. Shawn stepped forward and protected the little boy, reminding the children that they were his friends, though he too was Jewish. Because Shawn was well liked, athletic, big for his age, and successful at school, he was able to influence the other children, causing them to feel empathy.

My favorite story about my daughter Dawn occurred when she was thirteen. Girls this age typically have a lot of birthday slumber parties, and Dawn’s school chum was no exception. However, one of Dawn’s other friends was left off the list. Dawn felt so sorry for her that she decided to stay home and invite her to a pizza sleepover at our house instead. I can remember this experience as if it were yesterday, because when Dawn gave up her place at her friend’s birthday party, one invitation became available. Believe it or not, the girl that Dawn stayed home for accepted the invitation, leaving Dawn home alone. I said to Dawn, “I don’t think this girl is really your friend, as she clearly doesn’t share your values.” Dawn quickly responded, “Mom, my friend has many nice qualities in her character, this is just one of the negative ones.” Dawn was naturally empathetic, compassionate, and kind, and always looked at the big picture, rather than getting caught up in the petty minutiae that teens and adults often experience in relationships.

Meditation had begun to play a larger part in my own life. I was very interested in the way it seemed to affect everything. I noticed that I was more optimistic than most and that the little things that seemed to bother my friends didn’t faze me. Moreover, when I returned to school later in life, I not only learned material faster, but retained it better. Consequently, I began to examine the impact that meditation was having on my life, paying attention to the outer edges of my experiences.

Little by little, I realized that I was changing. Here I was, a working mother with a husband and two children, a condition that many today would consider stressful. Yet I seemed to navigate my life with ease. Having always had somewhat of a visual memory, my husband pointed out that my eidetic memory had increased. Somehow, I had stepped into a space where each day I felt self-contained, open, and happy. In the bath one evening, I cast a glance at my toes, bent out of shape from years of wearing high heels. As if seeing them for the first time, I felt moved with compassion and empathy for my poor little toes. I felt more loving with myself and others as I routinely and consciously quieted my inner critic. I realized that meditation had awakened me to my own inner resource, and by piercing the veil within, had released my inner light.

On my forty-second birthday, I went to Bangalore, India, to meet with the Dalai Lama. He was the keynote speaker at a mind-science summit there, titled “Science and Spirituality for the 21st Century” also attended by doctors, scientists, lamas, and monks. I had a private audience with the Dalai Lama on my birthday, but in fact it wasn’t very private: there were many people there, and each of us filed in front of him for approximately one second. I felt that I couldn’t get a chance to really talk to him and ask him the questions that I had prepared. The week that followed was filled with lectures and speeches on the power of meditation and its impact on science and medicine. I did have a second encounter with his holiness the Dalai Lama at the end of the week, and when I returned to Houston, a friend asked if I would host the Dalai Lama’s physician, who was coming to Houston to teach. He had been in seclusion in India for seven years and this was his first reentry appearance. In his entourage were monks from Tibet, California, and Houston, one of whom became my teacher and was affectionately called Geshelah. During that visit, Geshelah asked if I would host the Dalai Lama when he came to Houston in 1991. Another synchronistic moment in which I fervently said yes! Soon after that, our daughter Dawn died at the age of twenty-four of cardiomyopathy with fibrosis. And on the one-year anniversary of her death, April 12, 1991, the Dalai Lama arrived in my home with twelve of his monks.

As he walked through my garden, the Dalai Lama told me about the death of his own brother from hepatitis. He said that even though he was the Dalai Lama, and knew there was no death, he missed his brother. We spent time meditating and talking, both sharing our stories. I experienced in a visceral way how meditation connects people in the soft space of understanding, a space that most people never allow themselves to feel. When you open to another’s heart, pain, and suffering, you meet them at the edge of their feelings, and it takes you to a place of knowing.

Though I have studied with many teachers since, I still consider his holiness the Dalai Lama as one of my primary teachers.

I hope that sharing my own personal meditation journey will alleviate some of the anxiety and resistance often accompanying new ideas. Reducing stress affects everything in your life, as you learn to walk more lightly through your world. In fact, I credit my ability to meditate with my being able to survive the death of my daughter, twenty-nine years ago. For it was there, in that soft space, that I could find relief from the excruciating pain of loss. I often say that if I were on my deathbed, and a friend was nice enough to visit me, I would tell him or her that the only whisper of wisdom that I could leave as my legacy would be the word meditation. Even my late mother learned to meditate in her early nineties, which helped her adjust to the changes of her time of life.

Stress-reduction techniques, including massage and breathing exercises, are beneficial for your child at every age and stage of development. If you can help your child relax, he will perceive everything differently, his circulation will be better, and he’ll think more clearly. When you teach your child how to release her stress, everything is better; the colors and light around her, the sights and sounds, all become more vivid and intense. Moreover, when your child is old enough to learn how to meditate, he will also learn self-discipline. For the very act of meditating requires your child to sit still and harness his mind, keeping it from wandering and bringing it back when it does through simple breathing techniques. This is the very process your child goes through as she matures, but now it’s more pleasurable because it’s self-directed. Therefore, when your child learns consciously how to put himself in a relaxed state, he will lower his cortisol and increase his endorphins. Not only is this a pleasurable experience, but it also teaches your child how to unlock her possibilities. Your child will be not only smarter, but also calmer.

All these relaxation techniques, including yoga, qigong, and creative visualization, can be learned at any time and in any circumstance. It is never too late, and whether you’ve meditated all of your life or for two months, the effects are the same. For example, a seven-year study at MIT indicated that people who had never meditated before but were taught meditation over a two-month period received the same benefits and abilities, as the lamas and monks who had meditated since childhood. And, as previously discussed and as noted in this study, baroque music can also put the mind and body in a similar meditative state, and can accelerate learning as a result. All of these behaviors build on themselves and over time can be used in combination to enhance focus and concentration as well as relaxation.



A number of years ago, I completed a one-year pilot study in the Houston Independent School District, studying stress-reduction techniques and their effects on children’s math, science, reading, bullying, and so forth. I created a video in which I taught children how to do qigong before we moved to meditation, followed by a guided conversation, so that children could unburden themselves from their problems before beginning to studying. Choosing qigong was easy, as it is extremely powerful in its simplicity. In a sense, it is the root of all martial arts, including karate, tai chi, and so on. What is unique about qigong is its ability to unblock stress in the body by focusing on pressure points and meridians so that the practitioner relaxes almost immediately, opening more easily to meditation. Qigong is the teaching of carefully and skillfully unblocking the energy in the body, gathering it up for use in mental and physical health and healing. Qigong is an integrative practice of breathing, mental focus, and physical exercise.

Qigong can be used by all ages, primarily enhancing and storing energy. It is often used as a daily, or twice daily, technique, and it may be prescribed as a complementary approach to medicine. What is both exceptional and different about qigong is its adherence to the meridian structure.

Qigong is also set apart from other exercise methods by its physical properties, breathing techniques, and focused attention. Qigong is also essential for unblocking and circulating energy. This helps to lower stress, improving immunities, digestion, heart health, and the lymphatic system— accelerating recovery from illness by stimulating vitality. For those who practice qigong regularly, it increases a state of awareness and mindfulness, which consequently intensifies other states of consciousness. Finally, these mindfulness practices positively influence the properties of exercise while enhancing your total experience.

Qigong has the capacity not only to help emotional balance, but also to stimulate physical balance in children and senior citizens, in particular. Harmonizing the mind and the body by effectively balancing the meridians of both, qigong integrates the mind, body, and spirit. Qigong creates a positive atmosphere of wholeness and well-being, allowing you and your child to confront the negative self-talk that is so prevalent when these systems are unstable, or out of balance, by uniting or integrating your inner and outer life. This is wholeness.

There are many postures in qigong. Some supporting internal needs, and some external, all leading the practitioner to an ever more balanced, happy, and vital life.

I have practiced qigong for twenty-five years, and it is the approach that I used, in conjunction with meditation, in my one-year public school pilot study researching stress-reduction techniques on students’ math, science, reading and bullying.



Yoga can also be used as a prelude to meditation, and as in qigong, young children can learn it rapidly. The word yoga comes from the Indian word for union, to yoke or to integrate, and the movements allow your child to redirect her frenetic energy. Soon your child will discover that the yoga postures demand focus and concentration, leading to a relaxed state of being. In fact, certain kinds of walking meditation fall under the spectrum of yoga. When your child becomes more proficient at yoga, his poses will resemble meditation. Athletes call this state “being in the zone.” When your child enters the zone on his own, he can learn everything with ease.

Three-fourths of the world practice some form of stress-reduction technique, and yoga has become mainstream. Yoga uses not only postures and poses but also breathing to balance the dual forces of mind and body. There are many forms of yoga, including Ashtanga (a high-energy, high- heat power yoga), Tantra (which include rituals that awaken the kundalini life force within the body), and dozens more. Listed below you will find a primer for the various types of yoga, so that you can select the appropriate form for your child’s age and stage.

I practice hatha yoga, probably the most popular in the United States. It is a general yoga that translated means “complementary forces”—in a sense, the balance between the sun and the moon. There are one thousand postures, called asanas, in hatha yoga and many of these postures are based on the physical behaviors of jungle animals, especially from the cat species. Thus, hatha yoga is a favorite among children, as not only is it fun to imitate animal postures, but the results of relaxation and stress reduction are immediate. Most of the movements described in this book are taken from hatha yoga.

How  Yoga  Benefits the  Mind and the Body

The wonderful thing about yoga and its influence on both the mind and the body is that its benefits can be transferred to other areas of your child’s life. For example, by simply controlling his breath, your child will have a feeling of peace and calm. Another advantage is that the postures themselves tone all the muscle groups while increasing strength and stamina. Beginning her day with yoga literally stretches your child’s sense of well-being, affecting all of her interactions.

When the body and the mind work together in a harmonious fashion, your child’s brain is used like an orchestra. In a sense, as his body becomes limber, so does his mind. Though education in the West focuses on the mind in particular, the best possible approach is to integrate the mind and body. Your child’s head is attached to her neck, and what affects one affects the other. When the body and the mind are exercised together, your child can concentrate his energy in a thoughtful and skillful way.

The first step in teaching yoga is the same as teaching all other relaxation techniques: the measured and focused attention to the breath. Because breathing is necessary and natural to our existence, we all know how to do that. If you lie on your back on the floor, you’ll notice that you’re not breathing from your chest, but rather from your diaphragm. This is the same way that your baby automatically breathes at birth. Asking your child to watch his tummy move up and down as he breathes in and out is the first concentrated effort at yoga. Asking him to feel the cool air as he breathes in and the warm air as he breathes out will direct your child’s attention not only to his breathing, but also to the sense of the warmth and coolness against his nostrils.

