The Fisher-Price Meditation Mouse is a plush toy with a soft personality designed to teach toddlers and preschoolers about mindfulness using guided meditation trails.
If that sounds like an unlikely task, it couldn’t be harder than calming an angry toddler or helping a nervous 4-year-old get back into bed for the 10th time in an hour. Parents familiar with either of these battles can turn to Meditation Mouse for clutch assistance. Available for $29.99 at major retailers like walmart, Amazonand TargetMeditation Mouse is a compelling entry into an emerging category: mindfulness products for two to five.
To test Meditation Mouse, I introduced it to my reluctant 2-year-old, then demonstrated it to a researcher who studies mindfulness in young people. Although the results varied — my toddler is very opinionated – I can recommend Meditation Mouse as an innovative approach to introducing young children to mindfulness meditation. I appreciate that it combines the interactivity of a cuddly toy with both daytime and nighttime calming guided meditations, but I recognize that the quality of a parent’s experience with Meditation Mouse will depend on their expectations and the how he models mindfulness for his child in general.
How does the meditation mouse work?
With its daytime setting, Meditation Mouse narrates a series of mindful movements and a breathing exercise, inviting the child to follow along for a soothing three-minute meditation break. For nighttime use, the toy features a pint-sized body scan for relaxation, a series of breathing exercises, then approximately 14 minutes of ambient music, ocean waves, nature sounds or white noise that eventually fades. In total, this 20-minute relaxation is intended to help a child fall asleep peacefully. An alternative option allows a child to listen to only the sounds of their choice for 20 minutes before they disappear.
It sounds downright idyllic, which is exactly why I knew not to expect anything close when I tested Meditation Mouse with my 2-year-old. First off, I’ve written before that sticking to your schedule as a parent when introducing mindfulness to a child is a recipe for disaster. Second, once I put Meditation Mouse in my daughter’s hands, she quickly demonstrated that every child is unique, no matter how well the toy designers know their audience.
She started by cuddling the mouse, but when her girlish voice started daytime meditation (Hi, my friend!) and her belly started to light up from within, she looked completely confused. and scared, threw it on the ground, told me to turn it off and not touch it for weeks. It probably didn’t help that I didn’t carefully review the instructions and turning it off wasn’t as intuitive as expected, which prolonged his panic. Pressing the belly button for three seconds will do the trick, but I kept fiddling with the settings on the control panel, accessible from the Velcro tabs on the back of the mouse. The good news, especially for parents of toddlers and preschoolers, is that the plush material can be thrown in the wash after removing the electronic unit.
Familiarize yourself with these settings before introducing Meditation Mouse to your child.
While my daughter wasn’t interested in the various Meditation Mouse settings, my other expert happily let me demonstrate them. Dr. Naheed Hosan, Ph.D., who studies youth mindfulness at the University of Alberta and a former elementary school teacher, was able to meet Meditation Mouse via Zoom and was able to immediately identify the things she liked and did not like. She liked that the toy transforms the concepts of mindfulness and meditation into a touchable and tangible toy, which can help young children grasp abstract ideas.
The narration is also at the level of a child. By inviting children to breathe slowly, the recorded track references a turtle rhythm. When he asks them to sway gently, he uses a swaying palm tree as an example. Relatability is great for children exploring new practices around stillness that are difficult for any human being to master, let alone high-energy children. Hosan also liked that Meditation Mouse encouraged listeners with a “good job!” at the end of a track.
She noted that age range and voice can create challenges depending on the child. Among toddlers and preschoolers, there is a huge difference between two and five years old. While a 5-year-old can probably sit for a three-minute meditation, that may be too high of an expectation for a child who isn’t even potty-trained. And I was happy to know that my daughter wasn’t the only person struck by Meditation Mouse’s voice. It’s charming and sweet, but it seems quite human, a contrast that can be shocking.
Manage expectations of your meditation mouse
When I asked Hosan about research on mindfulness meditation in toddlers and preschoolers, she noted that there wasn’t much at all. Of the 90 peer-reviewed studies she was able to identify through a search, most focused on mindful parenting. Although Fisher-Price does not claim that the toy will improve a child’s sleep, reduce the severity of temper tantrums, or boost mood, I can absolutely imagine that some parents, having read about the importance of mindfulness, will expect a lot more from Meditation Mouse than it is. designed to deliver. To avoid this, Hosan recommends parents treat the Meditation Mouse like any other toy rather than betting on it to solve their child’s afternoon tantrums or nighttime restlessness.
“There’s a lot of promise,” Hosan says. “I would never want anyone to buy this toy and say, ‘My child is going to become so conscious just because I bought this toy. I think it may depend on how you use it, but temperament tempers your expectations.”
How to bring your child to mindfulness
Importantly, Lisa Lohiser, Ed.D., head of early childhood development research at Fisher-Price Play Lab, told me that the company sees Meditation Mouse as an opportunity to bond with a child as well an entry point into mindfulness meditation. At first, at least, parents shouldn’t drop the toy into a child’s lap and then walk away, hoping to find a refreshed and relaxed toddler. Instead, parents should do the meditation alongside their child, including movement and breath work. This kind of “scaffolding” can encourage their interest and participation.
In general, parents who use Meditation Mouse should also model mindfulness and meditation for their children when the toy is not around. That might mean pausing to breathe deeply during stressful times, a quick body scan in the car before returning to school, or just focusing on playing with a child for periods of time (ahem, put the phone down for 10 uninterrupted minutes). Such modeling demonstrates the many ways mindfulness can be practiced and reinforces what they learn from the toy. Consider it a bonus that these techniques don’t cost a penny.
A low risk investment
After weeks of neglect, I finally got my daughter to take over Meditation Mouse when I invited her to play with her on the couch next to me. We tried daytime meditation once and did the mindfulness movements together, although it was less open to slow, controlled breathing. She asked for it a second time, but told me to put it away afterwards. This is what I consider a success. I’ve never attempted nighttime meditation because she is, knock on wood, a happy sleeper who doesn’t protest when the lights go out. I’ve made my share of parenting mistakes, but messing with my child’s perfectly good sleep routine won’t be one of them.
Although Meditation Mouse wasn’t a home run in my house, Hosan’s comments and Lohiser’s insight helped me understand why I would recommend it to some parents. There may be candidates worthy of comparison, but I have never seen a product like this. It takes versions of guided meditations from a podcast or app that parents can already play for their child and puts them into a cuddly, cute mouse. This could very well be the click for children who are bored or bored by the meditation tracks.
The $29.99 price tag is steep for families on a budget. For parents willing to spend on soothing or sleep-related products, Meditation Mouse is a low-risk investment compared to a fancy clock or camping next to a child’s bed all night. Plus, it can also be used during the day, including as a comforting plush in non-meditation mode. It should also be remembered that the Internet offers many free techniques that parents can practice with their children. For those worried about paying $30, maybe try the exercises in this Mindful.org list first.
I’m afraid the market is being flooded with “mindfulness” plush toys that aren’t thought through or that make claims that aren’t supported by scientific evidence. No doubt that day will come because Fisher-Price is an industry leader and there are bound to be knockoffs. Still, I hope the emerging trend will help parents explore and model mindfulness with their children.