Can mindfulness practice influence early years’ development?

Can mindfulness practice influence early years’ development?

The practice of mindfulness is sweeping the busy, working adult’s life by storm. A simple, time efficient way to help relieve stress and anxiety? Sign us up! But with mounting campaigns to introduce mindfulness to school curriculums, what implications does the practice of mindfulness have on young children and their development?

What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a mental state that can be reached through focussing on being in the present moment. Breathing and meditation exercises help to bring a calm alertness to ones thoughts, emotions and situations. The benefits of mindfulness range from managing anxiety and stress to improving concentration and emotional resilience. Research conducted at Harvard University has shown that regular meditation can actually reduce the amygdala (the section of the brain in charge of the fight of flight response) resulting in a calmer, less stressed existence.

What are the issues?
The British Child and Adolescent Mental Health Surveys conducted in 1999 and 2004 revealed that “…1 in 10 children and young people under the age of 16 had a diagnosable mental disorder.” These ranged from emotional disorders (such as anxiety and depression) to conduct and attention deficit disorders (such as ADHD).

NSPCC research from October 2015 reported that “…more than a fifth of children referred to mental health services in England have been refused treatment.”

In light of these revelations, what place does mindfulness practice have in the development of children? Can mindfulness practice reduce the number of mental health disorders experienced in children, consequently reducing the strain on NHS resources?

What can mindfulness do for children’s development?
Meditation and a variety of other stimulating activities or games can be used to teach children the principles of control and emotional resilience.  Mindfulness can be a fun and calming way for children to experience the world around them and process their thoughts and emotions. Plus, mindfulness can increase concentration making it a valuable tool for education purposes. Tabitha Swayer from Paws b, the mindfulness in schools project, explains how mindfulness can fit into primary school curriculum in her TedX talk.

What resources are available?
There are a variety of publications, charities and government initiatives that offer advice, help and resources in practising and teaching mindfulness. These include:

NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)
NHS Choices Mood Zone
Mind: Children and Young People
The Guardian Teacher Network, how to teach mindfulness

Are you considering a career in early years? Why not take a look at CU’s Early Childhood Development and Learning Degree at CU Coventry, CU Scarborough or CU London.