Many schools are discovering the value of using mindfulness to help create calm in classrooms, to increase children’s capacity to become still and notice what is around them and to help them feel good about themselves. Research has indicated that mindfulnesss practices, although simple, are very profound and can create a solid foundation on which to build self-worth, compassion and resilience.
Research by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland shows that one in three children will have experienced a mental health problem by the time he or she reaches 13 years of age. Experts say that while mindfulness may not be the ‘absolute fix’ for children’s mental health issues, it can at least help give them skills from a young age to develop their resilience and ability to cope with the ups and downs of life.
Our teachers have been using mindfulness techniques for some time and sharing lots of good ideas. Part of our mindfulness practice in school has been our very successful Mindfulness Monday initiative, in which a class take on to remind us every Monday to take a mindful moment every so often and to focus on the positive. The students in fourth class are creating a set of positive inspirational thoughts, one of which will be promoted and displayed each week.
Many experts believe that ‘little and often’ is the way to go with mindfulness practices, so constant small reminders to ‘take a moment’ can be very effective. Our teachers use ‘Yoga Pretzels’ which are fun yoga activities for kids (& grownups!) and small visualisations throughout the week. Children are also given regular movement breaks during the day and opportunities to learn outside when possible, including Forest Learning. On Monday nights, as part of Mindfulness Monday, children will be asked to write a Gratitude Log (or similar as appropriate) as part of their homework.
Some useful resources for doing mindfulness at home are:
http://www.mindfulnessmatters.ie/ which has a range of materials and a link to the RTE Nationwide programme on Mindfulness in Schools
http://www.cosmickids.com/learn/ where you can learn to teach kids yoga through online training