Big Ideas for Little Kids: Mindfulness in Preschool

[In my fastest, most out-of-breath, excited, panicked tone]

Okay, everyone come to the carpet. Wait. Don’t come to the carpet. Stay in your chairs. Okay good, in your chairs. Actually, yeah, come to the carpet. Hurry down. But be safe. But hurry. Come on. Come on, come on, come on, come on, come on. Okay you’re here. Stop. Let’s sit down. Wait, don’t sit down. Stand up. No actually sit down. Unless you want to stand up. It’s probably better if you stand. But maybe not. Okay sit down. Good. Sitting down is good. Are you ready to learn? Great. Me too. Am I going too fast? No?

Today we are learning about mindfulness. Who knows what mindfulness is? Quick, quick, quick. Who can tell me what mindfulness is? Anybody can say it. Mindfulness Mindfulness Mindfulness. It’s a fun word to say. Anybody? Anybody know? Okay I’ll tell you. Am I going too fast? Is this sounding kind of crazy to you? Or maybe I’m not going fast enough? You want me to go faster?

[During all these rhetorical questions, I’m not giving the kids a second to answer. I’m going a million miles an hour. If I do it right, they won’t be overwhelmed. They will be laughing their heads off at my franticness.]

Visualize these frantic thoughts with this experiment using swirling sand in a jar.

You want me to go faster? Really? Okay I can try to go faster. Oh boy oh boy. You must really want to learn about mindfulness if you want me to go faster. [Maybe I throw a little out-of-breath stutter in there to keep the laughs going] W-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-well mindfuln-n-n-n-n-n-ness is w-w-w-w-w-w-w-when…

[Here is where I stop and compose myself.

I take a big, deep, long breath.

Long inhale. Longer exhale.

Again.

Inhale.

Exhale.]

[In a much calmer, slower tone] Mindfulness means slowing down. And when you slow down, you do a better job of paying attention to life.

Was I just going too slow or too fast? Way too fast, right? When we came to the carpet, I was freaking out and sounding really crazy. Do you think I was being very mindful of how I was acting?

Nope. I wasn’t.

What are some words that you would use to describe how I was acting?

Crazy. Fast. Nuts. Excited. Too much energy. Scared. Jittery. Busy.

And how did you feel while I was talking super fast and having you do a million things at once? Did that feel good? Or did you feel busy and wild and a little nervous too?

That’s what happens when I don’t use mindfulness to be calm. My fast-nervous energy can make everyone else feel fast and nervous too. And do we make great choices when we’re feeling busy and nervous and rushed?

When there’s a lot going on, it’s hard to pay attention to anything. Check out this video to see what I mean:

Watch it once. Then watch it again.

I know I wasn’t making great choices. I changed my mind like 100 times on tables or carpet, standing or sitting. Did it look like I was having a very healthy brain while all that was going on?

I mean, I could barely even get my words out! Like you said, I was going too fast and too crazy. And were you able to focus on all the things I was saying?

But then, all that fast talking stopped. Something changed. Who remembers what did I do to calm myself down and become more mindful? Right, I took deep breaths.

Do I seem better now? How so? What changed in my energy?

What are some words you would use to describe how I’m acting now?

Calm. Peaceful. Relaxed. Quiet. Slow. It’s almost like I’m acting the opposite of the craziness because I am more mindful.

Lena Headey Helps Murray Relax

Do you think it’s easier to listen to me now? Is it easier to learn when I’m very peaceful and calm?

[Talking fast] Or is it easier to learn when I’m talking super fast and telling you a million things to do and I’m really impatient and I keep trying to tell you new ideas…

[Talking slow] Or is it easier to learn when I talk like this?

That’s why mindfulness is so important.

It helps us calm ourselves down. And to be mindful is actually pretty easy. Do you want to do know how to do it?

All we have to do is… breathe. Very slowly. In…. and…. out….

Focus your mind fully on your breathing. Close your eyes.

In… and… out…

In your nose…. and…. out of your mouth….

Good. Let’s keep going.

[Breathe this way for a few more minutes]

How to Belly Breathe with Colbie Caillat, Common, and Elmo

How do you feel now?

Really good, right? Like, really, really, really good. Because you focused your minds fully on your breathing — wait a second. You focused your minds… fully.

Mind. Fully.

Mindful!!

Is that where the word comes from? When we focus our full minds on something, we become mindful. Wow!

So when we are mindful on our breathing, we’re using our full minds to focus on just one thing. And if we are using our full minds on one thing and one thing only, do we have room to worry or be upset or be mad at other things? No. We are calm because our minds are fully on that one thing.