Though breathing is taken for granted, by learning to control her breath in yoga, your child will soon realize that the rhythm and pace of her breathing will also affect her state of mind, her mood, her focus, and her health in general. In this way your child gains control over something essential using the technique of breathing as a tool to help him manage his own stress and relax. Slowing down his breath, your child will train himself to deal with any difficult situation, including bullying. Moreover, by delaying reactive behavior through breath control, your child is also maturing. The more she practices controlling her breath in relation to the needs of her environment, the more she will develop the wisdom of her own authority. Like the wise old turtle who carries the world upon his shell, keeping it steady and stable, your child will also be able to stay calm in the midst of chaos through the slow and balanced control of his breath.

Luckily, yoga is not a competitive sport, and anyone can follow it. In that respect, you don’t even have to be flexible or well-coordinated, for each person practices the postures in his own way and at his own pace. Yoga in particular discourages comparisons between children, asking them to take time in rather than time out. By calming the breath and learning how to use it to manage stress, your child will feel a confidence and a sense of knowing that will guide him toward more patience and less negative talk as he gains control over himself by confronting his inner critic. Then, yoga becomes the great collaboration between your child and himself.


Yoga’s Positive Educational Benefits

Yoga allows children to be in the present. It reinforces the idea of paying attention to the here and now. Whether in a classroom or any other educational setting, yoga teaches your child how to focus and concentrate. Consequently, he can learn not only with greater speed, but also naturally and with ease. The skill of yoga is that it teaches self-discipline, and self-discipline offers your child a feeling of self-control. Ultimately, that self-control transfers to an assured sense of self and positive self-regard. Anything learned in the early stages of life is integrated into the psyche and can be easily incorporated into your child’s daily routine. In a sense, yoga learned early becomes second nature to your child. As he spends time each day being, instead of doing, he automatically supports his own resource and intrinsic value. Now your child will know how it feels to be self-satisfied and successful, listening to his own inner guide and finding his own truth.

Our culture is finally awakening to the ancient wisdom of stress-reducing techniques. There are now many schools across the United States that presently use yoga in their curriculum—it is currently referred to as “om schooling”—and the academic results are impressive.

In 2001, Time magazine honored the Accelerated School, a public charter school in Los Angeles, with the school of the year award. The Accelerated School incorporates yoga in their course curriculum, teaching yoga once a week to every child from kindergarten through high school. Further, the Accelerated School created an environment where children are self-aware, learning about health and wellness. As a result of practicing yoga as part of the school’s culture, the children at the Accelerated School are calmer, face less bullying, and are more focused and prepared to learn. These children have been taught how to self-manage their stress, so when they are confronted by bullying, they concentrate on their breath instead of hitting, taking time in rather than facing time out. The annual report from the Accelerated School indicates that “the students benefit from the positive effects of consistent yoga practice. And that the results are visible in the classroom.”1

Another school using yoga for kindergartners is Todd Elementary School in Briarcliff Manor, New York. Here, children as young as five practice yoga exercises in which they imitate the animal postures of lions, dogs, and house cats. At the end of their yoga routine, these children are asked to lie down on mats on their backs on a clean floor on the floor. Then they are asked to think about and visualize something that makes them happy, and to experience what it feels like to be in their body. This state of rest is really our natural state, and thus children therefore respond to it much more easily than adults. According to Claudia Teicher, who taught yoga at Todd Elementary, children are often told to calm down without having the tools or skills to get there.2 In a New York Times article, Teicher stated that yoga is the tool that has proven to help children reach a state of calm.

The Health and Wealth Benefits of Yoga

The medical community is using yoga and other stress-reduction disciplines not only to help patients manage their stress and lower their blood pressure, but also to reduce the need for pain medication, accelerate recovery time, lower anxiety, and stimulate healing.

According to a study by Dr. Dean Ornish, clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, patients who practice yoga for an hour each day, while following a low-fat diet and moderate exercise, reversed coronary blockages 82 percent of the time. Dr. Ornish proved that there was a direct correlation between practicing relaxation techniques, such as yoga, and the ability to create a state of calm, reducing stress, and hence coronary blockages.

In another study, students who practiced yogic breathing for only ten days were able to increase their spatial memory 84 percent more than a similar population of students without any yoga instruction.

Research also indicates that women just beginning yoga increase their heart and lung capacity when regularly monitored on treadmill tests over the course of four weeks of yoga lessons.

Yoga is beneficial for everyone, whether they understand its philosophy or not. It’s not a religion, though there are people who find spiritual solace from its practice. Though it tones the body and helps focus the mind, it is not a sport or exercise. According to Georg Feuerstein and Stephan Bodian, in their book Living Yoga: A Comprehensive Guide for Daily Life, yoga “infuses our whole being with vibrant energy, thus energized or enlivened, we can go about the business of our daily living in a harmonious manner. We become highly creative, establishing order where there is chaos, instilling life where there is a vacuum, causing comfort where there is distress, in other words, because we are full of joy and life, we become a healing presence in the world.”3

In the following section, you will find particular yoga exercises specifically structured for your child’s age and stage of development. But be careful—once your child practices yoga, he may really like it.



Meditation is neither a religious practice nor a philosophy, but rather a technique to focus on a single point by quieting your mind and concentrating on your breath. Though there are many variations on the theme of meditation, they all rely on this same approach. As you increase the range, intensity, and scope of your concentration, your body unwinds and your circulation improves, sending more blood to the prefrontal cortex and your executive function. This allows you to process information better, hold images longer, and use your mind more efficiently. Meditation is one of the most preeminent forms of self-discipline. Through meditation you connect to your sense of self, strengthening your inner core, so you can follow your own course and productively redirect the energy and power of your ego, better known as your function. Meditators will tell you that meditation can expand all aspects of your life, including your memory and your ability to learn.

How to Teach Meditation to Young Children

Children as young as three can learn to meditate. After a short period of meditation, your child will feel alert, relaxed, and ready to learn. Because meditating feels so natural, your child will respond joyfully, soaking up anything that she encounters, like a blossom catching the sun.

When your child meditates, he learns how to alleviate his anxiety and tension and gain inner control over his mind and body. As soon as he grasps the basics of meditation, your child will immediately begin to use it correctly. And when he gets older, you will find that he reaches for meditation independently, whenever needed, to self-manage his stress. Even something as simple as focused breathing can help him diffuse the intensity of a bullying child or a disgruntled adult.

Whether at home or at school, children who meditate solve their problems internally. Thus, instead of needing “time out” to reestablish a sense of stability, your child can use “time in” as a tool to reset her inner state.


Where to Start

  1. An easy way to introduce meditation is to introduce it as part of rest, whether before naptime or before Most children resist naptime and fight the idea of going to sleep. It’s curiosity, really, and your child like most children, and perhaps like you yourself, would rather not miss out on activity, whatever that may be. But because meditation is something to do, and is not sleep or taking your child away from where the action is, he will be more willing to participate and engage something new and fun. Since meditation is relaxing, and when done correctly can put your child in a state similar to sleep, it offers your child all the benefits of feeling refreshed and revitalized without any angst or tears.
  2. Especially with toddlers, it’s important to keep meditation time Only a few minutes per sitting will do, definitely no more than five minutes. After your child has learned how to meditate, you can build on that timeline, slowly but surely increasing the five minutes a day to seven, ten, and so forth, until one day your little meditator is actually meditating twice a day, once in the morning and once in the late afternoon. For small children, ten minutes twice a day is sufficient.
  3. Create a quiet space in your house without It is helpful at first to play baroque music, in particular, in the background. Why baroque music? Because it is in sync with your child’s heartbeat, sixty beats per minute, and automatically relaxes him, preparing him to meditate. As your child’s breathing slows down in time with our baroque music selection, he will naturally relax.
  4. Now, ask your child to lie down, flat on his back, with his arms at his This can be done either on his bed or on a mat on the floor. The idea is to keep the spine straight, but not rigid. It’s more difficult at this age to teach children to sit and meditate. But if they lie down, their little backs immediately straighten out, and they actually breathe correctly from their diaphragm. All children, no matter how young, breathe from their tummies when placed on their back. They know instinctively the right way to breathe, and you’re reminding your child of this when you ask him to lie down in a meditative pose.
  5. Be sure to keep a blanket handy, because when the body relaxes, the body temperature lowers, and you want to keep your little meditator cozy and warm so that he can focus on his breath.
  6. Use a progressive relaxation exercise (described in the following section) to isometrically relax all of the body’s muscle groups, beginning at the feet and working up to the top of the This will put the body in a state of rest as your toddler prepares to meditate.


Progressive Relaxation Techniques

Progressive relaxation is a simple isometric exercise in which you tense and relax all your muscle groups from head to toe, relaxing the body by releasing muscle tension. It’s a good idea to begin meditation with a little progressive relaxation routine to help your child settle down and pay attention to his body. This technique can be used anywhere, at any time, standing up, sit- ting, or lying down. In fact, your child can learn, when faced with a difficult task or test, to simply give a total body squeeze to relax all of his muscles at once, isometrically. Progressive relaxation is even a great tool to use at night, helping your child self-soothe and fall asleep.

You can use progressive relaxation as a part of almost any activity. Similar to a basic vegetable or chicken stock recipe, progressive relaxation forms the foundation for a variety of other meditation routines.

Progressive relaxation actually takes less time to practice than it does to describe. The more your child practices this technique, the more rapidly he will tune into his body, learning how to relax those few muscle groups that remain tense. Soon, he will be able to command his muscle groups one by one to relax. Eventually, he will be able to go through the entire progressive relaxation routine and achieve a full-body tension release in a few short minutes. It is one of the most important techniques you can teach your child. It will be used again and again—at every stage in your child’s development. It is the basic prescription for relaxation that people of all ages can follow.

Let’s Begin:

First, ask your child to lie down flat on his back with his hands a few inches away from his thighs. Then, tell him to close his eyes while asking him to think about how his body feels without commenting on it. This sets the stage for guiding your toddler to quiet down.

Direct your child to squeeze his toes while thinking “squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.” This allows him to tense and release his toe muscles three times. Next, tell him to let go and tell his toes to relax.

Then, ask your child to squeeze his calf muscles or leg muscles three times, while repeating to himself “squeeze, squeeze, squeeze” three times. Now, tell him to let go and command his leg muscles to relax.

