Guided imagery for children

Guided Imagery for Kids - Children's Health Orange County

The mind is a powerful healing tool. Using our imagination, we can visualize almost anything. Guided imagery (or visualization) is a therapeutic technique that has been used for centuries. By creating images in the mind, a person can reduce pain, stress and other symptoms associated with his or her condition. The more specific the visualization, the more therapeutic it will likely be. Guided imagery is offered at CHOC as part of our integrative health services. We teach patients to imagine sights, sounds, smells, tastes or other sensations to create a kind of daydream that “removes” them from or gives them control over their present situation.

Guided imagery involves envisioning a certain goal to help cope with health problems or the task or skill a child is trying to learn or master. Guided imagery is most often used as a relaxation technique that involves sitting or lying quietly and imagining a favorite, peaceful setting like a beach, meadow or forest.

Studies have shown that guided imagery can help the mind and body relax. It can help in managing anxiety, stress and depression; help reduce pain, lower blood pressure and lessen nausea; help with sleeping; and give people a better sense of control and well-being. Our pediatric psychologists use guided imagery to help children, adolescents and teens cope with illness or stressful situations, and will teach them how to perform these exercises on their own so they may use these skills whenever they need them.

Listen to our pediatric psychologists as they guide you through scenarios to help you feel better.

“The Special Cake” — Pain Management for Kids

“Climbing a Ladder” — Pain Management for Adolescents

“Midnight Sky” — Help for Pain and Fears

“Your House” — Help for Pain and Anxiety

“The Listener” — Easing Worries

“The Magic Kite” — Relaxation for Anxiety

“The Protective Cape” — Gaining Peace of Mind

“Tinkerbell” — Relaxation

“The Turtle Technique” — Stress Management

“Thumbelina” — Falling Asleep

“Deer Family” — Falling Asleep

“A Wolf in the Forest” — Falling Asleep

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (English)

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (Chinese)

How to Use Guided Imagery on Your Own

What is guided imagery?

Guided imagery is a tool that helps your body by letting your mind take you to healthy places that feel good. It uses your imagination to change your thoughts by focusing on your senses (sound, vision, smell, taste, touch, movement). It’s like daydreaming—when your mind begins to wander and you imagine that you are doing something fun. You can decide what to think about and what to imagine and the best part is that your brain will listen.

What do I need to do guided imagery?

The main things you need are your brain and your imagination.

Other things you may use:

  • A favorite memory or pictures of things you like doing or places you wish you could be.
  • A favorite smell or scent.
  • A CD or recording with a visualization or imagery script.

When do I use guided imagery?

Do this anytime you are feeling nervous, stressed, angry, worried or are in pain. You can use it during times you wish you could go or be somewhere else because you are uncomfortable.

How do I do guided imagery?

1. Close your eyes.

2. Take 3-5 deep belly breaths.

3. It’s time to imagine you are going to your special place. Where would you like to go? If you could be anywhere in the world at this moment, where would you be? At the beach with family, out with friends, at a sports game, somewhere feeling healthy?

4. When you have picked out a place, picture yourself there. Through your mind, you can be at this place as if this were really happening.

5. Use all of your daydreaming skills and think about every little thing that makes this place and experience just as you like it.

  • What do you see?
  • What does it smell like?
  • What does it taste like?
  • What sounds do you hear?
  • What do things that you can touch feel like?
  • How does your body feel as it moves (or rests) just the way you want it to?

6. Be aware of how comfortable your body feels when you are imagining yourself in this place. You may notice your breathing slow down and your muscles feel looser as your whole body starts to relax.

How can guided imagery help me?

Have you noticed that when you think about sad stuff, you feel sad, or when you think about things you are worried about, you feel nervous, or when you actually think about your pain, you hurt more? Fortunately, just like your body and brain listen to you when you are thinking about bad stuff, you can start to think about good stuff to feel better. Usually when you think about good stuff, you start to feel better and more comfortable. It’s like changing the channel on your TV to something you really want to watch or turning the volume up or down in your body to a level that is more comfortable for you. If you’re sad or afraid, your mind can bring you to places that feel happy and calm. If you have pain, for example, your mind can help you picture yourself comfortable and relaxed. You can find the places in your mind where you’re in control of your body and where you feel happy and relaxed.


A favorite smell or scent can make your imagination activity more enjoyable and bring your special place to life. Using a special scent before or during the imagery activity can help you to feel even more comfortable and relaxed.

