Bringing mindfulness into the classroom has been a popular subject for Summer CPD courses over the last few years. With the world around us getting faster, “faker” and more stressful it’s no wonder that we are trying to bring ourselves back to a state of inner balance. Despite the hoopla there is no great mystery to Mindfulness. Putting it simply mindfulness is the act of paying attention to the moment, usually by paying attention to the breath. Yet, being in the moment can remain elusive for many of us as we try to cut out the noise of everyday life. Here are some apps and resources that can be used in the classroom or at home that may help.
Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame Street (Ages 2 to 6)
In the last number of years the company behind Sesame Street have been extending their educational output to include a range of top quality learning apps for IOS and Android devices. This colourful, interactive app is completely free for download and is focused on giving children self-calming strategies when they come up against obstacles and frustrations. The app’s story is centred around one of Sesame Street’s newest residents, Mando. As narrator, Mando guides children around five everyday problems which all kids would be familiar with. For example, struggling to tie shoe laces, taking turns, saying goodbye and going to bed. As normal as these frustrations are they can be overwhelming for young children. By teaching the calming strategy of Breathe (3 deep belly breathes), Think (thinking of a solution to the problem) and Do (choose a solution and try it out) the child is empowered with a real skill which they can then use when facing their own frustrations. Animated video clips show a cuddly blue monster with a problem. Children are encouraged to tap on his belly to help him breathe deeply so that he calms down. Once the monster is calm thought bubbles appear which the child taps to produce three possible strategies. The child then chooses one of these strategies for the monster to try and this plays out in the next video clip. The child has to work through each problem before moving on to the next so that the technique of Breathe, Think, Do is constantly reinforced.
What I particularly love about this app is that it can be personalised. The child or the parent/carer/teacher can record a series of three positive thinking phrases to prompt the monster to think of a strategy. So, “Think of a plan!”, “Keep thinking!” and “You’ve almost got a plan!”. Internalising these phrases can help the child to think of their own plan when they face their own problem. There‘s also a very useful parents/carers section which gives additional tips and strategies all designed to build resilience in young children.
Smiling Mind (Ages 7 – 18 Years)
I reviewed this app last year but think that it’s definitely worth another mention as its probably one of the most useful and comprehensive mindfulness apps out there that can be used by students individually or on a whole classroom basis. Developed by a not for profit tasked with bringing meditation/mindfulness to the masses the app provides an easily accessible introduction to meditation for kids. Based on a mindfulness-based programme designed to support well being and positive mental health it has programmes for:
- Attention & Concentration
- Mindful Eating
The associated Smiling Mind Education Programme also provides educators with a range of free resources including complete lesson plans and “take home” activities that complement the Australian Curriculum. It can be used in the classroom with the following age groups:
- 7 – 9 Years
- 10 – 12 Years
- 13 – 15 Years
- 16 – 18 Years
I particularly like the body scan meditations which help children identify what they are feeling and where in their bodies, an absolute key to developing true mediation/mindfulness skills.
INSIGHT TIMER (Young Adults+)
Not sure what will work for yourself or your students and want to explore different options? Then definitely try out Insight Timer. It boasts a huge library of guided meditations across 200 topics from managing stress and relaxation to focus and concentration. There’s also a free 7 day “How to Meditate” course to get you started and a meditation timer to help you schedule and customise your meditation practice. A separate section on help with sleep and free charts to track progress and even a journal is also available. The free version is pretty comprehensive and offers all of the above however you will need to register for the premium option in order to access additional course content. With all of the material available though it can seem a little overwhelming, thankfully the search option has filters which definitely help. One to have a browse through to find the guided meditation, talk or meditation music that works for you.