Mindfulness seems to be a trending topic at the moment. It seems every second person I speak to is starting a practice or is reading about mindfulness. There are so many apps and information targeted particularly at adults. The app Smiling Minds is free and, has been developed in Australia for school aged children both in the whole classroom context and individually. I like it because: it’s free, it was developed in Australia ( a similar environment to ours) and, I’ve tried it myself and liked it.
Mindfulness is a way of teaching our minds to focus on what we are doing in the moment. We have all experienced those times when we’ve eaten a meal whilst thinking about something we are supposed to be doing for work and if asked would have no idea what or how much we ate! For children who are struggling to regulate their emotions, it can be helpful to encourage them to focus on what is happening in the moment. Often children will be upset about an event that has happened in the past or may happen in the future. In the present moment they are safe and there should be no need for upset. Similarly for children with difficulty with working memory, if their minds are darting all over the place thinking about what has happened, and what might happen they will have a smaller amount of space to focus on what is happening in the present moment. They can struggle to remember what they should be doing or what their teacher or parent just said to them.
In Smiling Minds activities are separated by age levels so you can select mindfulness activities appropriate for age and stage. There are silent activities which require sitting still as well as activities that require movement for those who find sitting silently difficult. The benefits advertised for mindfulness activities are broad. It is important to note that the evidence is still accumulating about the generalised effectiveness of mindfulness practices especially when it comes to children and educational outcomes. So, if your child is interested in mindfulness, and enjoys Smiling Minds then great, continue to support them to access the app, but if your child finds the activities difficult, don’t push them to keep trying.
If you’ve given mindfulness a try for yourself or your children I’d love to hear how you feel it has impacted you as a parent and your child in terms of their learning.
Robyn Stead, Child Psychologist and Educator, lives and works in central Auckland.