Sometimes people find it difficult to do this imagination activity on their own. If this is the case for you, you may be able to use a photograph or a picture from a book or the computer to help jump start your imagination. It may be helpful to have someone, like your mom or dad, lead you through this activity. Listen to our guided imagery recordings, or maybe you already have a CD that describes a special, relaxing place to you. You can listen to this CD and use it to help your mind picture yourself there. Or, if you are in the hospital, the Child Life department can loan you a CD.

Video: Guided Imagery

In this segment of American Health Journal, Cindy Kim, PhD, gives information about guided imagery, a progression of mental images, as a way to enhance coping with stress, pain management and improving overall relaxation.

Guided Imagery & Meditation for Kids

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand the negative effects of tension and stress, and how guided imagery can help you relax. The facilitator will lead young people in a guided imagery exercise.

Instructor Notes

Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information about guided imagery. This can be shared with young people during your discussions.

What is guided imagery? How can guided imagery be helpful to us? How do you do it?

Guided imagery is a simple, powerful technique that can have many health-related physical and emotional benefits. It can help people feel less nervous or upset, be less bothered by pain, or achieve a goal such as an athletic or academic achievement. Through guided imagery you can learn to use your imagination to “create the state you want,” meaning that you can actually change how you are feeling and what you are focused on. Even very young children can begin to learn this skill by linking images in their minds with feelings and experiences.


This introduction demonstrates the negative effects tension and stress can have on our bodies. The next activity teaches youth how to reduce stress and tension through guided imagery.

  1. Use a rubber band to help describe to young people how much it can hurt us to be stretched and stressed too far or for too long.  Stretch the rubber as far as it will go and point out that if we keep it in this position too long it will snap. Explain that the same thing is true for humans, we need to be able to relax, calm, down, and get rid of our tension in order to be well.
  2. Have the youth flex as many muscles in their bodies as they can and then have them hold the tense, tightened position for several seconds. As they are doing so, ask how long they think they can keep it up? Will they be OK if they have to be this tense all day? Point out that sometimes our minds are tense like that and we don’t know how to let them go.

Activity: Guided Imagery

This activity teaches youth how to reduce stress and tension through guided imagery. Introduce guided imagery by explaining that it’s a way you can make pictures in your mind that can help you feel calm and relaxed. Then lead them through this simple guided imagery process.

  1. Find a comfortable position. You can sit or lie down.. Notice how you are feeling right now… your body and your mind.
  2. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let the air out through your mouth.
  3. Take another breath, and feel your whole body getting calm as you breathe out.
  4. Continue to breathe slowly and gently.
  5. Breathe in relaxation….. and breathe out any worries….. breathe in calm…. and let all your worries go as you breathe out….
  6. Now imagine in your mind a place where you feel totally comfortable and happy. This might be a favorite place you have been, or somewhere you have seen, or it might be completely made up. It’s up to you.
  7. Picture a place where you feel happy and calm.
  8. Start to add details now: What do you see there? What do you hear? How does this wonderful, calm, happy place smell?
  9. Imagine how your body feels. You are comfortable, enjoying the nice temperature….happy being still and relaxed or doing whatever enjoyable activities you participate in here.
  10. Enjoy the way you feel in this safe place.
  11. You feel calm and safe here.
  12. Remain in your place while you practice being calm and relaxed.
  13. Again notice the environment around you in this place. Take some moments to just enjoy it and be here. Soon, it will be time to leave, but know that you can return here in your imagination any time to relax, feel calm, and feel comfortable and safe.
  14. In a moment I will count to three. You can become more awake and energized  on the count of three.One… take a deep, cleansing breath in… and breathe out slowly.
    Two… take another deep breath…. and breathe out…
    Three…. you are feeling calm, confident, and refreshed.


Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which also includes directions for guided imagery, so that families can practice “creating the state they want” at home. Learn more about Health Powered Kids and how we provide exercises and lessons for young people.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

In the know on guided imagery

Additional Instructor Resources

Visualizing Your Special Place


A Parent's Guide to Helping Their Children

Today's youth experience anxiety and stress. Much more than it should. According to recent statistics published by the American Academy of Pediatrics,

Up to 30 percent of children and young adults will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime.

Parents and other caregivers should teach our children good stress-reducing habits and introduce them to mindfulness activities that help them grow, support mental health, develop self-control and self-esteem, and reduce anxiety. nine0003

One of the best ways to do this is through meditation. We cover everything you need to know about meditation for kids, including what the practice looks like, how to teach it, and why it works. While teaching mindfulness to children may seem like a daunting task for parents or teachers who want to improve the well-being of their children, once you understand what mindfulness and meditation practice is, everything becomes much easier.

