Mindfulness is a buzzword that’s been floating around educational spheres recently – and for good reason. We often ask children to ‘pay attention’ and finally we have a research-based tool to help them do just that.
Mindfulness means, “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn (1994)
Plenty of research now reveals that mindfulness has an impact within educational settings, translating to benefits such as:
- Enhanced empathy for self and others
- Cultivation of emotional balance
- Sustained attention and better focus
At New Nordic School, we treat mindfulness as an important subject within our K-12 curriculum and culture. Mindfulness is a whole-school approach and we understand that if teachers’ model and explicitly teach it, it’s more likely to become embedded in the culture of our school.
In our Early Years program, mindfulness begins as fun, easy practices at least once a week. Some handy exercises (from our curriculum), to promote mindfulness while having fun, are suggested here for both parents and teachers alike. Remember, mindfulness is a practiced skill and not an overnight sensation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t begin with a small step today.
Using a metal bell or chime (or even a bell-chime app on your phone), ring the bell and ask your children to listen to the sound for as long as they can. Ask them to really tune into the last vibration. When they can no longer hear the sound, they can raise their hand. This easy and fun activity sometimes becomes a competition between kids as they strive to hear the sound for the longest time. When they’re listening for the sound, they’re training the part of their brain that exercises their attention and focus.
This can be done at school or home, during rest times, before bed or simply anytime! Take a favorite toy (breathing buddy) and place it on the tummy. The aim is to help the breathing buddy relax and ‘fall asleep’ by rocking it up and down. Start the process of breathing gently and slowly in and out, directing the breath into the tummy and then out through the nose. As the tummy rises and falls, so does the toy. Start by doing this for 3 rounds of breath (in and out) and increase the number of breaths as children become used to it.
Not only does this activity include some simple counting, but also a focus on the most important tool for relaxation that we have wherever we go – the breath!
Go on; take a deep, delicious breath right now. We dare you!
So, there you have it- a couple of quick exercises for you to try at home or in the classroom as well as a simple overview of how we’re becoming mindful at New Nordic School. Why not try one of the exercises today and join us as we transform education with a holistic approach to the lives of our precious children.
By Melissa Georgiou
New Nordic School
- Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go there you are. London, UK: Piatkus.
- Kemeny, M. E., Foltz, C., Cavanagh, J. F., Cullen, M., Giese-Davis, J., Jennings, P., Rosenberg, E. L., Gillath, O., Shaver, P. R., Wallace, B. A., & Ekman, P. (2011, December 12). Contemplative/Emotion Training Reduces Negative Emotional Behavior and Promotes Prosocial Responses. Emotion. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026118
- Norris, C. J. et.al. (2018). Brief Mindfulness Meditation Improves Attention in Novices: Evidence From ERPs and Moderation by Neuroticism. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 12, 315. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00315
- Schonert-Reichl, K.A., Oberle, E., Lawlor, M.S., Abbott, D., Thomson, K., Oberlander, T.F., Diamond, A. (2015) Enhancing Cognitive and Social-Emotional Development Through a Simple-to-Administer Mindfulness-Based School Program for Elementary School Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Developmental Psychology, 51(1), 52-66. doi:10.1037/10038454