Following the path of muscle groups, ask your child to isometrically squeeze his thigh muscles three times, while saying to himself “squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.” Now tell him to let go and tell his thigh muscles to relax. Now, ask your toddler to squeeze his buttocks three times, while repeating to himself “squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.” And letting go, silently repeat the word “relax.”

Next, ask your child to put both of his hands on his stomach, asking him to breathe in, filling it with air like a balloon. Then ask him to hold his breath, repeating the words “hold it, hold it, hold it,” three times. Then ask him to blow out the air from his tummy while repeating to himself “blow out, blow out, blow out,” feeling his tummy recede. Now, tell your child to tell his stomach to relax. Remember to use age-appropriate language and information matching your child’s stage of development. Thus, for older children you’ll use more complicated and accurate words, such as calling the “tummy” a diaphragm or abdomen and using words such as “exhale” and “inhale” instead of “blow, blow, blow” or “breathe in.” Nevertheless, it is still important to tell your child of any age to continue to hold his breath until he blows it out on the exhale, saying to himself “blow, blow, blow” three times. This will remind him that not only is he breathing in and out, but deeply and slowly.

Next, ask your child to place both of his hands on his ribs, filling his ribcage up as he inhales and exhales. Once again, tell your child to place his arms gently by his sides, asking him to breathe in while repeating to himself three times “slowly in, slowly in, slowly in,” and then breathing out, repeat- ing to himself three times “slowly out, slowly out, slowly out.” Finally, ask him to silently repeat the word “relax.”

Now, tell your child to fill his chest with air as he breathes in, repeating three times to himself, “hold, hold, hold.” Next, tell him to let the air go as he repeats three times to himself “blow, blow, blow” . . . and then, silently, “relax.” Next, with his hands down at his sides, ask your child to stretch out his fingers as far as they’ll go while repeating three times to himself “stretch, stretch, stretch.” Then let go, and silently repeat the word “relax.”

Next, ask your child to make a fist, squeezing his fingers while repeating three times to himself “squeeze, squeeze, squeeze”; and letting go, silently repeat the word “relax.”

Moving up to your child’s arms or biceps, ask her to squeeze her arms while repeating to herself three times “squeeze, squeeze, squeeze”; and let- ting go, silently repeat the word “relax.”

Ask your child to shrug her shoulders so that the top of her shoulders can almost touch the bottoms of her ears while repeating to herself three times “squeeze, squeeze, squeeze”; and letting go, silently repeat the word “relax.”

Ask your child to gently move her head from side to side three times in each direction. Then, ask her to bring her head back to center while silently repeating to herself the word “relax.”

Then, ask your child to stretch her mouth open as wide as she can while repeating to herself three times “hold, hold, hold”; and then letting go, silently repeating the word “relax.”

Next, ask your child to make a funny face by scrunching up her nose. Once again, ask her to repeat silently three times “hold, hold, hold”; and then letting go, silently repeating the word “relax.”

Now ask your child to squeeze her eyes tightly shut, making a funny prune face while silently repeating to herself three times “squeeze, squeeze, squeeze”; and then letting go, silently repeating the word “relax.”

Next, ask your child to scrunch up her forehead while repeating to herself three times the word “squeeze, squeeze, squeeze”; and then letting go, silently repeating the word “relax.”

Finally, ask your child to remain at ease and feel what it is to be in her body. This peaceful state is the real her. Then ask her to check in with her body, and say to her toes, “Toes, are you relaxed?” To her calves or legs say, “Legs, are you relaxed?” Then to her thighs, “Thighs, are you relaxed?” And then to her buttocks, “Buttocks, are you relaxed?” Then to her tummy, “Tummy, are you relaxed?” And then to her ribs, “Ribs, are you relaxed?” Then to her chest, “Chest, are you relaxed?” Then to her fingers, “Fingers, are you relaxed?” Then to her arms, “Arms, are you relaxed?” Then to her shoulders, “Shoulders, are you relaxed?” And then to her head, “Head, are you relaxed?” And to her mouth, “Mouth, are relaxed?” Then to her nose, “Nose, are you relaxed?” And to her eyes, “Eyes, are you relaxed?” To her forehead, “Forehead, are you relaxed?” By checking for tension, your child becomes aware that he is a partner with his body and that he can affect the tension in all of his muscles groups by simply tensing and releasing each one. If any one group is still holding tension, he can return to that muscle group and attend to it again. Then, with one mighty squeeze, ask your child to squeeze and release his entire body while telling his whole body to relax.


The Breath is Next

As soon as your toddler learns the progressive relaxation exercises, he is ready to approach meditation. The easiest way to teach your child meditation is by asking him to follow his breath. By deeply focusing on his breath, your toddler is becoming familiar with his own body processes and how to control them.


Let’s Begin:

Ask your child to pay attention to his breath, focusing on breathing in and breathing out. Then, ask him to notice that when he breathes in the air feels cool around his nose, and when he breathes out it feels warm.

Now, ask your child to continue concentrating on his breath while repeating a nonsense syllable both on the in breath and out breath. Allow your child to pick any nonsense syllable he wishes. As he continues breathing, your child should repeat the nonsense syllable, paying attention only to its sound. It is important for his word to be a nonsense syllable and tonal so that he can’t associate it with any image—only then will he stay focused. Otherwise, he can easily be distracted by the meaning of his word. In meditation, we call this situation “monkey mind.” Once your child has picked his nonsense syllable, it is a good time to explain to him that if any other distractions enter his mind, like the sound of a car or truck passing by, or music, that he should just say “hi” to that distracting sound and invite it, whatever it is, into his meditation. In this way, he can easily return to his nonsense syllable or mantra, repeating it again and again, with each in breath and out breath. Pretty soon, not only will his nonsense syllable fall away, but his focus on his breathing will fall away, as he relaxes deeply into the peaceful state of meditation.

Once again, ask your child to check in with his body, asking each body part if it’s relaxed. If there’s any tension anywhere, he can attend to it himself by telling that particular muscle group to relax.

Once your child has checked in with his body a second time and is satisfied that he is relaxed, we will return to his breath and the syllable of his choice. Little by little, he will synchronize the pace of his breathing with the repetition of his sound, keeping his mind focused.

When your child is ready, ask him to slowly open his eyes. Then, add a positive affirmation similar to “now you are ready to begin a wonderful day.” Next, ask your child to move slowly and carefully as he returns to a standing position, reminding him how peaceful and quiet his body feels. Finally, give your child a few moments to acclimate before beginning his next activity. In this way, he will savor and remember this peaceful feeling that he can return to anytime he wishes throughout his day.

It is important to recognize that meditation is an active experience, rather than sleep. At the end of her meditation session, your child will feel wide awake, alert, and restored.


Meditation Tips for Your Older Child

When your older child (five years or older) begins to meditate, set an alarm clock for five minutes. In that way, he won’t worry or lose his concentration, wondering when five minutes is up. Increase his meditation little by little, building on the ease at which he settles into practice. Your older child will find that meditating twice a day for fifteen-minute increments will serve him best. If he meditates before school, he will begin his day refreshed and alert, and if his second meditation session begins directly after school, he will once again restore his concentration and focus so that he can approach his homework revitalized and ready to go.

As time moves on, your older child will deepen his meditation. He will be able to quiet himself and enter a meditative state more easily. Soon, his feelings of well-being will support and scaffold his feelings of well-being, increasing his focus and stimulating his desire to meditate. After even a short session of meditation, your child will find himself wanting more.

To begin with, ask your child to lie down on the floor, or if he prefers, to sit comfortably on a cushion or chair. The only prerequisite is a straight back, so lying down on a mat will also get the job done. Be careful here— while you want your child’s back to be straight, you don’t want him to overdo it and make it rigid or tense. So use words such as “soft” or “elongated” when describing the posture. If she’s sitting, tell her to think of a string attached to her head, stretching her straight up. If he’s lying down, tell him to imagine a string tied to his toes and moving straight up to the top of his head. Now, tell him to relax while opening his chest and softening his breathing. Next, ask your child to check in with his body, making sure it’s relaxed, reminding him that meditation requires him to keep his mind quiet and concentrated on one single point.

Some children meditate with their eyes open, though this can be somewhat unsettling and distracting. Other children prefer to meditate looking at a lighted candle or a blank wall. Regardless of your child’s choice, it is important that it not be distracting. If he closes his eyes, he should keep his inner focus on the space between his eyebrows, often called the “third eye.” With his eyes closed but tilted slightly up, ask your child to direct his attention inward.

Now, ask your child to focus on his breath, breathing in deeply, as slowly and rhythmically as possible. Direct your child’s attention to how cool the air feels against his nostrils on his in breaths, and how warm it feels as he breathes out. Remind your child that by paying attention to her breath while using all of his senses, all disquieting thoughts will dissipate, and that slow and steady breathing will relax her body and calm her mind.

Your child may find that if he listens quietly and attentively to his breathing, he may hear an inner hum or tone. This first experience with both focus and concentration is fun for your child, as she receives the added benefit of being in sync with her body. For the first time, her body is responding to her efforts in a new and exciting way.

Most children find it easier to use a mantra in concert with their breathing, giving them a concrete distraction from their distractions. By choosing something tonal, such as the word “om,” “ah,” or “one,” your child will be able to concentrate on a word that is free of association, and hence free of thought. Here is where she begins her journey to mindfulness, the thought of paying attention to her thoughts and feelings.


At first you will ask your child to say her chosen mantra out loud. Soon, she will progress to saying it to herself, hearing it only in her mind. Listening to her interior mantra, she will quiet herself, making it possible to hear her own inner hum or tone. By drawing her attention inward, your child will soon not only hear but feel the pulsing sound of energy coursing through her veins.

Earlier in this chapter we discussed the idea of the “monkey mind,” in which the mind is thinking, thinking, thinking, constantly connecting thoughts but never at rest. As your mind flips from thought to thought, it resembles a monkey climbing from tree to tree. If your child experiences “monkey mind” while meditating and finds that his mind is wandering, instruct him to simply invite the unwanted guest of distraction into his meditation. What resists persists, so by not resisting random thoughts, they dissipate, and your child can easily bring his mind back to following his breath. This technique will help your child deepen and focus his concentration while capturing his “monkey mind.”

If you teach your child to maintain his calm, even when bombarded by uninvited thoughts, he will easily grasp the notion that those outside thoughts are not his problem. Thus, uninvited, they leave.

