Mindfulness at nursery
Mindfulness is not just a buzz word, but a way of bringing attention to the present moment, creating a calming effect; evidence shows it can help with anxiety and depression. As part of developing this across the nursery, from the spring term 2020 we will be introducing Yoga to the children.
So, what's so great about mindfulness?
Evidence shows that mindfulness can decrease stress, anxiety and feelings of depression.
In particular, mindfulness in early years settings and schools has shown that using mindfulness practices frequently, can achieve lower levels of stress and higher well-being scores. But mindfulness isn’t just about helping children manage their mental health.
Children at nursery generally exist almost entirely in the present moment, so teaching them how to be more in control of it is a key life skill.
Benefits of mindfulness in early years:
It helps children understanding their feelings and when they need to take time out
It helps children to learn how to be kind to themselves and others.
It helps children deal with transitions
It helps to increase their attention span
It helps them to understand and regulate their emotions
It helps with stress management and general wellbeing
It helps them become more aware of their bodies and their senses
It helps to build a connection with the natural world
It helps them to develop empathy and compassion for others
Are there any curriculum links?
There are very clear links to the Personal, Social and Emotional part of the curriculum, including teaching children to understand techniques to help regulate their emotions, emotional language and, critically, empathy. If children know their emotional trigger points and can spot them, they can make the decision to remove themselves from the situation or seek help, rather than things spiralling out of control.
Anything that’s embedded will come more naturally. So, children who are familiar with tools or techniques such as calming bottles or palm breathing will find it easy to use them at a time of acute emotion, helping them to take back control more quickly.
If children are already familiar with a technique they will find it easier to resort to it at a time of need.
Listening and attention are also important early learning goals in the EYFS. Regular mindfulness can help children develop these skills by including them in lots of ways throughout the day.
Activities to support children with mindfulness:
The most important thing to remember when practising mindfulness with nursery children is that it should be done in an age-appropriate way. There are plenty of mindfulness activities for children to be found online but bear in mind that these may need to be adapted to suit very young children.
Here are some tips on approaching mindfulness activities for children in nursery settings:
Be realistic about what you can expect to achieve – the idea is to gently introduce them to the concept and build a foundation for developing the relevant skills
Practise regularly and repeat activities, but keep them short
Foster a positive association with mindfulness by making activities fun and encouraging playfulness – there’s no need to be too ‘serious’ about it
Do something really energetic immediately beforehand, so that the children are more inclined to rest and be calm, and less likely to wriggle about
Tap into and extend activities that you already know the children enjoy doing, eg sensory play
Keep instructions simple and don’t over-theorise about what you’re doing; use words and phrase that the children can easily understand, eg ‘what do you notice’ and ‘how do you feel’?
Model mindfulness yourself, by describing what you can see/hear/feel and empathising with others
Yoga for children brings stories to life through specially developed moves inspired by yoga.
Combining fun with exercise, children will go on wild adventures where they may roar like a lion, fly like a bird or blast into outer space!
Yoga is for all children and can be done to each child’s own ability. Children don't need to be fast, have good hand to eye co-ordination or be physically fit. Children are encouraged to be vocal and express their emotions physically. Through creative visualisation techniques, yoga will help children believe they are unique and special.
To embed mindfulness within the nursery, from the spring term 2020 we will be introducing Yoga sessions to the children.
Mindfulness activities for children:
1. Describing emotions
Sit in a circle with the children and ask them to describe different emotions. How does it feel when they are angry, happy or worried? You could prompt them by suggesting that they visualise their emotions as colours, or types of weather.
2. Listening circle
Take a small group of children on a trip to a local park or nature reserve. Sit down in a circle and ask the children to listen out for different sounds. Instead of calling out, ask them to put their hands up when they want to share the sound that they can hear.
3. Looking at clouds
Keep an eye on the weather for this activity, as ideally you need partial cloud cover and a good breeze. Get the children to lie down outside and look up at the clouds (taking care not to look directly at the sun). Ask them to look out for shapes and notice how the clouds change as they move along.
4. Bubble balloon game
Blow up some balloons and play the don’t-touch-the-floor game, but focusing on gentle movements. Pretend that the balloons are bubbles that might pop, so you can only tap them delicately.
5. Texture bag
Put a selection of objects with different shapes and textures into a bag. Get the children to take turns putting their hands in, feeling one of the objects and describing it to the others (without looking at it) in as much detail as possible.
6. Guided relaxation/visualisation
Get the children to lie down on the floor, on comfortable mats. Take them through a guided relaxation exercise (eg focusing on all of their muscles in turn) or guided visualisation story (eg imagining they are lying on a beach). There are plenty of these available to download online.
7. Yoga – mindful breathing
There are several ways of practising mindful breathing with young children. It works best when combined with some kind of action, for example counting off on one hand as you breathe in and the other hand as you breathe out or putting your hand on your tummy to feel it moving in and out.