Mindfulness For Children: Nicety Or Necessary?
Mindful Little Ones
I have been an elementary school teacher for over 15 years now, and I remember the mind-blowing experience I had twelve years ago with my very first 1st grade classroom.
I had gone from teaching grades 3 and 4 to teaching 1st graders in a time when kids came from half-day kindergarten.
In September of that year, I was literally ready to pull my hair out because I was accustomed to teaching older children who could jump right into things without coaxing, explanation, and several transitions.
Controlling the Uncontrollable
The beginning of the year was rough for me adjusting to this new age level.
The kids would come in from recess daily and just have the hardest time settling in. One day, we had a fire drill early in the morning, an assembly late morning, and then, the kids went off to lunch and recess.
You can imagine that these five- and six-year-olds had bounding energy that they honestly didn’t know what to do with!
They came rushing into the classroom and I felt the energy bouncing out of control. There was absolutely no way I was going to be able to teach anything with this bounding energy and buzz in their brains. I clapped my hands and sternly told the kids to go to the meeting place rug in the center of the room, because we needed to just take a deep breath.
As I walked to the carpet, I noticed one little boy sitting with his legs folded like a pretzel and his elbows planted on his knees. His thumbs gently touched his index finger on each hand and his eyes were squeezed tightly shut. I looked at him and smiled, and then I said, “Alex, what is it that you are doing, hunnie?” He kept one eye tightly squeezed and opened the other. He then replied, “I’m medicating!”
I burst out laughing, and then, of course, the whole class laughed with me (even though they had no idea what they were laughing at).
I turned to him again and said, “Well, that’s actually called ‘meditating’ instead of ‘medicating,’ and I’d be happy to show you how to do that.”
Mindful Time for Kids
That was twelve years ago, when the movie Freaky Friday came out. I remember that, because when I asked him who taught him to “medicate,” he told me that he saw it in that movie.
That was the day that my teaching practice was forever changed, and I began to bridge my belief in mindfulness into my public school classroom.
That’s right, I said public school.
Now, every day after lunch and recess, my students come in the door and have mindful time. Mindful time simply means that we are quieting our minds so that we are ready to learn in the afternoon.
Some days, we get our yoga mats and do a few yoga poses with positive and powerful affirmations. Other days, we choose a mandala to color and simply focus on each small section of our mandala. Other days still we “go to our Happy Place.”
(Going to our “Happy Place” simply means laying back or sitting like a pretzel on our yoga mats with our eyes closed while we listen to soft, calming music, and I walk the children through a meditation at their level. Some days, we pretend our yoga mat is a magic carpet, and it takes us on a journey. Other days we travel to outer space, an imaginary world, or a place we have gone to before that makes us feel safe.)
Spreading Mindfulness Beyond the Classroom
For years, people have said that I’m a bit crazy, but whenever you walk into my room there is a peacefulness that cannot be explained and my children are always ready to learn.
In September of this year many of my colleagues were stating that this group is very immature and just unable to get through a whole day of learning. Afternoons were certainly difficult for the students, as we could easily see that they were tired and antsy at the same time.
I started teaching my new class mindfulness the 2nd full week of school and the energy and afternoons shifted in my room.
My students look forward to mindful time. It’s part of their day, and I have seen only positive benefits from this practice in my classroom; my students are able to focus better in the afternoon, they get along more peacefully with one another, and their minds are not only ready to learn but, more importantly, ignited to discover the world around them because we reset midday every single day.
My favorite part of all of this is that my students are going home and teaching their siblings and adults about mindfulness.
Being Your Best Self
Let’s face it. We live in a busy, hectic society where our minds are always full. In order to be successful and be our best selves, we need to be able to find peace within ourselves and have a clear mind.
By teaching mindfulness at a young age, we are not only teaching them how to focus on one thing at a time, but, more importantly, we are empowering them to be problem solvers with a peaceful and clear mind.
Therefore, in my opinion, mindfulness is definitely not a nicety.
Instead, it is very necessary. What do you think?
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