Overview: Meditation for Kids

In some ways it is not surprising that children develop stress disorders early. We live in a sensory world. There are real threats, and the unknown can be scary. Today's children suffer from attention spans and an inability to concentrate while studying, in the classroom, or even at play.

It is tempting to think that you can protect your children from all the fears and stresses throughout their lives; the best answer is to explain how to deal with difficult times. Children's meditation can help them with this. nine0003

Establishing a solid meditation practice at an early age is a good intention for your children and for yourself as parents and educators.

Whether it's deep breathing exercises, guided meditations, sleep stories, yoga, or any other mindfulness-based intervention, there's no doubt that children of all ages will benefit from mindfulness training from an early age.

Diagnosis of anxiety and behavioral disorders in children has increased dramatically. nine0007

Now let's define what meditation is?

For both children and adults, meditation is a practice that can bring great joy and comfort to your life. Although it can be difficult to define meditation in one sentence, in general it can be said that meditation is a mind-body practice that trains mindfulness and focus.

There are many benefits to meditation. For example, it helps to improve concentration, calm frayed nerves, relieve stress, help with self-comfort, and promote happiness. All these benefits are available to both children and adults. nine0003

Can children meditate?

Yes! Although a child's meditation will not look the same as an adult's meditation, the basic foundations of the practice remain. Children, for example, may benefit from guided imagery. Their duration may be shorter. And, of course, it is very important to choose meditation for the child. Some, for example, do not tolerate sitting meditation for more than a few minutes very well. However, they are fine with meditating while walking outdoors, mental painting, telling sleep stories in a soothing voice, or even listening to audio recordings as guided meditations. nine0003

Mantra meditation can spark curiosity in older children as it requires

extra attention and patience, but can be a great option if your children are willing to dive deeper into

Why is meditation important for children?

Up to 30% of young people develop anxiety disorders.

- American Academy of Pediatrics

Children are not immune from the stresses of life. In recent years, the number of diagnosed anxiety and behavioral disorders in children has increased dramatically. These include attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder. First, it tells us a few things as our understanding of how conduct disorders manifest in children grows. Second, rates of diagnosis are rising as children are tested and diagnosed with these disorders. In other words, today's children are not necessarily more stressed than children of the past. However, it also tells us that children are more prone to anxiety and stress than we previously thought. As parents, we must be vigilant and help our children cope with stressful situations in life and instill self-care in their lives from an early age. nine0003

Can meditation help children cope with stress?

Yes. Fortunately, meditation can help calm the symptoms associated with problematic disorders. Children's meditations have the same effects as adults' practice. Even short, simple meditations for beginners can have amazing benefits. A recent study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that just 15 minutes of meditation has the same positive impact as a full day of vacation. nine0003

Meditations for children

  • Guided Meditation for Children: Live or recorded guided meditation during which the instructor gives instructions for the meditation session.

  • Sleep Meditation: These meditations are gentler and more soothing. Often, meditations are accompanied by music, they calm the mind and prepare the body for sleep.

  • Mindfulness Meditation: Meditation and mindfulness just go together. Mindfulness meditation means awareness (full attention) to the present moment instead of focusing on the past or the future. nine0003

Benefits of meditation for children

Children can learn through meditation:


How to breathe correctly.

Many people learn to breathe incorrectly (shallow) in childhood. Meditation can help develop proper breathing skills. Deep breathing helps focus and relax, which teens, children, and even young adults may not be aware of and express in their own way.

2. How to deal with stress and anxiety. nine0055

Meditation helps to re-adjust the mind and calm the hectic thoughts and harsh, stressful emotions.

3. Better focus.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, can be helpful in improving concentration. This is because staying in the present requires significant attention and awareness.

4. How to calm down and regulate difficult emotions.

Children often experience strong emotions and do not know how to calm down. Meditation helps center the mind and provides a soothing cushion for difficult emotions. If your child loves music, consider downloading a meditation that includes children's music. The audio recording can be turned on before bedtime or in the morning when the child is getting ready to start their day. nine0003

5. How to sleep better.

If you want to use bedtime meditation for kids, this is a great idea. Children's bedtime meditation can help alleviate some of the problems they face while resting. Many children feel too anxious, scared, or energetic to properly prepare for bed at night. Meditation before bed is a great remedy for a wandering mind.

Teaching children guided meditation is easier than you think

There is no wrong way to teach a child to meditate. But here are some tips:

1. Start small. Even five or ten minutes of meditation is better than no meditation at all. Before the start of the school day, sit in a quiet place (perhaps even in the car when you drive the children to school) and dedicate time to meditation practice.

