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What is mindfulness and why should children be practising it?

Updated: Jun 12, 2021

"Imagine a whole generation of children who are self-aware enough to make thoughtful choices – who have grown up practising kindness and compassion?" (Kira Willey)



What is mindfulness?


Mindfulness means paying attention, with kindness and patience, to what’s going on outside and inside of you in the present moment.


Mindfulness can be described as:



1. Sustained Voluntary Attention – a focussed mind attending on purpose, without judgement to an object of choice.

2. Development of kind and compassionate attitudes – through regular and consistent practise we develop kindness, curiosity, compassion and gratitude (towards oneself and towards others)

3. The opposite of being on ‘auto-pilot’ or a distracted mind.


To define what mindfulness is to children we always talk about things happening in:

1. Mind

2. Body

3. Surroundings/Environment


A useful metaphor is referring to mindfulness as a torchlight. We can shine the spotlight of our attention in a laser-like manner or to a larger group or setting. A powerful spotlight is one that is focussed, but is also able to shine over people and things more generally, with an open and loving attitude.


Another accessible concept to teach mindfulness to children is the ‘puppy mind’. This means a ‘wandering’ ‘distracted’ or ‘restless’ mind. A goal of mindfulness is to calm the constant chatter of this ‘puppy mind’.


"If I practice breathing every day, and remember to be kind, I will have more fun being with my best friend, my playful puppy mind" (Puppy Mind, Andrew Jordan Nance).



 

Why should children be practising mindfulness?


If you had to list 6 or 7 essential skills or states (emotional, practical, intellectual or other) that children might need in their ‘toolbox’ to take with them into adulthood what would they be? In today’s world, what really matters for our children?


Take a few seconds to look away from the screen and think about this yourself….


At the Kindness Curriculum we believe this toolbox should be:


1. Compassion and Kindness

2. Sense of Wellbeing

3. Attention and concentration

4. Emotional regulation / ability to cope with stress

5. Confidence and self-esteem


The evidence shows that consistent mindfulness practice can increase capacity for all of these things! And who wouldn’t want our future generations to embody these life skills?


We are not suggesting that learning and academia should be side-lined. But the question is, are the children ready to learn? Mindfulness ensures readiness – hence the gateway to effective learning. And we already have the indispensable tools inside our bodies to ensure this readiness – our breath.


“The greatest teacher in the world can't get their message across unless the children are ready to learn." (Kira Willey)



Turning towards difficulty


In today’s world children are required to be emotionally resilient and adaptive. As we begin to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic we need to support children to identify and manage their emotions more than ever. Mindfulness helps children to understand that life will always throw you storms and ‘curve-balls’.


Through mindfulness, we help children to turn towards the storms with compassion, patience and skill:


“You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf” (John Kabat-Zinn)


'Just breathe' - but how?


Think of a time you’ve been so mad and you say to yourself (or someone says to you!) "just breathe…" It’s hard right? You want to breathe and 'calm down' but this feels impossible. Being mindful in the moment is far from easy.


So whilst we are advocates for the fact that breathing is an indispensable tool to calm and regulate at any moment, this does not mean that children instinctively know how to use this tool. So what do we do? We explicitly teach and model the strategies. We embed mindfulness in children's everyday lives and routines.


Interested in bringing mindfulness to your school? Check out our FREE taster sessions and mindfulness programmes at The Kindness Curriculum.



With Love and Kindness,

Laura

The Kindness Curriculum





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