Otherwise, if your child resists outside interruptions and interferences, they will gain importance and disturb her meditation. I typically say to the uninvited guests in my meditation, “Welcome, come join my meditation.” By surrendering to what is, all tension goes away. Most importantly, your child’s focus will not be diverted. This is how to meditate.


Creative Visualization (or Creative Imagination)

There are a number of ways to describe creative visualization: visual imagery, visualization, creative imagination, and so forth. However, regardless of the name, the process is the same, one of imagining specific images, feelings, senses, and scenes to focus the mind on a particular task. Concentration and memory are used together as your child imagines himself achieving a desired goal. By engaging all of her senses and feelings, your child can actually experience the steps needed to successfully complete her objective. So by seeing and feeling himself practice and rehearse the moment-by-moment steps required, your child will be on his way to successfully reaching his target. Whether your child is learning to tie his shoe, or your grown-up child is competing in the Olympics, the approach is the same. The process works.

In the past, educators taught children that if they were positive thinkers, they could will themselves to achieve success. Unfortunately, this attitude, though uplifting and goal-oriented, seldom works. That is because success is much more than simply the “power of positive thinking.” It is the integration of both imagination and willpower. Here is how your child can use creative visualization to help him achieve his goals throughout his life. When your child combines his left-brain activity—logic, language, and will—with his right-brain activity—creativity, visual images, dreams—he will have the full thrust of his brain’s capacity. She’ll be able to process information better, hold images longer, and store memories deliberately. This last piece is the key to creative visualization, because when your child stores a memory it’s always attached to emotion, the emotion she felt when the experience occurred. Therefore, when he uses a creative visualization technique, he is deliberately storing an imaginary memory of him successfully achieving a desired goal. Your child’s brain cannot recognize whether the imagined experience is real or not—when it stores that memory, it stores it as real. When your child engages all of his senses while imagining an experience, his body reacts to the event as if it were real, including changes in his bodily functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, etc. Creative visualization is no different than what you experience in a movie theater, when your imagination places you within the story. Even though you know what you’re watching is fiction, you still respond physically. If it’s a scary movie, you may hear yourself scream.



Making Creative Visualization Work

There are two important parts to creative visualization: the first is for your child to relax while imagining accomplishing her goals. The idea is similar to watching a movie and uses your child’s creative function to visualize the specific steps needed for success. It could be as simple as imagining buttoning a coat, and practicing and rehearsing in her mind’s eye the exact steps needed. Older children might visualize winning a competition such as a spelling bee, acing a test, or winning a sports match.

Creative visualization will be a lot of fun for your child. Mastering the art of summoning her imagination, while using it successfully to achieve a particular goal, can be thrilling. Now she can practice this technique any- time she wishes. In time, your child will learn that not only can creative visualization be used to relax, but also to enhance memory, increase learn- ing, reduce pain, and lessen anxiety.

Because creative visualization is so effective in relieving pain, controlling blood pressure, and changing behavior, it is highly regarded as a treatment protocol in many medical contexts. For example, heart patients have been known to improve their clogged arteries, lower heart rate, stabilize blood pressure, and reduce stress. Cancer patients have been known to use creative visualization to imagine that their white cells are aggressively fighting off their cancer cells, using familiar formats similar to video game scenarios or movies to create the appropriate backdrop or environment for the theme of their imagination. One of my professors who was undergoing chemotherapy told me that he imagined a war similar to a Pac-Man video game in which his cancer cells were overwhelmed, killed by his protective white cells. He also engaged his other senses in the battle, heightening his experience by playing the soundtrack from the movie Alexander the Great. This all served to reinforce his memory, while adding to the reality of his imagination. His doctors were truly amazed at the results of his chemotherapy, telling him that never before had they witnessed such a rapid reduction in the size of a cancerous tumor. Today there are many such anecdotal accounts of the successful use of creative visualization in conjunction with cancer treatments. Thus, a treatment protocol that was once considered out of the norm has now become mainstream. Rallying a patient to use his own resources through imagination and creative visualization to confront his illness restores a sense of control that is lost when faced with the reality of a serious disease.

A number of years ago, I read an article in the Sunday Times magazine section reporting on research from John Hopkins on the impact of the mind on the body. This research revealed that when cancer patients were given placebo medication, they exhibited the same side effects as those patients who had received the real drug—losing their hair, becoming nauseated, and experiencing exhaustion, similar to their counterparts who were treated with chemotherapy. A further study indicated that patients who were taught how to utilize creative visualization and self-manage their own stress were able to vividly imagine their chemo medicine as an ally. By not resisting their treatment, but rather supporting it, they were able to substantially reduce the historically difficult side effects of chemotherapy.

Neuroscience in the twenty-first century teaches us that the mind affects the body, and that the body can be commissioned to affect the mind. Inasmuch as the body is a metaphor for the mind, both can be integrated to operate as a unit. For instance, even when you hug yourself, your mind translates the hug as personal, oblivious to the identity of the person doing the hugging . . . and the benefits are the same. Regardless of who gives you a hug, your psyche feels the connection, intimacy, love, pleasure, and warmth. Similarly, when you smile, your brain receives the smile with all the positive feelings that invokes, whether you are truly happy or not. Regardless of your genuine feelings or present situation, the practice of creative visualization can have a powerful effect on your emotional outcome.


Creative Visualization Basics for Your Child

It bears repeating that before you harness the power of the mind to work in harmony with the body, you must relax both. Begin by guiding your child through a progressive relaxation exercise, so that he can take the physical edge off before he engages his mind. Then, add a visual technique asking your child to imagine stepping on an escalator and, while breathing deeply, feeling himself moving down to the next floor. Another visual relaxation technique incorporates color with that escalator ride, following the rainbow spectrum down to the next floor. This incorporates more of your child’s senses as he feels the warmth of the color and relaxes in a joyful state. You can direct your child to first see an ultraviolet color on the seventh floor, riding down color by color, purple on the sixth floor, blue on the fifth floor, green on the fourth floor, yellow on the third floor, orange on the second floor, and red on the first floor. Not only will your child feel relaxed, but he will also access his creative function to gain control over his stress.

Now ask your child to think of something or somewhere that makes her feel especially happy and peaceful. It might be lying in a bath of warm water, on a sandy beach, on a float in the ocean, or in a favorite spot in her garden. Some children need a little nudge to think of such an imaginary place, in which case you can offer them some of your favorite spots, or just suggest things such as balloons rising in the air or sleeping in a tent or a cave. A creative way to help your child find his place of peace and calm is to tell him a story that takes your child along on a journey. I use this technique with my grandchildren, walking them through a meadow so that they use more of their senses, feeling the wet grass under their feet, hearing the babbling brook to their left, and seeing a mountain in front of them, with different color terraces that move up, instead of down, to a state of relaxation.

All of these ideas have one central focus in mind: to help your child relax. Once you and your child have found a favorite spot, ask your child to close her eyes and describe to you, in detail, what she sees. Children love this practice because they love to hold your attention by telling you a story. Your child will soon become adept at clearly defining her peaceful place. Soon, without any prompting, she will be able to go there by herself. Practice active listening while your child recounts visual, auditory, physical, and sensate details of her story. She may include the chirping of birds, nature sounds, smells, and so forth as she tells you what it feels and looks like to walk up the terraces on the side of the mountain. Help her emphasize, and elicit all the descriptors along the way, so that she can recall them in detail through positive association. For example, how the warm air feels calming, or how the water ripples, cool against her toes. With each detail, your child will find herself more authentically a part of her creative experience.

Although this particular autogenic exercise takes a little extra time at first, the more clearly your child can visualize her peaceful spot, the more quickly she will relax, until soon she can go there at any time she wishes, in no time at all. So, what originally may have required twenty minutes’ practice can now be effective in five minutes or less. What’s wonderful about this approach is that your child can use it independently, whenever she is under stress or anxious, as well as to heighten her performance.

In the final analysis, the first step in using creative visualization to help your child reach her goal is to guide her toward her peaceful place so that she can relax and experience a sense of calm and quiet. The second step, however, is to show your child how to use autogenic training to set her goals so that she can use creative visualization as a tool to accomplish them.


How to Teach Your Child to Set Goals

Regardless of which relaxation technique you use, the most important step is helping your child discover the goals she wishes to achieve. Setting goals is not as easy as it seems, because speaking isn’t doing. It won’t work to just say “I want to button my jacket” or “I want to tie my shoe,” because to achieve her goals, your child has to integrate her thoughts with her actions. If not, she will be doomed to create and repeat ineffective patterns of behavior.

Your child has the best chance to achieve his goals if he envisions them succinctly. Each detail should be identified and built into the image he holds in his imagination. The more complete and realistic he can be, the better he will be able to visualize this target. Short-term goals are more effective at first, as your child can see an immediate result, which only serves to reinforce his new creative technique. In this way, success builds on success and your child learns that his long-term desire, whatever it may be, whether tying his shoe or learning to button his coat, is just a series of small visualizations, built on themselves, until his goal is attained.


Goals and How to Achieve Them

Your child’s goal should be meaningful to her, for only then will she concentrate her energy toward accomplishing them. The more she values her goal, the more attention she will focus on her imagination.

At this time it is important to invest your child in the process, completely, by asking her what she thinks it will take to achieve her goal. Then, ask her to describe the necessary steps to reach her objective. Now, together you can investigate what actions promote success. By helping your child find clarity, you can work out, together, a definite timeline to master her task. An extra bonus of working with your child is that you become a team, and an intimacy develops as you pay attention to her progress, helping her make the needed refinements and adjustments to her plan. Soon, you will both be aware of the right time to adapt and expand her next step.

You and your child have become collaborators, working together to reach a common goal. And because it is her goal, she recognizes that she can depend on you to be her support and guide through her creative visualization process. By teaching her to make a detailed description of her objective, you are actually giving her the tools for self-mastery . . . to harness the power of her own self-interest. By showing her the efficacy of being flexible and adjusting her aim when needed, your child will experience the confidence that leads to competence and success.


The End: Now It’s Time to Visualize Goals

At this point it is time to guide your child to practice and rehearse the specific steps leading to her target. Until now, she has been using logical, left- brain processes. Now she will engage the creative right brain to achieve her endeavor. Here your child learns to use her whole brain like an orchestra, tapping into all of her inner resources to attain her objective.

Remember to first ask your child to practice his progressive relaxation techniques until he feels that he is in a relaxed and peaceful state. Once relaxed, he is ready to focus on the projected image of his goal. Since he has already prepared his plan of action, he can easily construct a detailed paradigm of his aim.