2. Try family meditation. Meditation can be a wonderful experience for all family members, including children. This is a great way to bond with your child and build more trust and intimacy. nine0003

If you have never meditated before, ask an instructor for a quick start session.

3. Don't worry about the details. It is natural for someone to giggle, move, or be distracted and restless in body and mind. This practice is primarily aimed at manifesting itself. They may also fall asleep.

Meditation for Children: Frequently Asked Questions

At what age should you start meditating?

You can start mindfulness meditation or short, informal meditation sessions with your children at any time. As a general rule, seated meditations are best for children six years of age and older. nine0003

How do you meditate as a family?

Here is a quick family meditation: Find a quiet place. Sit on the floor and assume a comfortable, mindful posture. Straighten your back and close your eyes slightly. Set a timer for two to five minutes. Focus on taking a deep breath: Inhale. .. and exhale... Inhale... and exhale... Inhale... and exhale... until the timer runs out. Breathing exercises are the best way to introduce children to meditation - they give them the opportunity to focus and concentrate. nine0003

Does meditation help in studies?

Yes. Meditation has been proven to help children focus better and be less distracted. It helps to improve attention during classes and while studying. Meditation can also improve memory and provide mental and physical support to children as they learn. You can even teach your kids to meditate during their lunch break or before exams and tests at school.

Can babies meditate? nine0055

While you probably won't be able to get your little one to sit up during a full meditation, you can work on focus together. Try focusing on one object (like a ball) for 30 seconds. Look at it with your child and describe everything about it (color, shape, size, texture, smell...). This is a great mindfulness meditation for toddlers.

What tools, applications and other methods can be useful for children?

Meditation is not the only holy grail for helping children deal with the stresses of the world - there are a whole range of ways to become more mindful and relax. Yoga, painting, singing, pottery, and being in nature (such as forest bathing or swimming) are fantastic tools to support child development.

For apps, check out meditation apps like Headspace, which offers a library of mind-guided programs and meditations with fun illustrations that young children might find interesting. nine0003

Resources for Anaachan Meditation

Meditation Vika

Meditation for chakras

Meditation techniques

Meditation of Body scan

Management Meditation for children


Up to 30% of young people will suffer from anxiety disorders

Anxiety and depression in children: Find out the facts | CDC

The effect of 15 minutes of meditation compared to one day of vacation


We raise children and grow ourselves!

Gathered guides, instructions, helpful resources, tips and ideas to help you enjoy parenting and ultimately raise successful children.


Tired of using threats to get kids to obey? Learn how to parent effectively so that your children want to obey!

Manuals, Character Building

Confident children are not afraid to try new things. They trust their own judgment, have high self-esteem, and are problem solvers. In addition, self-confident children are able to overcome obstacles on the way to their goals. They like who they are. This sense of self-worth can be a ticket for children to a future of social happiness and peace of mind.

Mindfulness Manuals

Mandalas are circles with intricate designs that join together at one central point. It is believed that the mandala transmits positive energy to others. Creating or coloring mandalas is one of the best ways to turn kids' favorite activity into a mindfulness meditative practice. nine0003

Mindfulness Guidelines

Children's bedtime meditation can be beneficial both now and in the future. As children grow and face new challenges, guided imagery meditation provides children with a lifelong tool to help build self-confidence, manage stress, and access inner wisdom.
Learn the WHY and HOW to do guided children's meditations and get some free meditation scenarios.

Mindfulness, Guidelines, Growth Mindset

For many parents, raising happy children is the goal and measure of success. But all too often we think that happiness lies in fleeting moments of getting what we want. Long-term happiness is actually much more difficult, but far more rewarding. And yes, you can greatly increase your child's chances of being happy simply by how you raise them.

Growth Mindset Guidelines

When we understand the basic needs of children, we can support and praise in a way that encourages our children rather than flattering them. We can offer meaningful encouragement that will help our children feel loved and not entitled.
And we can be sure that we raise self-esteem, and do not educate lovers of praise.


Why work on self-discipline?
Self-discipline helps you stick to and achieve challenging goals, improve academic performance, and improve work performance. nine0167 Research has shown that measuring a person's level of self-discipline is a more accurate predictor of success than measuring their IQ.


Diligence is one of the key ingredients for success and is essential to success in all areas of life.
It is important to teach children about diligence, because children who know how to fulfill their duties and work hard become adults who are more successful in their careers and live happier and more stable lives.


Building resilience—the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even major stressors—can help children cope with stress and feelings of anxiety and insecurity. Vitality, like priceless emotional armor, will enable them to really thrive in the face of great obstacles.

Learn more