Let’s take a few more deep breaths and be mindful of our breathing.

[Breathe a few more times]

Now tell me again, how do you feel? Super calm. Like Zen masters. Have you ever felt like this calm and relaxed before in your whole life? This might be the calmest, most relaxed I’ve ever felt! I feel great! Do you?

Being mindful feels amazing! And if we want to be mindful, what did we learn to do?

Breathe, yes. Exactly.

But we can be mindful in other ways, too.

Mindfulness is about slowing down. Breathing helps. But there are other ways to slow down and notice the world around us.

Mindfulness means giving your full mind to anything. Breathing helps because it’s easy to focus on breathing and not get distracted. But you can be mindful of anything or anyone.

Even something like this pencil. Let’s all look at the pencil. Focus on the pencil. Be calm. If you feel other thoughts slip into your head, that’s okay. If you start to look around the room, that’s okay too. But once you feel your focus wandering, bring your eyes and your mind back to the pencil.

The more you do this, the calmer you will feel — just like the breathing. Soon all your thoughts and feelings start to fade away. It’s just you. And the pencil. Until all that’s left… is your calmness…and the pencil.

Do you feel calm like you did with the breathing? That’s mindfulness. Focusing on one thing only. And then, everything else slowly drifts away.

Being mindful is the opposite of rushing. It’s taking your time. Be mindful. Relax. Breathe. Feel safe. Feel calm. Focus on one thing in an easy, relaxed way. You got it. We’re going to be so mindful for the rest of the day, aren’t we?

But before we get back to all the fun learning, can I ask you a favor?

Perfect. Here it is: the next time I’m feeling super excited or nervous or scared or sad or angry, will you please help me be more mindful?

Will you remind me to slow down?

To breathe? To focus my full mind, calmly on one thing? That way, we can all feel this calmness and peace? So we can relax and learn our best? Will you do that?

Y’all are the best. Thank you for helping me be more mindful. And look! We were very mindful for the past few minutes and what happened? We learned a new word!

I guess mindfulness really does help us grow our brains!

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PEDAGOGY EXPLAINED:

For more mindfulness content, you can purchase my Meditation and Mindfulness lesson plan on TeachersPayTeachers for only $7.

Complete with hooks (like the post above), words of the day, questions of the day, posters, flash cards, video supplements, and more, it will give you everything you need to bring this lesson to life.

In terms of pedagogy, I chose to act out the opposite of mindfulness as my hook. Sometimes, it’s very useful for kids to understand a new concept by not only understanding what it is, but also understanding what it is not. By coming in with my foot on the gas, I can capture the class’ attention and get them laughing. I created a memorable moment of when Mr. G. was talking and acting really crazy. Then, I flipped that moment on its head and slowed the whole lesson down to a snail’s pace. How did I do this? Mindfulness. What exactly did I do? I breathed. Very deeply. Very slowly. I changed the entire energy in the room and then made the connection to mindfulness.

From there, it was just about explaining the concept in a few different ways and asked the class to breathe along with me — a classic I Do-We Do moment. Once they felt the calmness themselves, they can see the benefit and the relevance to the lesson in their lives. To enhance this feeling, I could have even had the class get up and dance around so they got hyped before sitting back down and breathing. Maybe that’s what I’ll do next time.

Either way, they immediately felt the benefits of mindfulness. And as is the case for any type of learning, especially in early childhood, learners need to feel the lesson in a powerful, emotional way to grasp it.

We always hear the platitude “Show, don’t tell.” But the real winner, in all of education, should be “Feel, don’t show.”

Of course, great lessons do all three.

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FOLLOW UP AND EXTENSIONS:

I focused mostly on breathing and meditation in this lesson. I know there are other great ways to teach mindfulness, including nature walks, listening for sounds, inner exploration, yoga, etc.

Here are a few good videos that do the trick:

Listen for Specific Sounds
Guided Meditation – Body Scan
Calming Nature Sounds
Guided Meditation – Secret Treehouse

There are other routes you can take too. There was one activity I liked while doing some research from mindfulnessforchildren.org. It read:

When you learn about Mindfulness, it’s like you are being a scientist. You study your own self, your own mind. You study your thoughts, your feelings, your friendships and your kindness. Like any scientist, you do experiments and you discover things. For example: Perhaps you’ll discover there’s a happiness, a quiet peaceful place, which is always within you.

I may revisit this lesson and expand on these ideas more. Mindfulness is such an important part of mental health and a crucial habit to develop early in life,. For that reason, it deserves constant revisiting in the classroom.

Until then.

Namaste.

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