Rehearse and practice your child by reviewing the particular steps needed to master his goal, always paying attention to his level of success as you move him toward self-mastery. To begin with, ask him to relax, closing his eyes while he guides his mind toward imagining his aspirations. Then, direct him to take the appropriate actions to accomplish each part of his plan. For example, if your child wants to learn how to button his coat or tie his shoes, break down that objective into small, doable increments. Next, tell your child to imagine going through the exact motions of buttoning his coat or tying his shoe in his mind’s eye. Direct him to envision himself putting on his coat or shoe while imagining what it feels like to touch the coolness of the button, or the texture of the laces. As his fingers move to perform the steps necessary to accomplish his task, instruct him to think of how he feels emotionally as he succeeds in completing his effort with ease.

Finally, the more you guide your child to visualize and review the steps needed to achieve his goal, the more able he will be to summon those images on demand. Because the creative visualization experience takes place within your child’s mind, it can be practiced and rehearsed anywhere and at any time, including naptime or bedtime. Returning to these images again and again will help your child stay focused on his objective, while the creative imagery will infuse your child with the positive reinforcement that is essential for success.


Music for Learning

It is impossible to overstate the importance of music. As the poet William Congreve (1670–1729) stated in his book, The Mourning Bride, “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast.”4 And though many remember this iconic quote incorrectly, often stating that music charms to sooth the savage beast, if we had actually used music to learn this quote you might have remembered it correctly. Regardless of this quote, I think that we can all agree that music affects us deeply, in ways we don’t understand.

Science has long recognized the unique qualities that music has to affect us emotionally. Music has also been shown to influence the body’s healing abilities, as well as certain types of learning. Baroque music in particular has the capacity to optimize and accelerate learning in general.

So you might say that music has an almost magical quality to affect our lives. Advances in neuroscience show that music can enhance your memory and activate each part of the brain, allowing you to learn and recall information more efficiently. For instance, think of how you learned the ABCs. Probably your mother sang the letters to you with a now familiar song that all children know, a song that matches the alphabet to the musical scale, teaching children a particular note for a particular letter. No matter how old you become, you can still sing that alphabet song, especially when looking up material in a library or dictionary. Then there is the Jiminy Cricket tune by which we all learned to spell E-N-C-Y-C-L-O-P-E-D-I-A.

Whether it’s a nursery rhyme or a bedtime story, whatever material you learn accompanied by music is more easily remembered. And you remember the words to the songs you learned as a child throughout your entire life.

Why does music impact our memory? Neuroscience researchers can now qualitatively measure how listening and playing music enhances not only the function of your brain, but also its form. Brain scans indicate, for example, that music bridges the right and left hemispheres of the brain. That’s why stroke victims who have lost their ability to speak can still sing the words needed to communicate. The right hemisphere of the brain can learn the melody while the left can learn the words. As a result, stroke patients can still speak if phrases are sung to music.

When you listen to music, it activates both hemispheres. The entire brain is activated, opening to more modes of thinking and processing information. Listening to music expands the brain, making you happier, healthier, and more able to perform at a peak mental capacity.

Music has been an important part of every human endeavor and affects people all around the world in a universal way. Thus, you can easily see how music is deliberately used in our modern world to affect specific outcomes. When you shop in a grocery store or shopping mall, the music selection piped into the store is upbeat, encouraging you to shop. If you go the doc- tor’s office, the music selection is often meditative or calming, and if you go to a gym, the music there is often fast-paced and stimulating, encouraging you to exercise.

Music that accelerates learning should be relaxing, because relaxing music follows a rhythm and beat that’s in sync with your heartbeat, approximately sixty beats per minute. When you listen to relaxing music it puts you in a meditative state, sending more blood to the prefrontal cortex, the seat of your executive function, and improving circulation in general. As you relax, your focus can turn inward, which is the perfect condition for accelerated learning.

As we said before, not all music evokes the same response. Most music listened to throughout the day falls under the category of entertainment and is designed to lift our spirits and stimulate excitement. This type of music is more intense with a faster tempo. Faster music accelerates your heartbeat, which is fun and exciting but not peaceful or calming.

But music that is in sync your heartbeat will put you in the right format to learn. While it calms you down, it increases your ability to concentrate and focus. As restful music quiets you naturally, it regulates your heartbeat to a deeply relaxed state in which your brain waves change from their beta frequency of 13–39 cycles per second (cps) to an alpha range, about 8 cps. The earth has a particular harmonic resonance or electrical magnetic field, which also pulses at approximately 8 cps. By calming your body and your mind to its natural state of relaxation, your mind is more alert and receptive to learn.

In particular, it is the slow “largo” or “adagio” movements of baroque music, written by Vivaldi and Bach in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, that are in sync with the natural rhythm of your heart. Playing a stringed instrument such as the harp or violin offers the most benefit for improving health, memory, and focus. That’s why you often see a harpist playing in spaces orchestrated for healing modalities, including the lobbies of hospitals and senior citizen facilities.

Music in general has an almost magical ability to inspire and stimulate learning. A University of Kansas music therapist, Janalea Hoffman, used baroque music as background while giving a homogeneous number of nursing students a test. Using an experimental model for her research, Hoffman did not administer the music treatment to the control group. The outcome of her study demonstrated that the nurses who received the music treatment had higher test results and lower heart rates than those in the control group. Hoffman verified her preliminary finding that slow music, approximately sixty beats per minute, reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and reduces pain, all important protocols to accelerate healing while protecting the body against illness.5

At St. Luke’s Hospital in Cleveland, doctors used music as a protocol during surgery, discovering that their patients needed less sedation and less pain medication. Some of their music choices were baroque, including Vivaldi and Brahms. Dr. Raymond Bahr, once head of the coronary care unit at St. Agnus Hospital in Baltimore, noted that thirty minutes of baroque music in the andante movement had the same impact as 10 milligrams of Valium.

Music has been used to enhance mnemonic memory training for years. Foreign-language schools often employ the Tomatis Method, which relies upon music in conjunction with a mnemonic memory approach for language acquisition. Though the Tomatis Method has been successfully used in Europe, it is still not as accepted in the United States.

Baroque music in and of itself is meditative and thus relaxes the body, increases circulation to the prefrontal cortex, and helps the mind focus. If you did nothing else but listen to baroque music while completing a task, you would benefit greatly. I was determined to use classical music as background in my own children’s lives. When I became a grandmother, I encouraged my children to load their iPods with baroque music in particular, to be played around the clock in their baby’s nursery. To this day, a selection of baroque music can be heard in my grandchildren’s rooms when they study or play. Music improves both physical health and brain health, and it can make your child smarter, happier, and healthier. So why not put on baroque music? Such an easy step to positively affect your child’s ability to learn.

When using music as a teaching tool, perhaps teaching your child a nursery rhyme, lullaby, or ABCs, try “chunking,” breaking up into small chunks, the task to be learned. The small chunks should be able to be stated or read in less than four seconds. Then pause for a few seconds to let the new information find a home. Then add the next chunk of information, once again stated or read in four-second intervals. Remember to pause for about four seconds between chunks, giving the new information time to sink in, all the while having baroque music playing in the background.

Chunking information into small units has been used successfully as a memory tool. However, neuroscience has revealed that the brain also learns new material more efficiently when it is chunked. Because chunking breaks up new material into small bites, it creates a singsong rhythm, helping you to remember new knowledge effectively. This approach is similar to remembering a telephone number, address, or zip code by chunking a long number into smaller segments of two, three, four, or five.

When teaching your child anything new, it is important to elicit different styles of learning—auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. In this way the two sides of your child’s brain will be better at communicating with each other. By maximizing the use of both sides of your child’s brain, you will encourage brain plasticity, increasing blood flow to both hemispheres, reinforcing the brain’s capacity to change and grow. When your child uses his brain like an orchestra, he will increase brain synapses, which can enhance learning.

Since your child’s brain is uniquely receptive to outside stimuli, when relaxed, it performs optimally, as an orchestra. In order to perform at its best, each section of the orchestra must be focused, waiting for its turn to contribute to the music. A small amount of good stress helps the musicians be on high alert, waiting for their turn to perform. However, too much stress, rather than keeping them on their toes, can cause them to play poorly or even shut down. Without a coordinated effort, each musician playing his part, the show may not go on.


Create Your Own Accelerated Learning Playlist

It is the slow movement of baroque music that enhances learning. I’ve compiled a personal playlist of the selections that I prefer from classical baroque recordings, but you can find your own baroque music that best encompasses your taste, tempo, and style. While gathering recordings of baroque music, you may find that you prefer more modern composers such as Stephen Halpern, whose music carries a similar tempo, and rhythm.


Recommended Baroque Classics


  • Telemann: Largo from Double Fantasia in G Major for Harpsichord
  • Vivaldi: Largo from “Winter” from The Four Seasons; Largo from Concerto in D Major for Guitar and Strings; Largo from Concerto in C Major for Mandolin, Strings, and Harpsichord
  • Ravel: Alborado del Gracioso; Daphnis et Chloe, Suite #2; Pavane for a Dead Princess
  • Bach: “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”; Largo from Harpischord Concerto in F Minor, BWV 1056; Air for the G string; Largo from Harpsichord Concerto in C Major, BWV 975; Lute Suite in E; “Sheep May Safely Graze”
  • Corelli: Largo from Concerto 10 in F Major from Twelve Concerti Grossi, Op. 5
  • Dvorak: Serenade in D Minor, Op 44; Pachibel; Canon in D
  • Caudioso: Largo from Concerto for Mandolin and Strings
  • Haydn: Oboe Concerto
  • Albinoni: Adagio in G Minor for Strings



At this level, your child’s music experience is not only enjoyable, soothing, and fun, but also educational. Studies indicate that children who play the piano experience educational gains. According to neuroscientist Gordon Shaw,6 children ages three to five who participated in six months of piano lessons showed significant gains in spatial-temporal reasoning, which is the very aptitude needed in engineering, math, and chess. Not only that, but when compared with children who received singing and computer lessons, or no lessons at all, the children taking piano lessons still performed at a higher rate of success—and the older the child, the more significant the improvement of spatial-temporal reasoning. For instance, when second graders from a poor district in California took piano lessons twice a week for a year, they not only improved their math scores, but they performed on par with fourth graders from a neighboring affluent school system.


Additional Relaxation Exercises

The following exercises will help your child focus and relax.


Eye Relaxation Exercise

Relaxation exercises can relax and strengthen the eyes.


