Mindfulness tips to support early learners’ development now

Posted: April 08, 2024 | Word Count: 533

While mindfulness once felt like a wellness trend, it’s become a way of life for adults hoping to maintain healthier routines, be intentional in their work and handle daily stresses efficiently. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mindfulness is the practice of being fully aware of your thoughts and feelings in a moment without judging them or negatively reacting.

But what about kids? Even at an early age, stress can lead to harmful brain development, potentially shrinking brain capacity, locking in fight, flight or freeze responses and escalating mental health disorders. A stressed brain is blocked, frustrated, over-reactive and anxious. The CDC recently published a policy report on youth mental health, which listed daily mindfulness practices as the #2 strategy to drive improvement. Mindfulness and self-regulation can impact a child’s ability to learn, and these skills are crucial for growth inside and outside the classroom. The CDC recommended K-12 classrooms practice mindfulness more regularly, but even early childhood education centers can attest to the positive impact of adopting this mindset.

Bright Horizons, a leading global provider of high-quality early education and child care, is naturally integrating mindfulness into the daily routines of early learners at hundreds of its child care centers. Utilizing Inner Explorer, a platform designed to support mental health and well-being, Bright Horizons centers implement this daily mindfulness program to help its children learn critical skills like self-awareness, self-regulation and empathy.

“Young children don’t know how to recognize and manage their emotions. They use coping tools available to them until they learn new strategies. Emotional recognition and regulation skills can and should be taught, just like any other set of skills. One of the most valuable strategies we can teach them is mindfulness,” said Bright Horizons Chief Academic Officer Rachel Robertson. “Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose, and we know it can play a crucial role in helping young children manage their emotions and actions. But, it requires intentional support from teachers and parents to develop it. Beginning mindfulness practices at an earlier age also boosts important cognitive skills. It has a significant impact on executive function, creating habits that carry into adulthood and nurturing several skills identified as essential for future success.”

Want to integrate more mindfulness practices into a child’s daily routine? Robertson has several tips and techniques parents and teachers can use:

  • The STOP Strategy: Stop, pause and focus. Take a deep breath. Observe what’s going on around you and inside yourself. Proceed.
  • Gratitude Moments: Spend a few moments each day sharing what you are grateful for.
  • Nature’s Symphony: Close your eyes and identify as many sounds as possible, from birds chirping to leaves rustling or cars nearby.
  • Starfish Breathing: Take five breaths as you trace your hand, one finger at a time.
  • Mindful Walk: Pick one sense like sight and notice how many different colors you can see.
  • Shake the Sillies Out: Pretend you’re a statue, take a deep breath and shake the energy out!

The possibilities of mindful activities for you and early learners are endless, and the benefits of more intentional practice cannot be denied. To learn more about Bright Horizons, visit brighthorizons.com.

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