For a long time I provided some form of toys, or colouring to entertain the children that were old enough during my workshops. This seemed like an obvious thing to do. I would invite a friend to help me keep an eye on the kids while the meditation was happening.
That was until one friend (who was a Steiner School teacher) suggested that the toys were overstimulating the children, and that we should put them away. To me, this was counter-intuitive, but I was at least willing to give it a try. I can only say that the outcome was astounding. The first such session included a mum with two boys, perhaps 3 and 5 years old. They were definitely high energy, they looked around for anything to play with. Given there were no toys, they picked up spare meditation cushions and proceeded to bash each other with them. As the meditation started, she was clearly anxious about this behaviour. I guided her to be present with her feelings, and invited her to question whether she needed to act, whether she needed to intervene, especially verbally. She just gave them tactile reassurance. After about 20 minutes of meditation, both boys were fast asleep, and apparently stayed fast asleep for at least an hour after the session ended!
Obviously not every session will happen in this way. However, the principles are applicable still. If we focus on felt needs rather than rational ones, and we remove unnecessary stimulation – and, incredibly importantly, if we ourselves are okay with whatever is happening, our kids will pick up on this and will calm down with us. Even if it doesn’t happen immediately, it is likely to happen gradually.