  1. Ask your child to look up at the ceiling without moving his head.
  2. Then, ask your child to look right, toward the right wall.
  3. Now, ask your child to look down toward the floor.
  4. Next your child to look left, toward the left wall.
  5. Now, ask your child to look around in a circle two times, then ask him to make a circle by moving his eyes in the opposite direction, for two more rotations.


Then, ask your child to reach out his hands out in front of his eyes and stare down at his hands for seven seconds.

  1. Now, ask your child to look across the room and stare at the opposing wall for seven seconds.
  2. Finally, tell your child to rub his hands together, back and forth, back and forth, as if he were rubbing two sticks together to make a Then tell him, when his hands feel warm, to put each palm over one of his eyes, feeling the warmth bathe his eyes for several minutes.


Breathing Relaxation Exercises

Your baby automatically breathes correctly, lying on her back while breathing from her diaphragm. But by the age of five, she starts to breathe more shallowly from her chest, and shallow breathing is not as relaxing. The following relaxation techniques will help bring your child back to a healthier, deeper style of breathing. If at any time your child feels dizzy or light-headed, just direct her back to her more familiar shallow breathing.


Blowing Bubbles

Teaching your child how to blow bubbles in a clear glass of water is the easiest way to help her direct her attention to her breathing in and out. Ask your child to make her blowing action steady and smooth, and if using a bubble loop, encourage her to blow out evenly and deeply. Another fun approach to blowing bubbles is to use baroque music as your background while using a bubble loop. You can find a simple bubble loop in any toy store or online.


Measured Breathing

Ask your child to lie down with her hands resting quietly at her sides. Then ask her to notice whether her breathing is fast or slow. Now, ask your child to try and slow her breathing down. Next, ask her how slow she can breathe without holding her breath, by simply and evenly breathing out and breathing in.


Breathe In Warm and Breathe Out Cool

Now, ask your child to notice how cool the air feels against his nostrils as he breathes in, and how warm the air feels against his nostrils when breathing out. Ask him to take several slow deep breaths, as he continues to notice that his in breath feels cool, and his out breath feels warm. By becoming aware of the change in temperature from cool to warm, your child is also focusing on his breath, which will automatically relax him and place him in a meditative state.


Tune into Your Tummy

Now, ask your child to place his hands on his tummy. Then, ask him to fill his tummy up with air like a balloon, by breathing in as much as he can. Next, ask him to push the air out of his tummy by breathing out. Soon, he will notice that when his tummy fills up with air, it expands, and when he breathes out, it goes down. Then, ask him to fill his tummy with air one more time while holding his breath for thirty seconds, repeat “hold, hold, hold,” and then tell him to breathe out, letting his tummy return to normal.


Meditation for Tots

Meditation gives your child an opportunity to tune into herself, practicing time in rather than timeout. Through meditation your child will learn how to focus, concentrate, and process information effectively. It is these very skills that will serve her well throughout her life, helping her to unite the hemispheres of her brain for optimum results.


Instructions Before You Begin:


  1. Explain to your child that she may get cold during meditation, so you will place a blanket at her side if she needs it.
  2. Next, tell her that she can either lie down or sit up on a floor mat, though lying down is more comfortable.
  3. Then, explain that you will dim the lights and put on baroque music in the background to help her relax.
  4. Then, introduce the idea of focusing on a sound such as om, ahh, or the word “one.” Explain that she can pick her own sound but that the sound should not hold any meaning, so that it is free of associations, which can distract her during her meditation.



Now You Are Ready to Begin:


  1. Help your child get Ask her to sit or lie down on a mat. If she lies down, ask her to place her hands gently at her sides, and arm’s length away from her body, palms up.
  2. Place a light blanket to the side of her mat, reminding her that she can use it anytime she wishes.
  3. Turn the lights down low.
  4. Now, ask your child to tell you her She will love this part of her meditation preparation, as she will get to tell you her choice of a sound and why she likes it. You can tell her now that her sound is called a mantra, and that all meditators, including Mommy, have one. If she is stumped for a sound, tell her that she can use the mantra om, which is a universal tone that is used worldwide and can be found in words such as the English word hello, the Arabic word Assalam Alaykom, or the Hebrew word Shalom. Whatever word she chooses is fine—the idea is to repeat her special word over and over again, quietly to herself, by using her inner voice. One word of caution here: stay away from food words, or words that can be associated with anything in general. In that way, she will not be distracted thinking of a specific object or food, instead of focusing on her breath.
  5. Then, instruct your child to repeat her mantra slowly, out loud, ten She will delight in the fun of hearing her voice speak her special sound. Next, direct her to try and match her chosen sound with her breathing. Then, ask your child to close her eyes, hearing and feeling her sound as it resonates with her breathing. Next, ask her if she can hear the sound of her breathing. Now, ask her to bring the sound of her word inside so that she can hear it with her inner voice. By making her word silent, but audible in her mind, she is preparing herself for future silent reading. And by matching the sound of her word to her heartbeat, your child is crossing the threshold into meditation and relaxation.
  6. This first meditation practice should be done for five minutes each Then, slowly, you can increase your child’s meditation time. Ultimately, you can build up small increments of time until your child is meditating for ten minutes once a day. Of course time should be flexible, as meditation should be experienced as fun, playful, and useful, not as an obligation to be resisted. The benefits of meditation are so evident and so immediate that soon your little meditator may want to meditate twice a day.


Preschoolers and Yoga

Your preschooler is unbelievably flexible. If you’ve ever watched your child dance to music, you know what I mean. When you introduce her to yoga at this age, it is amazing to watch the feats she can perform. Your little yoga master may even outperform you—the animal poses so excite her imagination that she might even get lost in the sheer revelry of doing full-fledged yoga poses. Each animal position is constructed to build on your child’s sensory awareness, ability to follow instructions, growing coordination, and sense of self. My grandchildren used to love going to the park with their mom to practice yoga, and when we would visit, I got a complete demonstration.



The Turtle Exercise

Show your child a picture of a turtle. Then, ask him if he has ever seen a turtle. Now, ask him to make believe that he is a turtle, while showing him the following turtle movements which will help him relax.


  1. Tell your child to let his head reach gently toward his Tell him to feel the weight of his head as he leans forward.
  2. Ask your child to raise his shoulders up toward his ears, then to raise his Now, ask your child to lower his shoulders, and raise his chin toward the ceiling.
  3. Ask your child to move his shoulders in a circle, while keeping his hands at his sides. Now, ask your child to reverse this action, forming a circle moving his shoulders in the opposite Before you begin step number four, make sure your child knows his right side from his left side, if not, this can be a wonderful teaching moment.
  4. Ask your child to look over his shoulder, first to the left side, as far as he can Then, ask him to do the same on the right. Then go through the turtle exercises one more time, so that your child will relax.


The Elephant Pose

This pose helps to increase lung capacity while energizing your little yogi.


  1. Ask your child to stand straight with her feet spread apart, clasping her hands together while allowing her arms to drop in front of her like an elephant’s trunk.
  2. Next, tell your child to breath in through her nose and, like an elephant, swing her arms up and over her head, being certain to arch her back while widening the expanse of her chest.
  3. Now, ask your child to blow air out of her mouth, while swinging her imaginary trunk with clasped hands gently from side to side, and then down through the center of her widespread legs.
  4. Finally, direct your child to breathe in again, repeating the entire movement by first breathing in and then breathing out with each complete set.


The Lighted Candle

This yoga pose helps your child relax her body while focusing her mind.


  1. Tell your child to sit on her knees with her hips resting lightly on her heels.
  2. Then ask her to inhale deeply while stretching her torso.
  3. Now, with your gentle touch, help your child hold the stretch in her spine on her out breath.
  4. Next, direct your child to roll her shoulders back, allowing them to fall on her down movement.
  5. Then, ask her to stretch open her chest as wide as she comfortably can.
  6. Now, direct her to drop her chin, relaxing her face and neck.
  7. Then, ask her to clasp her hands together in front, imagining that she is a candle with her hands her flames.
  8. Tell her next to close her eyes gently and relax with her eyes closed for ten seconds.
  9. Now, ask her to breathe naturally and feel what it feels like to be a candle.
  10. After one minute, tell your child to slowly, slowly open her eyes, look around quietly, and smile, paying attention to how good she feels.


The Rock Pose

The rock pose is wonderful for recharging and restoring your child’s energy level.


  1. Once again, ask your child to sit back gently on her knees, with her hips resting lightly on her heels.
  2. Then, help your child drop her body forward until it rests on her thighs. Now, let her forehead fall forward until she can gently place it on the mat in front of her, just beyond her knees.
  3. Now, ask her to put her hands at her sides close to her body with her palms facing up.
  4. Next, ask your child to check in with her body while telling her face to relax.
  5. Finally, ask her to be very quiet as she listens to her breathing, feeling the cool of her in breath and the warmth of her out breath.
  6. Then, with one final movement, tell your child to feel what it feels like to be in her body, asking her to try and connect with the earth or floor beneath her . . . and be still.


Be a Cat

This yoga pose helps your child practice claiming her mind and body.


  1. Ask your child to think of what a cat looks like as she lazily stretches.
  2. Then, ask your child if she can tell you something about a cat, for example, what a cat She will probably answer that a cat purrs, meows, and stretches.
  3. Now, ask her if she can show you how a cat stretches and meows.
  4. Then, direct your child to get down on her hands and knees as she imitates a cat, placing her hands right underneath her shoulders, and her knees directly under her hips.
  5. Then, while still on all fours, direct your child to spread out all fingers as far as she can, while pointing them straight ahead.
  6. Then, with straight arms, ask your child to press down on her hands and breathe out while rounding her back up toward the ceiling as high as she can . . . just like a cat.
  7. Next, ask your child to breathe in while looking at the ceiling and arching her back, placing one leg behind her, like a cat stretching.
  8. Have your child repeat this sequence, first rounding her back when breathing out, and then arching her back when breathing in, but this time stretching the opposite leg behind her, like a cat stretching all the way down his back to his tail.
  9. This pose can be repeated as often as Remember, however, to keep arms straight and movements slow and smooth.


The Dog

Ask your child to imagine herself as a gentle little puppy while she practices each puppy pose.


  1. First, ask your child to get down on the floor on her hands and knees, placing her hands right under her shoulders and her knees directly under her hips.
  2. Ask your child to open her hands wide, spreading her fingers while pointing them forward.
  3. Next, ask your child to curl her toes and press her hands and feet into the ground while pushing her hips up to the ceiling.
  4. Then, let your child’s head drop forward, as far as she comfortably can, so that she can look through her legs.
  5. Now, ask your child to stretch her back while straightening her legs and arms, pressing her heels through the floor.
  6. Next, ask your child to open her mouth wide as she imitates the way a dog yawns.
  7. Finally, ask your little yogi to hold this yoga pose for five breaths before lowering herself back down to her knees and hands.



