The prayer of the evening is quite unlike the morning. The morning is stark, simplistic… and serious. Often like pulling teeth. The prayers and meditations of the evening, however, are usually ones of celebration. And what better way to celebrate and give gratitude for life, than to do it as well as a child? Here are some bedtime meditations and rituals for kids that, whether you have children or not, you might like to try:
1) Set Up The Right Environment
Lighting an oil burner with a few drops of lavender oil about an hour before bed will have you relaxing into the bedtime mood and sets a spiritual tone for the wind-down. Another idea is to burn a candle. Better yet, to set it on a ‘nature table’ or altar that you or your children add to daily.
Think of all those walks you go on and try to remember to bring something back each time. It’s an automatic celebration of the day. Look! We found a feather and we’re going to place it on the nature table. What do feathers mean? Oo, we’re going to receive a message from our angels. Very magical and a perfectly enchanting way to enter to bedroom and help with the transition into sleep.
When you light your candle, dedicate it to someone. It can be a worldly prayer for peace or a simple nod of thought to your neighbour who seems a bit distracted lately. It doesn’t matter how accurately worded it is, but this dedication helps your child to become a thoughtful, compassionate person without lecturing them, or simply help you attract good vibes and loving kindness-type karma worthy of a dedicated monk.
2) Use Song For Transitions.
This is especially effective for children as they quickly pick up the cues and it’s better than breaking the atmosphere to nag them – will you stop bouncing on the bed and lie down! ‘Quiet voices, calm bodies’ in a simple tune will work. As does ‘Starlight, star-bright, who shall we light this candle for tonight?’
3) Use Angel Cards or Colour In.
Oracle cards, most famously published by Doreen Virtue or meditation or tarot cards can also be a nice ‘thought for the day’ and the more provoking and imaginative the images, the better. Children will love this ritual of picking their card and placing it on the altar/nature table, but this can also be a nice way to start the day.
If you have a child who is particularly energetic, this time can also be used to encourage them to draw with crayons simply for the act of doing it. Drawing calms them, and you can do it with them to also calm yourself (note the recent trend of adult colouring books) Doing a ‘right we’re going to chose two colours then completely cover our paper with them’ or colouring in a shape will be more calming than drawing an epic picture of mummy, daddy and the goldfish, which might spark conversation and excitement.
Use fun but firm rules than forbid talking whilst drawing and try not to react when the picture is complete, instead adding it to a communal pile of ‘dream pictures’ or something similar. These can be used in the day or given as gifts. Or, if your child is feeling a bit off, used as an ‘feeling drawing’ where it helps them to externalize their emotions. Again, this works as a good transition into bedtime if there’s been a tantrum or lots of battles over getting to sleep.
You can often find cheap second-hand books or cards on children’s yoga with five or six poses that reference animals or magical creatures. Mermaid pose, tree, mountain, cobra, butterfly, camel, bear… sounds exciting already doesn’t it?!
Yoga is great for physically active children and those that need to work off their extra energy before bedtime. Don’t force them to join in, but simply go through the poses like you’re telling a story and they will imitate you eventually. If you don’t have cards or a book then stick to three or four at first and encourage them to breathe during the poses or gently rock. They can also do them in bed when they can’t sleep.
My kids resisted for a while, then were letting out little whoops of joy when it came to ‘yoga baby time’.
This one’s my favourite. Try not to stick to a script but rely on your own imagination and presence. With breath it can be incredibly difficult for children to grasp – perhaps because their breathing is more natural and their bodies less tense anyway – but it is possible to teach them pranayama; breath control.
You could start by saying something like:
Now close your eyes and lay back, because Grandmother moon is rising in the sky and Mother night is laying her cloak over the world. The rabbits in their burrows are curling up, whiskers becoming one with their mother’s fur, and the world is at peace.
Encourage them to listen to the sounds around them, including ‘listening’ to silence.
Hear the gap between my words growing longer, and notice your belly rising and falling. All of the day is melting away as you sink deeper into the bed beneath you.
Some ideas for explaining how to breathe:
Breathe in through your nose to smell the flowers, and out to blow it a kiss of thanks.
Breathe in sucking the ocean tide towards you, and out to push it away from the shore.
Breathe in to make the candle flame brighter, then out to make it flicker.
A focus on the breath can be used as many times as your child responds, but a mention about noting how they feel in their bodies as an introduction to meditation can also prepare them for a more in-depth meditation when they’re eight years and older.
6) Read a Story.
Imagination stories work wonderfully with a child’s imagination and will encourage them to create their own. Try asking them to give you the characters so they’re participating. For example: one plant or tree, one animal and one form of weather or natural element; fog, snow, rainbow etc. But once the beginning ‘creation’ is decided on let them lie back and just listen so they don’t use the opportunity to lengthen bedtime hour unnecessarily! Alternatively you could read them a chapter from a longer book, the sort they will be reading in a few years time to exercise and open up that love of reading and further calm them by encouraging them to use their listening ears.
Brahms ‘Lullaby’ is a classic and can also be used as a transition between bedtime activities. You might find cuddling and singing together nice, helping you to bond with your kids, or you might prefer them to simply listen to the songs or to put on a CD, but try to avoid technologies if you can.
Chants that aren’t too dark or intense are good such as Om mani padme hum or Govinda jaya jaya (I guess it depends on the melody), as well as uplifting gospel songs such as Gonna build a mountain or Oh happy day. Swing low sweet chariot and Amazing grace also help to encourage a connection and dialogue with the divine, even if you’re not Christian. And finally, folk songs from all over the world will open them up to different cultures. Pacha Mama I’m coming home from Peru, My Lagan Love from Ireland and Dandini Dandini Dastana from Turkey are just a few.
So if your intention is teaching your children to become more in touch with their emotional states and bodies, get creative with that final hour before you get some precious time to yourself. Or simply find a way that is not as drastic as drugging them to get them to calm down and begin to practice a spiritual connection with the night. These ideas are just the beginning of the many things you can do to bond and create magical memories with your child, children… or just yourself.