I teach mindfulness to kids for a living. I work in Preschools and Primary Schools predominantly training teachers, educators and kids to live a more mindful existence.
It's not surprising that the mindfulness movement in educational settings is on the rise in Australia. A report written in 2015 by the Department of Health, Commonwealth of Australia, outlined staggering statistics that 1 in 7 children report mental health issues in a given school year. Schools and Preschools are increasingly time poor, resource poor and facing, what i personally describe, as a mental health crisis for children in this country.
So, as glamorous as it sounds, to teach mindfulness to kids as my full time living, It is in response to the increasing need for wellbeing in education, with evidence based approaches and activities that are simple, yet empower kids.
One of the most effective tools in teaching mindfulness to children from as early as 3 years of age, is exploring emotional literacy with them. Simply put, guiding children to label emotions is fundamental for long term wellbeing, is often taken for granted as something kids should 'know' and is a core principle in mindfulness.
A fun, empowering and simple way to explore feelings and explain the effect of them on the body is to make a glitter jar, or as i call it, Mind in a jar.
To try this yourself, all you will need is a mason jar, or similar. Fill it with tap water and purchase some glitter. I often use red, blue, green, gold and silver. Each colour represents a 'feeling' children may experience in a given day. Ask your child/ student to choose a colour of glitter and talk about the feeling associated with the colour as they sprinkle some into the jar. Repeat with remaining colours.
Once a discussion has occurred on feelings, and glitter has been sprinkled into the jar, shake it up and watch what happens!
Children observe what happens in their mind when different thoughts and feelings begin to swirl around. Over the years, children have commented that their mind becomes 'muddy', 'mixed up', 'a blur', 'not able to think properly' and so on.
After 20 seconds of shaking the jar, I ask children to take a deep breath in, then out, then in and out, in and out, as the jar is placed on the floor/ surface to settle. The settling glitter and water show kids that the thoughts will always exist in their minds, however, with deep breaths, the muddy waters calm, and their experience becomes one of stillness in the moment.
Mind in a jar is suitable for children aged 3+.
Kelly Mandemaker, teacher and founder of Kids Meditate has taught mindfulness in Preschools and Primary Schools since 2009. She has worked with educational professionals on strategies to improve the wellbeing of students and has facilitated whole schools to find their mindfulness direction. Kelly presents mindfulness seminars to community groups and parents who value mindfulness and meditation in the home.