The Squirrel

Ask your child to think of a squirrel. Then ask her to try to imagine that she’s a little squirrel.


  1. Ask your child to sit on her knees with her hands on her thighs.
  2. Ask your child to come up to a kneeling posture, bringing both hands out in front of her face.
  3. Then, ask your child to stretch each arm up, one at a time, as high as she can while making believe that she is looking for a nut.
  4. Next, ask your child to gather up the nuts and place them on her chest while taking turns reaching for a second nut with her other arm.
  5. Finally, ask your child to return to the rock pose, happy that she was able to store her nuts for the winter.


The White Cloud

This creative visualization is designed to help your child relax by teaching her to quiet her mind and focus her attention. When your child visualizes herself as a little white cloud, she will feel relaxed and able to engage in any activity, prepared to learn.


  1. First, go outdoors with your child and ask her to lie down on her back on a mat, either on the ground or on the grass.
  2. Then, ask her to look up at the clouds, imagining that she is one of the clouds in the sky, and feel how relaxing it is to just float on by.
  3. Now, return to the house and ask your child to lie down on a mat on the floor while doing one minute of breathing exercises to quiet her mind.
  4. Then, ask her to imagine that she is outside on a warm sunny day looking at a blue sky.
  5. Next, tell her to ask her body to relax while doing one complete body isometric squeeze to relieve any body tension.
  6. Then, ask her to imagine that she is relaxed and happy, looking up into the clear blue sky.
  7. Now, tell her to imagine what it feels like to be calm and peaceful as she sees a tiny fluffy cloud floating by.
  8. Ask her to watch the cloud and feel how happy it makes her when it stops right above her head.
  9. Tell her to continue watch the cloud, imagining that she is now the fluffy white cloud.
  10. Then, ask your child to make believe that she’s that little fluffy white cloud floating by in the sky, feeling joyful and relaxed.
  11. After this exercise, your child will take that feeling of well-being and relaxation with her wherever she goes throughout the day.


Exercises for Intellectual Development

When introducing these exercises and games to your child to enhance intellectual development, be careful never to impose any exercise on your child. If she is resistant, move on to something else. Let her guide you toward her interests. If she isn’t stimulated, interested, or excited, she won’t participate.

When your child is ready, her own inner teacher will encourage her to explore. At this stage, her task mastery is its own intrinsic reward. By mastering the object of her attention, your child will experience a feeling of success, which will motivate her to move on to the next stage of development. Now, she will learn even more, and this feeling of confidence will guide her to a strong sense of self and self-confidence. By reacting to outside challenges with only an intrinsic reward, rather than responding to the opinions of others, your child is demonstrating the beginning of her own maturation.

If at this stage your child is having fun, let her. When your child’s interest is focused and she is concentrating on a project—let her be. This focus activity is what your child thinks of as her work, and it is this focus and concentration that she will transfer to the art of learning.


The Game of Memory

In this game, your child will be encouraged to notice things in her environment. The idea behind the game is that the more objects you recognize in your surroundings, the more you learn. Repeat this exercise over and over again. Each time your child plays the memory game, she will be able to notice more details. Soon, she will point out objects from her environment throughout her day, all the while building up her memory.

Ask your child to lie down quietly, close her eyes, and practice a short breathing technique until she feels relaxed. This should not take more than two minutes. After one minute, ask your child if she is feeling relaxed yet. She will tell you how she honestly feels and if she needs more time. Now, you are collaborating and working together . . . having so much fun!

Next, with your child’s eyes still closed, ask her to imagine her surroundings here and now. Direct her to picture, in her mind, what objects are immediately in front of her. Then ask her what she remembers. Now, ask her what colors she can remember from her surroundings. Finally, with her eyes still closed, ask your child what she can see in her mind as she looks to her right and left side.

Then allow your child several minutes to simply use her imagination. Ask her what she imagines is around her. Next, ask your child to open her eyes and take a second look. Now, ask your child if she imagined most of the things or only some of them. Be sure to tell her that this is only a game. We are only having fun. Point out to your child that today her answer might be one way and tomorrow another. But little by little, each day, ask her to notice what she observes in her surroundings.

Your child will love playing this game with you if you keep it light and let her tell you everything that she remembers, answering questions such as: What color dress did you wear yesterday? What color shirt did your friend wear today? or What did you eat at lunchtime? Always remind your child that the more she notices and remembers, the more she will know about her environment.


Stimulating Objects to Manipulate, Feel, Observe, and Sort

At this age and stage, one of the more significant intellectual activities your child is compelled to engage in involves any object that she can classify, sort, number, or order. Your child can participate in any of the following games using common household objects, as long as they can be classified, sorted, numbered, or ordered. There are a variety of categories that can be used in these activities. For example, objects can be sorted by size, texture, color, or shape.

Thus, it is a good idea to keep a large stash of interesting and brightly colored items for counting, sorting, manipulating, and classifying. Some easy candidates are pots, pans, plastic lids, plastic bowls, different textured fabrics, and the proverbial large button. Fruits and vegetables are great for sorting, numbering, ordering, and classifying by a variety of categories, such as color, texture, size, shape, and smell.


Asking Your Child to Sort through Her Sense of Touch

Ask your child to categorize the different textures she feels while identifying them. For example, soft, silky, smooth, rough, bumpy, and so on. Help your child separate out the objects in each category that are the same and put them all together.


Ask Your Child to Line up Objects by  Their  Size

Direct your child to make a line of any particular category. For instance, large buttons, toy cars, baby dolls, and so on. Now, ask her to separate out, from each category, specific sizes such as small cars and large cars or large buttons and small buttons. Ask your child to hand you the smallest object in each category. Then ask her to hand you a bigger object from each category. Finally, ask her to hand you the biggest item from each category.

Help Your Child Sort by Several Different Classifications

This sorting game teaches a concept called multiplicative classification. Here, your child will learn that there are sub-classes of items and objects. For example, under the larger class of wooden beads, there may be various colored wooden beads, such as blue and red. Here your child learns by observing, manipulating, touching, and feeling interesting and unique items. Even before she can verbally describe the relationships between objects, she is beginning to understand them.

First, spread out piles of buttons that are different in size, shape, and color on a low child-sized table or on the floor. Then, ask your child to join you in sorting them, using one category at a time. For example, color. Here you can say to child, “Let’s take all the blue buttons and put them into one pile.”

Now, ask your child to join you in sorting the buttons using two classifications. For example, size and color. Ask your child to join you in putting all the large green buttons in one pile. Ultimately, you will want to increase the properties for sorting, adding one new classification at a time. For three properties you may classify texture, size, and shape.


What Your Child Can Learn by Emptying the Dishwasher

Invite your child to help you in emptying out the dishwasher, by putting dishes, glasses, forks, knives, spoons, pots, and pans away. You are giving your child an excellent object lesson in sorting by category. For example, say to your child, “The dishes go here in the dishwasher and now the dishes go here in the cupboard.” Item by item, object by object, you can use this exercise to classify and sort by category.

Moreover, you are giving your child work, which they are naturally predisposed to desire. Children love to participate in household chores. As he works by your side, he will feel a great sense of accomplishment as he models grown-up behavior. Partnering with your child during household work makes him feel part of the team, and it is an amazing bonding experience. This small window of opportunity is yours to enjoy—while chores can still be perceived as fun.


Ask your Child to Help You Sort the Laundry

Similar to emptying the dishwasher, your child will love sorting laundry. This task provides a great lesson in sorting by category. When sorting laundry, you automatically put like objects with like objects, such as all dark socks go together, which can be further categorized by black, blue, and brown socks (good luck finding all your matching pairs of socks!).


Ask Your Child to Play the Counting Game with You

Here is another creative, fun experience that your little explorer will love. Now he can learn the physical correspondence of items on a one-to-one basis such as numbers and objects.


Teach Your Child Counting Songs: “This Little Piggy”; “The Rollover Song”; “Ten Bottles of  OJ  on the Wall”; or Any Other Counting Nursery Rhymes

Your child will love to count. And when she is ready, she will count everything. So when you recite nursery rhymes to her, for example, “This Little Piggy,” be sure to touch each of her little toes as you count them. Touch in connection with language and mathematics creates a physical cue that stimulates memory. Then nursery rhymes, by themselves, add a creative visualization to the art of counting, as she visualizes each particular nursery rhyme. This is when your children start to comprehend that numbers are symbols, though at this stage, they don’t completely understand why.


Help Your Child Pour Water into Different-Sized Glasses

Though this exercise is somewhat complex and abstract, your child will begin to master it by the age of six or seven. Nevertheless, you can begin to expose her to it earlier. This exercise is what Piaget called “conservation.” The concept is that if you pour the same amount of water into different shapes, it is still the same amount of water. However, children in concrete operations, before the age of six or seven, think that because the shape of the glasses are different, some tall and some short, that the taller shapes must contain more fluid. This is an important concept to grasp and leads to mastering more complicated math skills in the future.


  1. First, place several cylinders of different sizes and shapes on a small child’s Point out that you have one measuring cup. Next, fill the cup with water and show your child what you are doing, pointing out that one measuring cup is filled with water. Then, ask your child to pour the measuring cup of water into the tall cylinder. Now, have your child pour the water from the tall cylinder into the short cylinder. Next, ask your child which cylinder holds the most water.
  2. Then, place short and tall glasses on a small child’s Once again, point to the measuring cup of water, telling your child that it contains one cup of water. Now, ask your child to pour one measuring cup of water into each of the two different sizes glasses. Finally, let your child see and compare how each measuring cup of water looks different in each glass, while the amount is exactly the same.


14 Buttons are 14 Buttons

Here is a variation on the conservation theme.


  1. Ask your child to count out 14 large buttons and put them in a pile.
  2. Ask him to count out another 14 buttons.
  3. Next, direct your child to divide the second group of 14 large buttons into smaller groups, such as 7 and 7, 10 and 4, 8 and 6, and so on, telling him to count the large buttons in each group.
  4. Now, ask him to count out all of the large Soon he will see that regardless of how you group the buttons, the quantity 14 will always remain the same.
  5. Finally, invite your child to join you as you try this game with other objects: toy cars, blocks, In that way, he can see that the same approach works with all items.


