Even young children can learn the basics of meditation. It is an excellent way to prepare your child to learn any subject. Here is a progressive relaxation exercise to share with your child regardless of his age and stage of development. In fact, feel free to join in and reap the benefits yourself.

This simple routine frees the body of all tension, from head to toe. It is very useful not only to start off meditation, but to help your child relax at any time, before a difficult task or test, and especially at night in order to fall asleep.

This progressive relaxation exercise will be used as part of many other activities I will describe in future blog posts. Much like the basic chicken stock recipe that forms the starting point for a variety of more complex soups, it is the first exercise that your child will do in order to prepare for many others.

How to begin this progressive relaxation exercise

* Ask your child to lie down with his hands resting by his sides, to close his eyes, and to think about how it feels to be in his body. This gives him a minute to quiet down. Next, say to your child “Listen to my voice and follow my instructions.”

* Now, “Squeeze your toes (by pointing your toes) – squeeze, squeeze, squeeze,” so he sustains the tensed muscles for a few seconds. Then instruct him to let go and relax.

* “Squeeze your calves (by flexing your feet) — squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Then let go.”

* “Then squeeze your thighs — squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Then let go.”

* “Squeeze your buttocks — squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Then let go.”

* “Now, put your hands on your tummy and breathe in, so it fills up and gets very big – hold it, hold it, hold it. Now blow the air out – blow, blow, blow – and feel your tummy go down.” Note: with older children you can use more accurate words such as “abdomen” and “inhale” and “exhale.” But it is still useful to suggest holding the breath and blowing the air out on the exhale saying blow-blow-blow, so he is reminded to breathe in and out, deeply and slowly.

* “Next, put your hands on your rib cage, feel the air fill it up as you breathe in, and breathe out. Now put your arms back down by your sides, and then breathe in and out again… slowly in, slowly out… noticing that the air is cool on your in breath and warm on your out breath.

* “Now, feel your chest rise as you breathe the air in – hold, hold, hold – then let it go as you blow, blow, blow the breath out.”

* “Stretch your fingers out towards your toes – stretch, stretch, stretch. Then let go.”

* “Squeeze your fingers in a fist – squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Then let your hands relax.”

* “Squeeze your arms (biceps) – squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Then let go.”

* “Now lift your shoulders to your ears – squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Then let go.”

* “Then move your head very gently from side to side, as if to nod YES, YES, YES, then NO, NO, NO. Then come back to stillness.”

* “Open your mouth as wide as you can – hold – then let go.”

* “Scrunch up your nose – hold – then let it go.”

* “Squeeze your eyes tightly – squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Then let go.”

* “Squeeze your forehead – squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Then let go.”

* LAST BODY CHECK: “Finally, lie still. Your whole body should feel relaxed. Check for tension by checking in with your body by asking “toes, are you relaxed?”, “fists, are you relaxed?”, “arms, are you relaxed?”, “shoulders, are you relaxed?”. If any muscle group still feels tense, go back and tend to it again. Then lie still, and enjoy the relaxation.”

I will continue on with the next progressive relaxation exercise in my next blog post. If you would like more resources to help guide you and your child through meditation, please visit my website, where you can download several audio recordings and read more articles about the benefits of meditation for children.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at EmpowHER.com since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Amazon.com. Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.