Many parents ask what Zen instruction for children looks like. Teachers at each center tailor lessons to meet the developmental needs of their students. Because of this, every class may look different, but many lessons will include common components such as storytelling, mindfulness activities, play and movement, and small segments of traditional practice such as sitting, bowing, or chanting. The sample below from the Cambridge Zen Center outlines a lesson:
Theme: What Happens When Things Don’t Happen the Way You Want It To?
- Introduction/getting to know each other: Children sat around in a circle. They went around twice saying their names. The leader started the “throwing around a ball game” by first saying a child’s name and threw the ball to him. That child addressed another child, then threw the ball to him/her. The game stopped after everyone got a chance to receive and throw the ball. The game became more fun the second time around when the leader announced that she would time how long it would take the group to finish the round.
- Theme activity: The leader shared stories and experiences with children about what happened when we focused too much on things that we don’t have. We tend to forget all the wonderful things we already have and people that surrounded us. We missed out on the bigger picture. To make that experience more concrete, we made “spy glasses” out of paper. Children took turn to walk around the room with one eye covered and the other eye looking through a spy glass while trying to find “treasures” in the room. At the end, children understood that walking around the room with spy glass vision did not get them very far. It was inconvenient and unsafe.
- Eating Meditation: Each child took a clementine from the basket. They got to know their clementine well by smelling, feeling and noticing all the marks on their clementine. Then everyone put their clementine back to the basket. The leader mixed the clementines up. Each child took turn to identify their clementine from the basket. At the end, everyone savor the clementine in silence.
- Mindfulness Practice: Throughout the entire hour and half session, one leader rung the bell a couple of times. Each time we all stopped whatever we were doing and sat quietly for a minute or two, focusing on our breathing.
- Conclusion: All parents joined children for the last ten minutes. Children shared what they have learned that day. We chanted Kwan Seum Bosal together to end the session.