Spatial Relationships Such as Behind, Inside, Front, Back, Left, Right

Since your child, at this stage, is still egocentric (lost in a state called egocentrism, it is still difficult for him to appreciate another person’s perspective. Therefore, he will still struggle with spatial concepts and relationships that depend on the viewpoint of others.


  1. Teach your child to help you set the table, which requires complex concepts including right, left, and mirror images.
  2. Show your child how to put a placemat on the table.
  3. Help her hold a dish with two hands as she places it in the center of the mat.
  4. Next, show your child that the napkin goes on the left side of the plate while the water glass goes on the right.
  5. Now, show her how to set the table with the knife on the right side of the plate and the spoon to its right, followed by the fork to the right of the While teaching this important concept to my own children, I added a story, telling them that the fork was a princess who was being protected by the knife, who was a knight. So, that is why the knife is always turning in, with the sharp edge toward the plate. I added that the spoon was the princess’s and knight’s baby. By making a family, including a princess, a knight and a baby, setting the table caught the attention of both my son and my daughter, who immediately added their own versions to the tale.
  6. After your child has learned to set the table, turn the placemat in all different directions, placing it on one side of the table and then the Now, your child can see, in concrete terms, that no matter which way you turn the place setting, the relationship of the fork on the left side of the plate and the knife and spoon on the right stays the same.


Games that Teach Mirror Imaging

Children at this stage often have difficulty understanding the concepts of mirror images, as well as left and right. Therefore, games such as the Hokey-Pokey, which uses these concepts, helps make these concepts less confusing, as well as fun. This kinesthetic way of learning teaches your child to use his whole body by connecting his sensory movement with his logic. This helps him have a clear understanding of not only mirror images, but also the concept of right and left. Remember that the Hokey-Pokey incorporates both singing and dancing.


  1. First, make a little circle with your child by holding hands while singing the Hokey-Pokey.
  2. Ask your child to repeat after you, as you sing, “you put your right hand in” and instruct him to put his right hand into your circle along with you and any other participants.
  3. Next, sing “you take your right hand out” and tell your child to follow you as you take your right hand out of your circle.
  4. Continue singing the Hokey-Pokey as you teach your child the He will be thrilled to play along with you as he learns all about spatial concepts.
  5. Complete the song, following all of the Hokey-Pokey instructions with your You will have a ball as you see his little face light up with glee each time he gets it right. Let the song lead you as you incorporate each particular body part.


Build a 3D Action-Packed House

This is my favorite game, as it is filled with happy memories of my own childhood play.


  1. First, help your child build a house out of blocks.
  2. Next, add a small car, boy or girl doll, soldier, knight, etc.
  3. Then, ask your child where he would like to put the doll, the car, For example, should the toy car go on the top of the house or in front of the house?
  4. Now, ask your child to help you to make up a Perhaps with a giant bird or dragon hiding in the back yard or behind the house.
  5. Ask your child to tell you where he would like to put all of the participants in the house.
  6. Now, ask your child to tell you the Then ask him what to do, so that you can follow his sense of play.
  7. Let your child’s story be created by him, including what actions should take place.
  8. Finally, let the action of story be directed by your child’s imagination.


Construct a Sundial

Comprehending time helps the brain to think in a logical sequence by recognizing special concepts that help to develop logical thinking. Time, in and of itself, is difficult to grasp without a visual aid. The sundial is such an aid, and it is simpler to make than you might believe.


  1. The first step is watching the sun’s shadow as time moves through the day.
  2. Help your child draw a circle on a piece of cardboard or construction paper and draw a clock face on the circle, with lines designating each hour of the day.
  3. Then, lay your clock face on the ground outside, while pushing a pencil through the middle of the dial.
  4. Next, return during specific time segments throughout the day, so that you and your child can see how the pencil’s shadow moves around the circle.
  5. This will give you and your child a look at abstract thought by using a concrete method.
  6. Now, you and your child can congratulate yourself that you made a sundial.


Baking Cookies

Another fun exercise is baking cookies so that children can measure time. You will have so much fun baking cookies with your child. Not only that, but you will teach her important mathematical concepts. Baking cookies engages all of the senses. More than that, your child will learn how to delay gratification while waiting for his cookies to bake, an important step in maturation. The smell of the baking cookies and their delicious taste will help to focus your child’s attention on his work.


  1. As you and child prepare your recipe for cookies, your child will concentrate on measuring the necessary ingredients, a beginning lesson in conservation and By paying attention to how long the cookies must bake, you are also teaching your child about the special relationship of time passage.
  2. Read the instructions in the recipe so that your child knows exactly how long the cookies are required to bake in the Point the time out to your child on another clock. Invite your child to watch the clock as it measures off the allotted time for baking.
  3. Before the cookies are finished, ask your child if he knows how much longer they need to Here, he may guess based on an inner knowing or sense of time. Whether his answer is right or wrong, redirect his attention to the clock on the stove, praising him for him for such a close answer.


Grow Carrot Tops

Help your child grow carrot tops so that she can measure time.


  1. First, cut off the top of the carrot and place it in a glass of water.
  2. Next, take a calendar and show your child the corresponding days of the month, marking off each day, so that he can calculate mentally as well as visually how fast the carrot root has grown.
  3. As you and your child monitor the growth of the carrot top, you can point out to him how much the carrot top has grown within a particular period of time.
  4. In this way, your child not only have the pleasure of watching something grow, but he will also have the ability to gauge the passage of time.


Time for Chores!

Teach your child how to help you with chores, so that he can estimate time.


  1. Show your child your watch and point out the time.
  2. Now, ask your child which chore he would like to do Then ask him how long the chore will take.
  3. Now, work together with your child to complete the chore.
  4. Finally, check your watch again so that you can point out how close his estimate came.



Language Development Can Be Stimulated Through the Art of Storytelling

Your child first learns language in the womb at approximately four months’ gestation. After birth, language can be stimulated by talking, talking, talking to your child. Complex language can increase IQ development. At this stage, girls often move ahead; however, language evens out by preschool. The best way to engage your child is to stop, look and listen to her.


  1. First, tell your child a story.
  2. Now, ask your child to tell you what the story was about.
  3. Ask your child to tell you a story.
  4. Now, you tell your child what his story was about.
  5. Finally, create a story together with your child, using characters from each of your prior stories.


Write Your Child’s Story

Help your child create a storybook or story board to expand her imagination and bring her story to life.


  1. Tell your child to tell you a story, while you write it down on paper.
  2. Then, make the story into a little book.
  3. Sew the pages together with brightly colored yarn.
  4. Ask your child if he would like to draw some pictures in his book.
  5. When the book is finished, read it together all over again.
  6. This same process can be used by writing your child’s story on a large piece of construction paper and taping it to the wall, where he can color and draw on it to enrich his story.



Organize and Structure a Print-Rich Environment for Your Child


  1. Buy some construction paper and label familiar objects in your house with large block For example: bed, bathroom, door, window, refrigerator, and so on. Use brightly colored crayons to color each block letter. Next, tape the labels to each object, using masking tape so it doesn’t cause any damage. Soon your child will connect the word with the object and begin to remember and identify what word belongs to which object. Though you are not teaching reading or spelling, your child is becoming familiar with both. By creating a print-rich environment, you will improve his intellectual environment.
  2. You can also create a print-rich environment by naming the things in For example, if you are reading a book, you can point out the name of the book; if you go into the kitchen, you can point out the name refrigerator that is on your refrigerator door; if you open your refrigerator you can point out that the name “milk” on the carton of milk; you can point out the name “egg” on the carton of eggs, and so on.
  3. Words are all around your By showing your child which word belongs to which item, you are enriching his environment with print.


Bedtime and Storytime

By reading a story to your child, every night at bedtime, he will get into the habit of reading. If you allow him to read along with you, by looking at the words on the page and identifying them for him as you read, pretty soon he will want to read to you. When he makes mistakes, don’t correct him. Just listen to him read you his story. In time, your child will become a reader as he begins to recognize the words on the page and memorize their meaning. This is a deeply bonding activity that will serve him well for the rest of his life. Not only are you having an intimate movement with your child, you are also teaching him language skills.


Social and Emotional Development Exercises

Talking gives your child the chance to express herself in a welcoming environment, which leads to feelings of value, validation, and self-actualization. Passing through the stages of each exercise will support good language skills and good self-esteem.


Simon Says to Teach Spatial Relationship Concepts and Rules


  1. By playing Simon Says, your child will explore spatial relationships, including place your hand on top of your head, over, under and so on.
  2. It also teaches children about rules and that they have to know the rules, so that they can follow them.
  3. The game of Simon Says also exposes children to the idea of taking turns. For example: Simon Says tells your child he should so something . . . and he will listen and follow, so that he can play.


When You Play with Your Child, Talk, Talk, Talk

Your child loves to talk and can’t wait to tell you all the things that happened to him, whether at home with his family or in his own little nest. Take advantage of your child’s natural proclivity to enhance his language, expressiveness, and communication skills playfully, but do not make it a teaching moment or lesson. According to Singer and Caldera7, children who scored highly on psychological tests as imaginative during play also had better language skills.

For your best outcome, combine physical activity with conversation, such as putting on plays, puppet shows, baking, singing, and so on. The dinner table is the best place to talk, and families that eat together do better in all things, including school. In my own home, I used to play a game with my children and husband called serendipity. Each person around the table had to take his turn sharing one good thing that happened to them during the day. Everyone in my family loved this game, and what’s more, it sparked all kinds of ideas and conversation that enriched our dinner time. In my family, as I am sure as in yours, each child loved having the floor and capturing everyone’s complete attention.



  1. Andrea M. Hyde, “Yoga at the Promise Program: A Feminist Qualitative Case Study of School-Based Yoga,” 2017, doi: 10.4135/9781526402912.
  2. Andrea M. Hyde, “Yoga at the Promise Program: A Feminist Qualitative Case Study of School-Based Yoga,” 2017, doi: 10.4135/9781526402912.
  3. Georg Feuerstein and Stephan Bodian, Living Yoga: A Comprehensive Guide for Daily Life (New York, NY: G.P. Putnams Sons, 1993).
  4. William Congreve, Mourning Bride (Place of Publication Not Identified: Nabu Press, 2010).
  5. J. Hoffman et al., “The Effects of 60 Beats Per Minute Music on Test Taking Anxiety Among Nursing Students,” Journal of Nursing Education, February 1990.
  6. Diane E. Papalia et al., Human Development, 335.
  7. Diane E. Papalia et al., Human Development, 296.