New Form of Meditation for Children: Follow the Bird

A new form of mindfulness is springing up—and flying around.

The classic practice of sitting meditation generally involves what is often called “following the breath.” The meditator sits upright, pays attention to the breath, and when attention leaves the breath, gently coaxes attention back to it. This practice can be a bit challenging, but for small children it can be nearly impossible. That’s why grade school teacher Bob White, in Finch, Oregon, developed Ornithomindfulness for Kids: it teaches children mindfulness by taking them out in a field and telling them to “follow the bird.” The children are asked to notice a bird, slowly approach it on tiptoes, continue towards it until it flies away, and then follow it until the bird disappears and just becomes an imprint in the sky.

“Kids just love it,” says White, “since it’s something they already like to do anyway, so now we can call it ‘meditation.’ I love that. It teaches them that meditation is just really natural.” He does go on to say that things can get a little wild out behind the school. “We’re located next to a field with a few trees. When a class of twenty-five starts chasing birds, looking at the ground, looking in the air, they start tripping on stumps, bumping into trees, bumping into each other, screeching and screaming. But that teaches them a lesson too. I call it ‘Pandemonium Practice.’ Life can get pretty crazy when everybody is running around chasing after things.”