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How Meditation Breaks Support Social and Emotional Learning in ECE


Guest post by Beth Rush, an education reporter at Body+Mind who writes about the importance of teaching climate consciousness in public and private schools. Follow Beth on X (formerly Twitter) @bodymindmag. 

Social and emotional skills are essential for your child's growth and development, helping them handle life's challenges as they grow up. Introducing meditation practices in the classroom can provide immediate and long-term benefits for kids navigating their thoughts, emotions, and relationships.  

Explore the benefits of meditation breaks for children in the early childhood education (ECE) classroom and explore activities tailored to help students achieve these advantages.

What is Meditation for Children?

This practice of self-awareness and mindfulness teaches young minds to observe emotions without judgment, helping them relax. Many kids have short attention spans, and meditation can help switch off distractions—whether it's an exciting toy or their own thoughts, self-reflection can help your child find peace when needed.

How Meditation Supports Social and Emotional Learning of Children

A social and emotional learning (SEL) program in an ECE classroom is essential in helping kids manage their feelings and create healthy relationships with people around them. This learning intervention helps develop a child's social and emotional skills necessary for school, work, and life success.

Developing these skills aids resiliency, helping reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. It also curtails bullying and aggression, promising a safe and supportive environment where children can thrive. SEL program students also demonstrated improved academic performance and attendance.

Incorporating meditation into traditional SEL programs can support brain networks that help shape learning. It supports the five core social-emotional learning competencies to help children become more confident in social situations and themselves.

Self-awareness: This refers to the ability to understand your thoughts, emotions, experiences, and values, allowing you to discern how these can influence your actions. Teaching your child how their thoughts impact behavior can help foster sound decision-making. Engaging in mindful practice increases a student's compassion and concentration.

Self-management: Learning to control your emotions is vital to better emotional health. Teaching kids how to manage their thoughts can support improved impulse control. Meditation breaks in the ECE classroom provide students with time to regain their sense of calm and balance.

Social awareness: When your child knows how to empathize with others, they can positively influence the school and community. They are more respectful toward different perspectives. Meditation promotes an open and empathetic attitude towards their peers.

Relationship skills: Establishing and maintaining mutually rewarding relationships and interpersonal skills are essential in school, life, and work. Mindfulness helps students become more self-aware, allowing them to communicate their thoughts better so others can help understand them better.

Responsible decision-making: Teaching children proper decision-making fosters independence, confidence, and responsibility. Meditative practices give them time to think and choose the best option. 

The Benefits of Meditation Breaks for Children

Mental health conditions are on the rise, with eight in 10 children having received treatment for depression. The pressure to perform well, coupled with parental expectations and social acceptance, can make school scary for many kids. Offering mindfulness breaks can help them navigate into a more peaceful state. 

1. Improved Focus

In today's digital age, kids spend more time on gadgets than outdoor play. High screen time can negatively impact a child's brain development and cause attention deficit, increased impulsivity, and cognitive delays. Implementing meditation breaks as part of your social emotional learning program helps improve focus and concentration, teaching young students to more effectively focus their attention.  

2. Boosts Self-Confidence

When your child practices mindfulness, they are better equipped to deal with negative emotions. Their confidence will naturally increase as they observe how busy the mind is and how easily thoughts can sway them from the present moment. Kids will learn to love themselves more as they become more comfortable with the coming and going of emotions.  

3. Fosters Compassion

Gratitude exercises or loving-kindness meditation helps kids develop a deeper appreciation for their family and friends, enhancing their interpersonal relationships. Students learn to handle conflicts with understanding and show kindness to others.  

4. Provides Happiness

Mindful children are more patient and grateful. Even when your child is having a rough day, encouraging them to be thankful for some things can make them feel better. Gratitude boosts life satisfaction and reduces stress levels, which helps boost overall wellness.  

How Long Should a Child Meditate?

Picking up a new habit will be challenging, but meditation breaks for children will only take a few minutes. For preschoolers, a few minutes per day will suffice. Elementary students can benefit from a three to 10 minute-session twice daily. The duration will still depend on the SEL program and daily agenda.  

Engaging Meditation Activities for Children

An easy way to introduce mindfulness is through informal and relatable tasks. Here are some strategies school facilitators can implement inside the classroom.  

Kindness Meditation

This practice entails offering well wishes to others. Here's a step-by-step guide:

  1. Sit down: Instruct the child to sit, place their hand on their heart and close their eyes.
  2. Imagine: Tell the student to think about a person they love.
  3. Meditate: Ask about their present feelings while thinking about this individual.
  4. Make a wish: Have the student think about the things that would make the person's day.
  5. Conclusion: Ask them to open their eyes and discuss how the practice made them feel.

Mindful Walk 

This activity is an excellent opportunity to breathe and reflect on life. Teachers can start by walking with students around the classroom or along the hallways. Encourage students to take deep breaths as they walk and observe their surroundings. Ask them to name what they see, smell, hear or feel. Instruct them to observe the movement of their bodies as they walk. Once finished, stop and take a few slow breaths before returning to class.  

Glitter Jar

Like adults, children can feel overwhelmed. A mindful glitter jar activity is a visual sensory experience that elaborates on how thoughts can clutter the mind. You need any type of jar, glitter that sinks and glycerin to slow down the fall of glitter. Here's the process:

  1. Fill the jar with water, then ask kids to pick a color representing thoughts, feelings, and urges.
  2. As you add glitter, swirl the jar to demonstrate how it becomes more challenging to navigate to identify the things running through the mind.
  3. Ask the kids about the possible causes that made the jar swirl. Encourage real-life negative instances, such as sibling fights or losing a toy, and positive moments, like getting a gift or eating a cake.
  4. Swirl the jar as students recite these occasions, demonstrating how thinking clearly becomes even more difficult.
  5. Stop shaking the jar and allow the children to watch the glitters settle. Explain that stillness or pausing can help them see and think clearly. Thoughts, feelings and urges never leave the mind but no longer cloud their vision.

Bubble Blowing 

A bubble-blowing breathing exercise helps children relax and develop mindfulness. Find a quiet place where they can perform the practice. Encourage them to take slow, deep breaths before forming bubbles and explain that proper breathing can help when anxious, scared, or angry.  

Encourage Meditation for Kids

Mindfulness is not just for adults—children can also reap its benefits. It can help shape their mindset, enabling them to confront life's challenges with positivity and resilience.  

School Day is the best K-12 solution for measuring and managing student wellbeing and social-emotional skills and the best means for district leaders and teachers to proactively model wellbeing in the classroom, thereby improving learning results. School Day asks students weekly questions that focus on learning, social relationships, and health. The data is analyzed, furnishing real-time insight and highlighting what's going well; resources are provided for the areas that need more attention. Request a quote for your school today!

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