Young Minds Thrive with a Mindful Practice
By Judy Arnold
It could be a few minutes staring into an upturned homemade glitter jar or stepping outside to hear the wind in the trees on a breezy day. It could be taking a moment to visualize napping in a gently swaying hammock. Or just closing one’s eyes and taking deep, measured breaths.
When it comes to toddlers and elementary-age children, learning to adopt a mindfulness practice at a young age is a golden opportunity with benefits that last a lifetime.
Schools that incorporate mindfulness practices into their curriculum, even with children as young as 2 are setting the tone for the importance of academic and social-emotional health in the classroom. An intentional, comprehensive, and consistent school program will help children grow with a mindset that views unfamiliar concepts as opportunities and stressful interactions as a way to empathize with someone with a different point of view.
So what could a mindfulness practice look like in a school?
Throughout the school day, a teacher who is trained in mindfulness education may ask students to sit in a circle with their peers. Children might use their hands to expand a colorful Hoberman Sphere while they inhale, and exhale in a rhythm with the expanding and contracting toy, mimicking the steady, reassuring movements of their own respiratory systems.
Students may enjoy listening to the mellow tone as a teacher taps a brass singing bowl or chime with a small mallet. When asked to raise their hands when they no longer hear the sound, the students naturally close their eyes, focus in, and become aware that their breathing becomes deeper, stress dissipates, and a sense of calm emerges.
What about a walk to the next class? Teachers can use class transition time to lead students outside to notice the shape of the clouds, or take a peek at the ever-changing fall color.
Schools that focus on children’s social-emotional health incorporate a number of ways to teach mindfulness throughout the day and throughout the school year. Children thrive in a school that addresses their social-emotional needs, as well as their academic needs. Learning to mindfully work through challenges is an important part of their education.
Judy Arnold is the school counseling department chair at The Seven Hills School in Cincinnati, Ohio. Arnold has nearly 30 years of experience as a school counselor. She is a licensed professional counselor by the Ohio Counselor and Social Worker Board, and a licensed school counselor by the State of Ohio Department of Education.