The Power of Mindfulness for Young Children

MindfulnessLately, a lot of attention has been paid to mindfulness in education.  Schools are incorporating it into the curriculum; creating after school yoga programs; and even adding meditation classes. But what exactly is mindfulness?

The dictionary definition of mindfulness is the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.  Essentially, mindfulness is the ability to clear your mind of all the extra thoughts and focus on the now. This provides a great foundation for learning – remove all the other thoughts from your mind so you can concentrate on what’s right in front of you.

The benefits of mindfulness are helpful throughout one’s life.   Mindfulness not only can help children (and adults) cope with stress and challenging moments, it can also reinforce appreciation of their own strength and kindness.  Additionally, mindfulness is also effective for young children because it promotes skills like focus and cognitive control, which impact development of critical skills including self-regulation, judgment and patience.

The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that controls these skills.  Because connections in the prefrontal circuits develop fastest in childhood, mindfulness is a habit that can be quickly developed in young children. (Source; David Gelles, New York Times – Well)

mindfulness meditatingMindfulness does not always come easily for young children.  It is a skill that can be taught and modeled by the adults that surround them.

It is relatively easy to start a mindfulness practice with your students.  It is about relaxing and breathing. Take a few minutes out of your day to create a peaceful environment, ask the children to close their eyes; then take a few breaths.

Play some music specifically developed for rest, relaxation and meditation.  Ask your students to create pictures in their head of what the music makes them feel like or what they think it sounds like. If you can make time for this every day, you will begin to see the benefits of mindfulness as your students develop skills they can draw upon throughout their lives.

Numerous, well-known studies show the benefits of mindfulness in reducing stress and enhancing self-awareness. (Read more in our article: Mindfulness Training in the Classroom.) But recently, there have been studies of adolescents and college students focused on the cognitive and academic benefits of mindfulness and linking it to increased memory function and better grades. (Sources: Journal of Adolescent Health, Journal of MindfulnessImpact of Mindfulness and academic performance)

Whether you include mindfulness in your daily routine for the developmental benefits or for the possible academic benefits, it can help your students thrive in the classroom.

Recommended recordings:

Sea Gulls – Music for Rest and Relaxation

A Child’s World of Lullabies

Quiet Places  

Quiet Time

 

Other Mindfulness information:

Mindful Schools Website

Mindfulness Exercise for Preschoolers

 

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