Mindfulness methodology at an early age: daily exercises help 2-5 years children to form a natural habit of focusing attention

In today’s world, children find it difficult to concentrate, their attention is disturbed by many stimuli – from colors and sounds, to technology, so from an early age it is especially important to be able to concentrate, focus on at least one minute of a small thing or phenomenon. Kristina Gadliauskienė, the head of Eureka Early Childhood Education School, who is implementing the Mindfulness methodology at school for the second year, notices positive results and tells early childhood educators how to develop 2-5 year olds’ attention on a daily basis and develop a habit to stay present and appropriately react to stressful situations. This methodology is also particularly suitable for home use, as it does not require special measures.

Mindfulness, or in other words attentive awareness and stress management methodology, was developed in 1979 by an American Jon Kabat-Zinn. The essence of the method is to develop the ability to focus attention, to become cope with information, not to rush to solve, but simply by experiencing situations.

Three most important principles of Mindfulness:

  • Playfulness;
  • Shortness;
  • Routine, which forms a habit.

“Usually, after forming a habit, the session lasts up to 4-5 minutes. However, starting with this methodology in the classroom or at home can take less than half a minute, which is perfectly normal. In the beginning, children find it difficult to focus – this is new and unusual for them. In addition, at an early age (2-5 years) it is also normal according to the peculiarities of the age stage”,- notes K. Gadliauskienė.

Here are some examples of the Mindfulness methodology:

Raisin method. We invite children to sit in a circle. Teacher puts a plate with raisins in the middle of the circle. There should be enough raisins to cover all the children in the class. Teacher takes one raisin and offers to do the same for the children. It is recommended to play calm, relaxing music in the class. We hold the raisins in front of us on our palms outstretched and silently inspect them from all sides. In mind, we suggest that children consider – what is it like? Usually, young children want to express their thoughts aloud, so teacher asks them to speak as quietly as possible and reminds them of one of the rules in the class: when one child speaks, the others listen. Then we smell the raisins – what does it smell like? We think or express our thoughts quietly. Again, we calmly remind children that while one child is talking, the others are listening. Then we add the raisin to the ear, we listen – maybe she tells something? Later, we put raisins in our mouths – but we haven’t chewed it yet. Teacher invites to feel the taste of raisins, to support it under the tongue, on the tongue. Teacher suggests to imagine that it is the most amazing delicacy in the world. We can now cut it carefully and slowly. Slowly, without rushing to feel its taste. We suggest that children chew raisin slowly and feel how it travels to the abdomen. It is normal for a child to chew and swallow raisins immediately for the first time. It is likely that 4-5 out of 15 children will do so. When this happens, children who have eaten raisins are invited to sit quietly and watch their classmates. It is also possible to offer them another raisin. The raisin method can be used in a variety of classroom situations throughout the day. To keep children from getting bored, raisins can be replaced with another, small, edible product such as peach, apple, dried cranberry etc.

5 senses game. Teacher asks children to find in the class and name: 5 things they see, 4 things they hear, 3 things they smell, 2 things they can touch and 1 edible item / product. The naming principle is suitable for educating younger children aged 2-3 years. After that, everyone sit in a circle and each child name 1 thing. For older children (4-5 years), the task is a bit more difficult – it is done in silence and using sticky colored notes. Children name things in their minds and then run to them and mark them with a sticky note. During activity it is recommended to play quiet music in the background.

Visualization of story. Teacher invites children to lie on their backs while playing quiet music, close their eyes and think about pleasant things. Another activity – children are lying on their backs, relaxed and closed eyes, teacher reads a short story, and asks children to imagine, visualize the story and see it as a film.

Flower and candle. Sitting as a butterfly, we straighten our backs and relax our shoulders. Teacher asks children to imagine that they are holding a very fragrant flower in their left hand and a candle in their right hand. Then, teacher leans to her hand holding a flower and asks children to do the same. Everyone inhales the aroma of their beautiful flower, then leans to the other hand, exhales air and blows out the candle. We ask you to repeat the exercise again – we lean to the flower, inhale, and then blow out the candle. Exercise teaches children to inhale and exhale correctly and deeply from the bottom of the abdomen, encourages relaxation and concentration. After these exercises, children feel rested, calm, focused.

Tea. Teacher invites children to sit in a circle, in a butterfly pose, with their arms outstretched, holding their palms as if holding a bowl of tea. Teacher points out that this cup contains very hot, very fragrant, very beautiful herbal tea. Then teacher suggests blowing to the tea so that to cool it down. Reminds us to inhale through the nose, tea blowing through the mouth. We repeat the exercise no more than 5 times so that children do not feel dizzy. Then we check – maybe the tea has already cooled down? The method can be applied to the regulation of behavior and corrections when child feels anger, sadness, fear, confusion – this method helps to divert attention from a sensitive situation and focus on other activities.

Kneipp track. It is recommended together with children to create a unique path with in each class. It can be knitted, sewn, made of cardboard boxes filled with natural materials. Once a week, it is recommended to go on this trail barefoot or with socks (consider whether the track uses water, ice, etc.). During the activity, one of the most important senses is being developed – touch. As child walks along the track, he concentrates. Different parts of the track (pebble, soft fur, pea, water, sand, etc.) stimulate the sense of each foot receptor.