Why Mindfulness in Education?
Stress happens, especially in the education context. New assignments, falling out with friends, tension at home, papers to submit, science fair to prepare for … all of these minor things can escalate students’ levels of stress and anxiety. Coupled with the factors above, many students also face the disdaining eyes of teachers when they come to class looking stressed out and losing focus. Acknowledging the importance of students’ socioemotional well-being, many schools have incorporated mindful activities (from basic breathing activities to advanced approaches such as meditation/yoga) into regular class periods. So, what exactly is mindfulness, and how can we promote these exercises among our children?
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to what's going on inside you ― your body and your feelings ― and around you. Over time, the practice can help you regulate your emotions and respond to the world in healthier ways.
A study in Massachusetts secondary schools shows that there is a correlation between students’ practicing mindful activities and better academic outcomes, better attendance, and lower suspension rates. The findings also indicated that participation in the controlled study produced improvements in sustained attention and a reduction in self-reported perceived stress over time. As proven by academia, including mindfulness in the classroom is highly beneficial for students’ personal development as well as teachers’ stress relief.
Mindful Games for Your Students
Here are some ideas from Kids Activities Blog for incorporating mindful games into your recess periods, or even in regular lessons as a mini-break. These activities are more suitable for younger kids; however, I believe all students can benefit from these types of mindful experience.
Blowing bubbles. This is an interesting activity for kids to take a step back and relax. Let them focus on taking in a deep, slow breath, and exhaling steadily to fill the bubble. Encourage them to pay close attention to the bubbles as they form, detach, and pop or float away.
Playing with balloons: This looks like a slow-motion movie to watch. Play with just one balloon per child and pop them gently into the air with your hands, trying to keep them afloat. This is a good way of slowing down active kids who still might need a little more movement to keep them engaged in mindful games. Their whole body and mind are engaged in a single focus.
Texture bag. Place several small, interestingly shaped or textured objects in a bag. Have each child reach in and touch an object, one at a time, and describe what they are touching. Make sure they don’t take the object out of the bag, forcing them to use only their sense of touch to explore the object.
Blindfolded taste tests. Use a blindfold for each child and have them experience eating a small food, like a raisin or a cranberry, as if it was their first time eating it.
Coloring book: Coloring books force kids to focus on one thing for an extended period of time, which is the very definition of mindfulness. Additionally, they can help children release their creativity by producing their own color scheme. Nearly anyone can color inside the lines, but the hues children choose will reflect their imagination.
Belly breathing: Choose a stuffed animal or a small bean bag. Let students lie on the floor with their stuffed toy on their bellies. Watch the object rise and sink as they inhale and exhale and repeat seven times. Children can experience the value of controlled breathing and observe how their breaths result in the movement of the stuffed toy.